Rolling up to represent

I recently filmed several short videos for Arts Award Supporter – I created the idea, wrote the script, produced it and directed it. It was really exciting and utterly exhausting, but well worth it.

I am presenting in one of the films.

I’ve just had the first cuts come back and I’m really disappointed in myself, first of all for not wearing my bright, colourful clothes and lipstick and for going all ‘professional’ and just wearing grey and black. I felt like I looked really rather dull and not me at all.

But I choose not to present in my wheelchair, but to stand instead – something I am only capable of for a few minutes.

Since I filmed it I have been feeling guilty for not representing the disabled community in a visible way. I am always keen to have diversity in the work that I do and this was a perfect opportunity to represent an arts professional in a wheelchair. And I didn’t do it.

Even after having my chair for a year I’m still not totally comfortable in it and I still have to force myself to choose to use my chair for a lot of things, even though I really should do. I’m ok at turning up to meetings in it, but leading workshops and giving talks? Much harder. Attending events and being confident to be in the photos while in my chair? Not yet. Right now it is getting to the point where I don’t have much of a choice about the fact – I do need to use it, especailly if it is a day long event, so this isn’t going to be an issue for much longer.

I realise of course that many wheelchair users don’t have a choice, they have to use it, but I am struggling to adapt to having it as part of my idenitity.

I do think that part of the problem is that there isn’t many role (roll- ha!) models for me to look up to. I haven’t met a single arts manager who is disabled. Artists, yet, but not managers. There are programmes to support disabled artists but none I have come across for managers.

There are not many disabled people in the general media, I know Channel 4 is looking to change that, and hopefully over time we will get there. It doesn’t help of course that there have been events I haven’t been able to get into due to lack of access.

I’ve decided that if I do another film I will use my wheelchair, mainly as I want to represent, rather than because it is something I am comfortable with. I am also going to be more me – brighter colours rather than grey. Maybe it is something I will get more comfortable with as I do it, rather than waiting until I am comfortable until I do it.

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  1. Jen, good luck in doing your film! I hope that it goes well for you. How you dress does not matter! They should accept you for what you are as a person, not by the way that you dress.

  2. Well you did it!
    And it was fantastic and enabling and not in any way a distraction or complication for delegates in the group – but how was it for you?

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