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Stage and Screen

So, I’m going to enter a contest called Breaking Into News. It gives people with no journalistic experience the chance to come up with an idea for a story and have it broadcast in the regional ITV News bulletin. I have to get creative and pitch my 200-word idea by 5th April. Sounds simple, right?

I’ve been mulling possible ideas over in my head for about a week and so far, I have nothing to show for my brain ache. It’s like I’ve got some kind of mental writer’s block. Naturally, then, I thought I’d remedy the situation by taking to the keyboard in the hope that I might be inspired by the end of this blog. And if not, you might be able to fire some ideas in my direction in the knowledge that I’ll remember you when I’m rich and famous.

What is it that people really want to see on the news? I mean, I know what we do see; Brexit shenanigans, the catastrophe commonly referred to as Donald Trump, wars, riots, poverty and not forgetting the cute story at the end about a granny who was helped across the road – slotted in to remind people that not everything in the world is shit. I understand the importance of all that, but I’m not equipped enough to create a story about any of it. Yes, I could do my research in an attempt to get into the psyche of Trump in order to appreciate why he has such a horrific Barnet or why he resembles a tangerine whilst he’s banging on about fake news. The truth is, it just ain’t my thing; I want to do something different.

I think people get confused about what ‘different’ actually means. Being or doing something different doesn’t automatically define you as someone who isn’t relatable. Sure, if you go to the extreme end of the ‘different’ spectrum, things can get a tad bizarre; like if you identify not as a human, but as a wolf – true story. The point is diversity is mostly good, we just need to remove the stigma attached to the people who dare to stand out in the crowd because those are the folk who can transform a news bulletin into something kinda magical as opposed to the constant stream of atrocities we’re accustomed to.

Now we’re getting somewhere. I want to find someone who makes a difference or at least come up with a concept which will sift them out. How the hell do I do that without it becoming the cute story at the end? I think I need to start with what and who I know. And as much as I don’t want to be defined purely as an advocate for disabled people, that’s the foundation upon which all my ramblings are based and it’s something in which I have a lot of experience. So, I’ll roll with it. Literally.

I can’t put an ad out for disabled people to come forward and tell me their stories as the basis for my application. Although ironically this blog could be interpreted in that way, and let’s face it, I do love to hear other people’s crazy tales – so if you want to get in touch, feel free. Having said that, for a news story to be impactful, it has to be influential for everyone and not just be a crazy tale for a minority to enjoy; like the time I was stranded in the middle of a field without a set of wheels. Again, a true story.

What then, has an effect on the majority whilst also enabling a minority, in this case, disabled folks, to tell their story? Well, one of the most obvious is governmental issues and initiatives, but from my experience, they go in one ear and out of another for most people. I’ve been part of several ‘disabled groups’, all of which are striving to make a positive change within society, but nobody ever seems to know why they’re there or what the end goal is. So, what starts out as an amazing idea, flops at the point when the participants have entirely missed the mark whilst the organisers of said group are spouting out important phrases which are incomprehensible to the average Joe. As a result, even if the initiative makes it onto the news, there’s no difference made whatsoever.

The problem with policies, procedures and plans is they’re just seen as a waste of paper, regardless of who they’re ultimately going to concern. Generally, unless something big is happening right in front of people’s noses, things go unnoticed. This leads me to the notion that any newsworthy story which aims to radically alter the way disabled folks are perceived has to be visual. By showcasing the talent that disabled people possess on stage and screen in their broadest senses, this can be achieved. Whatever the platform, ‘we’ will then be seen as something other than a stereotype which in itself promotes integration and inclusion; in turn, it opens a conversation. Once people begin to talk, headlines are made, and that’s when changes occur.

I can’t believe that this application epiphany hasn’t dawned on me before now – it’s obvious when you think about it. Now, all I have to do is cobble my ramble into 200 words of journalistic eloquence. No pressure.

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