Disabled, Diverse and Talented: a snippet from the Children’s Media Conference 2018

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to speak at the Children’s Media Conference on behalf of Inclusive Minds. I used this opportunity to discuss the importance of authentic representation in literature. This is something I am incredibly passionate about, having studied literature at university, and this event gave me the opportunity to speak with like-minded individuals working in the media.
I just wanted to share the transcript of my talk with you. I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about my motivations for disability advocacy and campaigning and the profound effect representation can have on validating and acknowledging an individuals’ differerences.

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Disabled, Diverse and Talented: Media, What Are You Waiting For?

Diversity: it’s the word on everyone’s lips right now. And – whether you like it or not – the word is well and truly here to stay. Employers are asked to make sure their workforces are diverse; creatives are reminded that their content is diverse, and, perhaps more importantly, that it can be accessed by a diverse audience. As the field of disability rights becomes more and more prevalent, and as more people are finally becoming aware of the ableism and disablism that disabled people are subjected to, diversity is becoming an integral part of everyday conversation. So, that begs the question: as media professionals, what’s in it for you?

A story I often tell at events like these is a very personal one, focused on my own experiences of university studying English Literature. I’ve always been an avid reader, so a degree that consisted of hours and hours of reading seemed rather apt. I’ve always found books fascinating: I was captivated by the way that narratives were so carefully crafted and interwoven, and the ways in which such intimate expressions of the human experience can be portrayed through words alone. During my second year, I chose to take an extremely popular module called ‘Classics of British Children’s Literature’. I was expecting this – probably naively – to be a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but instead, it completely changed the course of my studies. We were asked to read Hodgson-Burnett’s The Secret Garden, something I was aware of during my childhood but not something I really ever read; or at least it wasn’t anything that really had an effect on me. I remember – incredibly vividly – sat in the newly-refurbished Brynmor Jones Library and stumbling across the following: ‘…he is a hunchback…[and] it is horrid,’. What I haven’t mentioned yet, which is very integral to my story, is that at the age of 13 I was diagnosed with Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, and I remember the words thay came out of the consultant’s mouth on that fateful day: ‘You have vertebral deformity…a hunchback, if you will,’. This, alongside my pre-existing form of cerebral palsy came as a real blow to me. Stumbling upon those lines brought that familiar sinking feeling washing over me. My cheeks flushed red. I felt a deep-seated shame emanate from the pit of my stomach: those days stood in front of the floor-length mirror trying to desperately straighten my back to no avail. For a long time, I hated the way my back looked, and amongst those pages, those words really hurt. what was worse about this, was that when I came to discuss my issues surrounding this book in the seminar that week, no one really batted an eyelid. Whilst I accepted that the book was written for early 20th century readers, I found it hard to accept that my concerns were not being addressed by my lecturer in 21st century Britain.

It’s said that there is no friend as loyal as a book, but right there and then, I felt betrayed by one of the things I loved the most. I’d worked for a long time to get to a place where I was comfortable and happy with my body’s differences and appearance. But those words spoke loudly to that internalised ableism I’d carried around with me for years, something shared by the majority of the disabled population. After my experience in that seminar, I made it a mission of mine to search out for more accurate representations of people like me. I wanted to find characters in pages and on stages that had disabilities and lived their lives in either ordinary – or extraordinary – ways. Maybe they were embroiled in a dramatic family saga, or went on fantastic adventures. Where were the protagonists who got up and lived their lives embracing their disability rather than following the typical narrative trope of bitter and twisted individuals desperate to be cured?

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We all know that media is one of the most powerful forces in the world. I’m sure most of you attending Children’s Media Conference are here because you are creative individuals with grand ideas and a view of changing the world, no matter how small. You strive to create a world of fun, education and interest for children. You know how much your creations have the ability to impact upon young children’s lives. You work to harness that spark of imagination within individuals’ eyes, and want to watch it grow into a fire roaring with enthusiasm and excitement. We all know that there is nothing more validating than seeing a reflection of your true self – differences and all – captured through the written word or lit up on a television screen. It paints a picture and conveys a message that says that you matter, you are worthy, and that, most importantly, your life and experiences matter. Nothing quite beats that.

This experience was perhaps the main catalyst for commencing a Master of Research postgraduate degree where I made it my goal to uncover lesser-known literary portrayals of disability that were more true-to-life and accurate in their manifestations. Imagine my joy, then, when I came across Emma Henderson’s protagonist Grace Williams, a girl with the same type of hemiplegia as me and a spinal curvature alongside it.

Behind the scenes and screens is a good place to start cultivating these characters and representations that have the power to bring so much validation and happiness to children and young people. I do not think it’s a prerequisite to have direct experience of each of the many facets of diversity to render it into media, but we need to acknowledge that consulting those with real, lived experience adds authenticity and insight to your creations. When you employ a disabled person, and ask them for their honesty and opinion with regard to ascertaining an accurate representation of their lives, you are unlocking a plethora of knowledge, which – when transferred and translated into whatever you’re creating – has the ability to validate the lives of thousands, if not millions, of individuals.

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Now is a good a time as any to make truly positive changes, and in turn to shape perceptions and enrich the minds and lives of children and young people. I longed for characters to be like me when I was growing up, but they never materialised. However, organisations like Inclusive Minds – for which I am an Inclusion Ambassador – gives authors, publishers, agents and other creatives the opportunity to find out more about the lives experience of under-represented individuals, can help make this positive change a reality.

I know your work is devoted to making children’s lives richer by whatever means possible. You truly have the ability to enact real, meaningful change in your fields.

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The #HBHullBloggers take on Furley & Co for the #HBMiniMeet*

Hello, lovely! I’m so sorry if you visited this post earlier to find nothing at all; everything I had written up somehow deleted and didn’t make it apart from the title, which is very frustrating. Anyway, here it is, so let’s start again!

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A few weeks ago myself and some of the #HBHullBloggers came together to give the lovely Alex from Champagne and Lemonade a cheery farewell as she embarked on her travels for six months. We thought it’d also be a fabulous chance to have a mini get together, and we were lucky enough to have some gorgeous goodies sent to us. imag2019.jpg

We met at Furley & Co, a fairly new eatery/bar/cafe in the centre of Hull, which serves a huge variety of craft ales, beers and other alcoholic beverages, alongside freshly brewed, quality coffee, teas and other soft drinks. Though Furley’s hasn’t been round for long, it has already made a huge impact on the locals and is widely-renowned for their delicious ‘Freak Shakes’, which you’ll get to see later! We were lucky enough to try some of Furley’s newest menu items – burgers and fries – which are made from chuck steak seasoned in house, lovingly crafted and griddled with cheese and served with your choice of mustard, BBQ mayo or ketchup and pickles. Yum! Although I do sometimes eat meat, I am becoming increasingly interested in exploring vegetarian foods and perhaps switching to a veggie diet altogether, so I plumped for the halloumi burger; griddled halloumi, rocket and onion chutney, all sandwiched between a rich brioche bun. Yummy!

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13384791_10154211558068544_125391270_nWe also had freshly cooked fries, seasoned with chip spice, which was the perfect accompaniment to both burgers. I really liked the BBQ mayo, and would seriously recommend trying it with the fries! After the burgers came the monstrous ‘Freak Shakes’; a sweet concoction of milkshake, whipped cream and plenty of sweet treats. I had the banoffee flavour. A warning though; these are not for the faint-hearted!

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Isnt that amazing?! And yes, that is a doughnut! These are quite the party-piece, and we sure gave them a good go. A definite treat, but something I would recommend when visiting Hull!

As I said earlier, we were fortunate enough to have some gorgeous goodies sent to us, and below you’ll see some of the gorgeous goodies. These included Batiste, Benefit, Stargazer cosmetics, Simply Beautiful Collection, Gosh, Paul Mitchell, Make Up Revolution, LYDC and Ultradex. I’d also like to thank Eat Your Photo for making me look good enough to eat! Don’t worry; you’ll get the lowdown on all these fabulous products soon, so keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming favourites! As always, a huge thanks goes to Kat from The Kats Paws for being so wonderful and an organisation-Queen,  who even treated us to our very own party bags! Of course you’re never too old for party bags, and the whole evening was so much fun.

Here’s a few snaps; how lucky were we?! I’m sorry there aren’t lots of snaps right now. I’ve had real trouble uploading pictures, but as soon as I’m able I’ll post them for you to have a good nosy at. Technology isn’t always on my side!

Hope you’ve had a great day, whatever you’ve been doing…

Heather x

 

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Event: Hugh Rice Luxe*

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Hello! Just thought I’d share a quick event post with you all today. A few weeks ago I was invited to the launch of the gorgeous Hugh Rice Luxe store in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Those who know me fairly well will know how much I love jewellery. I have many pieces of jewellery in my collection, and I’m fortunate enough to have inherited some heirlooms that are very special and mean so much to me. Jewellery can really add so much personality to an outfit, particularly if it’s meaningful and has great sentimental value. I have been very lucky to have received some gorgeous pieces from close friends and family, so an invite to a jewellery store was extremely exciting. I was joined by my wonderful friend Emma who is also a jewellery lover and has a collection to rival my own!

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Em and I have been best friends for around eleven years now (which makes me feel so old!) and I just knew she’d be the perfect person to join me at the launch of Hugh Rice Luxe. Em has treated me to some truly gorgeous pieces of jewellery over the years, and I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist having a peek at the collections on offer. When we arrived at the store it looked bright and beautiful; there were glasses of prosecco carried around on silver platters, piles of tasty canapés making their way around the room, and some rather delicious-looking cupcakes sporting Hugh Rice Luxe’s very own logo! The whole place looked truly luxurious, and to top it all off, we were also treated to some cocktails, or mocktails if alcohol wasn’t your thing. Very decadent, and definitely appreciated after the long week we’d had!

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We had a fantastic time browsing at the collections on offer. I was particularly taken by the range of Daisy jewellery, as I love how delicate and dainty the pendants were. I’m also a fan of Thomas Sabo as I have a few charms and a chain already, and the little charms on display were (almost) irresistible! The Sif Jakobs range was also particularly stunning, particularly the small circular pendants encrusted with crystals.

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It was such a lovely evening and I had so much fun catching up with some of the Hull Bloggers. We even went away with a couple of goodies, so keep your eyes peeled as they’ll be appearing in a favourites post very soon.

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You may have noticed that the pictures in this post are far, far better than my usual, and that’s because Em took some photos of the event and has kindly let me use them here. Em is a really talented photographer and all-round creative, and she’s very nearly finished her final year of a photography degree. Em particularly loves photographing landscapes using mixed media, and her work is truly beautiful. Why not check out her website and give her facebook page a like? You can click here for facebook and here for her website.

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We really enjoyed our time exploring Hugh Rice’s newest venture, and thanks ever so much for having us. I wish you every success, and hope the store is everything you wished for!

What do you think of the store?

Heather x

Experience: Hotter Shoes, York*

Hello! It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m spending it eating copious amounts of chocolate and relaxing…what else is it for?! I thought today would be a great time to write up and share with you my recent review of the Hotter event in York.

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I’m already a Hotter convert as I own a couple of pairs of formal Poplar shoes, but I bet most of you will be associating Hotter shoes with footwear for the older generation; in other words comfortable, but not necessarily stylish or fashionable. If this is the case, I hope to change your mind: Hotter really has something for everyone of any age and any taste!

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Our night began with glasses of prosecco and a wonderful selection of savoury and sweet canapes. We mingled with the staff of the Feasegate store and had a very quick glimpse into what the Spring/Summer ’16 collection has to offer.

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Next we sat through a quick presentation on the company behind the product, where Mel explained the origins of the company which started in 1959. Hotter shoes originally traded as Beaconsfield footwear, and manufactured a range of comfortable slippers and unbranded shoes. Eventually Hotter became the company it is today, and decided to sell shoes just as comfortable as slippers.

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Hotter are proud of their ‘comfort concept’ features hidden within each pair of shoes, and ensure comfort from the very first step. These features include wider fittings when required, roomy toe boxes for wriggle-room and ultra supportive insoles. Each of the shoes is crafted using the finest quality leathers and other materials, and each sole is filled with millions of tiny air bubbles ensuring a comfortably light step. Surprisingly Hotter is also the UK’s biggest shoe manufacturer, crafting an amazing pair of shoes every twenty seconds.

Though Hotter’s factory is still based in Lancashire, Hotter now sells shoes as far afield as the US, and its call-centre is open til the early hours of the morning to cater to these customers. Although you can now buy Hotter’s products online, there are an amazing 75 stores nationwide where you will receive exemplary customer service from friendly and knowledgeable staff.

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Hotter’s shoes for Spring and Summer come in a huge array of styles and bright, summery colours. I was pleasantly surprised by the huge variety on offer. There’s a fabulous selection of sandals and wedges, which will look amazing for a stroll on the beach or for relaxed summer evenings.

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The flat slip-ons are available in a variety of styles and colours, and the Jewel and the Livvy styles would be particularly good for warm weather! I particularly love the pastel shades of the Livvy style, and the Jewel has a rather gorgeous floral on offer. There are also beautiful handbags to complement each pair of shoes and to complete an outfit. I particularly love the dark pink colour!

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Even those who live in trainers and active wear will find a pair perfectly suited for them. Hotter’s new h92 collection comes in an array of colours, and features thick luxurious memory foam insoles. These are incredibly light, and I tried on the Float pair. The red colour is absolutely wonderful! Bounce is also beautifully crafted. If slip on active footwear isn’t your thing, you can pick up a pair of the lace-up Feather shoes. Gorgeously comfortable and perfect for summer walks.

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There’s plenty of heeled shoes on offer, too. I didn’t try any on (blame the cerebral palsy!) but one of the girls picked up a beautiful silver pair of Donna shoes that looked absolutely amazing.

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The loafers including the Abbeyville, Brierton and Sorbet would make the perfect pair of smart work shoes. I tried on a pair of the Abbeyville shoes and they were gorgeously soft and flexible!

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The casual shoes – Mabel and Essmy – are available in a range of styles, including gorgeous nautical-inspired colour palettes and floral finishes. After looking through the Spring/Summer catalogue I have my eye on the washable Biscay shoes, which look gorgeously bright and summery. I don’t think they were available in the store on the night because I would have definitely tried them on if so!

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‘Mannish tailoring’ is a key trend this season, and when I set eyes upon the Saltburn shoe I knew I just had to try them! These brogues feature gorgeous pepper-pot punching detail crafted using the softest nubuck leathers. I quickly fell head over heels (sorry, couldn’t resist!) for these, particularly the French Blue colour. We were each given a pair of shoes to take home and review, and I knew the Saltburn shoes had to be mine.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? I took some pictures of them whilst exploring the museum quarter in Hull’s Historical Old Town.

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I’m loving the versatility of these and think they look great with jeans, dresses, skirts and even formal workwear! I have a blue blazer that would complement these perfectly.

I already have my eye on more in the collection, and really recommend you give Hotter a visit; there’s something for everyone!

Many thanks to the wonderful folks at Hotter for having me. I really enjoyed myself and I’m now the proud owner of a very beautiful (and comfortable!) pair of shoes! Do you love Hotter, too? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Heather x
PS; for more pictures and a glimpse into all things nosuperhero, why not check out my instagram, snapchat and twitter? Just search for @htlcy. I’d love to see you!

Backstage In Biscuit Land at Kardomah94*

Hello! This is a post I’m really excited about sharing with you. A few weeks ago I was asked if I’d like to attend a couple of events at a local venue, and when I found out the subject of the events I absolutely had to accept! This was the first of the events (the next is in a couple of weeks)  and is an award-winning show that has received fantastic reviews from critics and the general public. I knew I was in for a treat, but this show completely exceeded my expectations!

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When we arrived we sat for a beer and admired the lovely food coming from the kitchen – the pizzas looked INCREDIBLE – and the atmosphere was really lovely and ambient. Kardomah94 would be a fabulous place for a spot of dinner! The show space was fantastic, and we picked a lovely spot with extremely comfortable bucket chairs.

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Backstage in Biscuit Land is an extremely powerful show, containing equal measures of comedy and emotion. It is a show unlike any other, and is something that will stay with me for a very long time. It was shown as part of the Heads Up Festival in association with the Battersea Arts Centre, which presents some of the most exciting contemporary British and international theatre in some of the best venues in the city of Hull, of which Kardomah94 is one.

Through a mixture of puppetry, comedy and song by the aptly-named ‘Touretteshero’ Jess Thom – and her sidekick Chopin – we are given a poignant and at times intimate insight into life with Tourettes. You see, Jess Thom has Tourettes, which causes her to say ‘biscuit’ 16000 times a day.

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Tourettes is a condition often trivialised by the media. We’ve all heard jokes about people swearing loudly then blaming it on Tourettes, and most of us – myself included – understand very little of the condition, so it was incredibly refreshing to be introduced to something I know very little about.

The set itself was like something out of a dream; huge cardboard cutouts of trees, a loaf of bread, dolphin puppets, an assortment of biscuits and twinkly lights, and as we sat down in our seats we heard a muffled voice projecting a stream of assorted words from the wings. Chopin welcomed Jess onto the stage, and explained that her tics would  – inevitably – contribute to the show and its content. We were encouraged to laugh at the tics if we found them funny, and sure enough some were so unusually wonderful they were difficult to ignore. As is turned out Chopin – real name also Jess – is referred to in that way as a result of tics!

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Jess explained how tourettes is an awful lot more than the media-portrayal of incessant swearing that we’re all accustomed to. Jess needs to have a care plan sheet, which informs a reader of the steps needed to take when she has a fit as a result of the Tourettes and constant physical and verbal tics, which become completely exhausting. This is another of the realities of tourettes we don’t often hear about; sometimes her tics become so intense she loses the ability to communicate with others. This was extremely interesting to hear, and made us realise how hard life can be with constant physical tics. Jess revealed that her vocal tics have also made life very difficult, and recounted a time where she was asked to leave a theatre as she was apparently disturbing others. This was incredibly emotional – in essence the episode made her feel that she wasn’t allowed to be herself – and this really got everyone thinking.

Anyone who knows me will know how personally invested I am in societal perceptions of disability. My MRes explores disability through literature and the impact this has upon cultural attitudes. Though I have a form of cerebral palsy and other conditions – which aren’t always noticeable – I have been treated disrespectfully and without care by members of the public. It can be really upsetting, and Jess’s story really resonated with me.

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The whole show was a spectacular journey of incredible highs and gut-wrenching lows, and when I went to meet Jess and purchase her book and a T-shirt emblazoned with a selection of tics, I was completely overwhelmed. Her work is so integral – so vital – to thousands of people who face prejudice every single day for disabilities they have. Awareness is key; disability doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care where you’re from, or who you are. And I firmly believe that sharing experiences is key to advancing understanding of disability. Disability has many faces and forms, and the more we discuss it the more we can begin to understand.  I left on a complete high, and feel privileged to have had an insight – albeit small – into her world.

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Jess and Chopin are currently touring their Backstage in Biscuit Land show around the UK. You can see the tour dates and locations here.

Thanks for having me Kardomah94 ; I can’t wait to visit in a couple of weeks for another fantastic show!

Hope you’re having a great evening,
Heather x

#HBMarchMeet at Al Porto, Hull

Isn’t it strange how quickly things creep up on you? That was certainly the case when it came to the hotly-anticipated Hull Blogger’s March Meet. The last meet was a huge success, and we enjoyed an afternoon of drinks, demos from brands such as Lush, Weleda and Viridian and – of course – plenty of chat. Though the March meet was smaller with just under 20 attendees, it was by no means any less fun, and I came away feeling grateful to be a part of such a welcoming and warm community.

The event was held at Al Porto, a gorgeous little Italian restaurant situated on Hull’s marina. You may recognise the name of the place as not only did we hold the Hull Blogger’s summer meet there, but I was also asked to review their delicious Christmas menu with a couple of the girls. You can find these links here and here.

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Al Porto has become a favourite with the Hull Bloggers; it serves authentic Italian food in a gorgeous rustic setting. We enjoyed a drink – including wine, if that takes your fancy – and a very hearty portion of delicious food from the lunch menu, which is sure to cater to everyone’s tastes. Their lunch costs £8 a head, and it is well worth it. I can definitely recommend the salmon pasta. Find their lunch menu on their website here.

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Al Porto’s food is always beautifully presented and extremely delicious. The winter salad was also a hit with the other bloggers, and I will definitely try it when I go back!

As usual we came away with a fantastic array of goodies. Here’s just a few photos of them, and I’m currently busy reviewing them so hopefully you’ll see the whole selection soon! A massive thank you to all the generous brands who got involved.

There are many other lovely little things so stay tuned to see what I think of them!

As always a huge thank you to the wonderful bloggers who make these events so worthwhile. Sadly Kat (who did an AMAZING job with everything) was too ill to attend, and we missed her very much! You can check out Kat’s blog  here.

I can’t wait to review all of the wonderful things for you.

Hope you’re weekend is going well,

Heather x