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BBC South: Martin Hedley on living with Asperger's

Guest Guest | 14:04 UK time, Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Martin Hedley singing

BBC South is currently running a series of features on life with Asperger's syndrome.

The first film focuses on Martin Hedley, a 44-year-old unemployed singer songwriter from Weymouth in Dorset.

Martin was diagnosed with the autistic spectrum disorder 10 years ago. He has since gone on to achieve a first class honours BA degree in music design and performance and an MA in post production composing. Martin is heavily involved with volunteering in his community, and has recently created the Chapelhay Community Partnership. Martin describes the project as "a community collective for people like myself who can not access the opportunities in mainstream society, to come together to produce dance, theatre, film and multimedia, as well as exploiting the rich heritage Weymouth has to offer".

The BBC South film follows Martin and his daughter Rowan, 15, as they renovate the building acquired to house this project and take a challenging trip to Glastonbury.

Martin writes for Ouch! On why he agreed to be involved in a film about the condition he calls "Asperger" and what he hopes the broadcast will achieve.

I spent 18 months setting up the Chapelhay project, using my skills and experience in engineering and building work on the venue. However, ironically during that time I became starved of the very arts/media industry with which I set the project up to engage. So I revelled in the film-making process, as it allowed me to use my creativity and record my songs, which have been included in the final edit.

I was apprehensive when first asked to take part. However, I agreed because I hoped that the film would help to show that with individually appropriate support, people with Asperger can lead full and productive lives. Without this support, the result can be loneliness, misery and sometimes the premature ending of their lives.

When the film was being made, I was beginning to feel helpless at the lack of social care in my own situation and knew I was heading for my second breakdown.

As part of the film, I was asked to make a video diary. I hoped that the process would help my daughter, partner and I to highlight issues we experience as a family. I wanted to gain a better understanding of how Asperger effects our communications. It is sometimes hard to see where the person ends and the condition begins.

As the diary progressed I realised how much I had been holding on to my tether and, due to a lack of appropriate support, how precarious my endeavours had become as the meltdown at Glastonbury shows.

Incidentally I have not seen the film at time of writing. I know when I do I will be embarrassed/deeply unsettled but I'm not the only person who feels desperate at a lack of appropriate support, so needs must!

As the producer and I worked on the concept of my case study I began to see how we could make this a bigger story, more generic to people with Asperger. I was being given an opportunity to demonstrate the complexities of our condition.

Now not only was I expressing myself artistically through the process, but also campaigning for something I am passionate about. I began to feel very empowered.

There was an edge of concern too. What effect would exposing myself and my family in this way have? I always wanted to promote my music to the media - but not necessarily my private life. However, yet again, with the aim of raising awareness, needs must!

Martin Hedley's film is available now to watch online.


  • Comment number 1.

    Wonderful song melodies and voice,would like to have a link if there is one? please to purchase the tunes by Martin, who is a wonderful inspiration for anyone who finds themselves unemployed.The work on the restoration is a brilliant idea, such a valuable community contribution. I have also been involved in the volunteer sector and trying to gain paid employment, the struggles for people with or without a disability or condition in the current economic climate are very difficult, and we can only be encouraged and inspired and supportive, for the hope of future change and rewards for our efforts.Thanks for this insight and opporunity to share with such a strong and determend human being who in the light of lifes challenges is beaming a light to others.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you for your kind words Debi have a look at you tube under, martin james hedley i have posted a few songs on there although they are only demos or rehearsals at the moment. I am so pleased you appriciated my song (what could be heard of it) the baking vocals are written and sung by my friend Joanna Sarjeant she is such a support to me and advocates putting the person first and the dissability second whatever the condition might be. It is true to say that I am very passionate about changing the attitudes to dissabilities so that indeviduals can earn a living wage and be as independant as possible, and in most cases it is possible in my oppinion.

  • Comment number 3.

    You are absolutely doing a marvelous job! Applauding!! Its to say in dismay that how far seriously Asperger's are misunderstood and deprived in this well enlightened society, as I am witnessing that to happen to a friend of mine. Its a total irony when we see an organization supposed to promote and champion the cause of asperger's the same organization is hell bent upon demoting/ dismissing one of their senior employ when my friend has disclosed of having the disability of being an asperger's let alone resorting to any readjustment as required by law!

  • Comment number 4.

    Lovely sounds Martin. I've just taken a look at one of your vids "Dance Again" with Joanna and the melodies made my hair stand on end.
    For all the right reasons of course. Beautiful music and shows you're in touch with everything around you.


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