BBC - Ouch! (disability) - Interviews - 13 Questions: John Blades

Home > Interviews > 13 Questions: John Blades

13 Questions: John Blades

by Emma Tracey

25th March 2010

John Blades is a 50 year old MSer from Sydney Australia. An ex engineer with massive enthusiasm for community radio and experimental music. He comes to our attention now as producer of an audio documentary about sex and disability which has taken the community by storm. The Too Hard Basket - so-called because its subject matter is thought to be difficult to tackle by the media - was originally rather bravely broadcast to a daytime audience by ABC radio across the whole of Australia one Saturday afternoon.

The programme features John’s own journey as someone with no movement from the neck down. He also interviews people with disabilities and chats to sex workers who have disabled clients. It's on the web now, which has given it a fresh new momentum, as It continues to be linked-to, tweeted and downloaded by listeners all over the world.

We sleep-walked through the London-Sydney time difference to ask John our 13 questions.

Today I'm mostly thinking about ...

John Blades
A performance at Sidney Opera House by Antony and the Johnsons, supported by an experimental artist called William Basinski. He is borrowing two of my reel to reel tape machines and so I will get complimentary tickets.

Not a lot of people know that I ... 

Have gone through real struggles in terms of the ugly side of MS, including continence issues and a very black period of suicidal thoughts. You’ve got to take control of MS.

I would like to ban ...

Commercial radio. People just soak it up like a sponge. The radio personalities are bigots, racist and sexist. They have very little musical knowledge. It should be banned so that people might think more about what they are listening to.

My ideal dinner guest would be ...

Barry Humphries. Last year I got to meet him. I have been at every live show he has done since 1977. He is an astute cultural commentator on public issues, such as the abysmal architectural decisions made in Sydney. He also has an insightful approach to the environment. I believe him to be the funniest person in Australia, our greatest living comedian.

I struggle with...

The prospect of going out on my own. I do it a lot, to movies or the theatre, but if I dwelt on things like whether I would need to be lifted up a flight of stairs or whether there would be people around at the time, I wouldn’t. When it happens and it is all so easy, I get great satisfaction.

I excel at ...

Public speaking. I think I am a good communicator and don’t find speaking in front of large groups of people daunting at all. I’m a good story-teller too. I often have my carers absolutely gripped.

I couldn't function without ...

My brother Bruce. He is my principal carer and works five days a week. He is just a great support in my life.

My motto is ...

Don’t let your disability control your life.
John Blades

There's nothing quite like ...

Achieving something that you thought was unachievable. I did a lot of bush walking in the south west of Tasmania before I was diagnosed with MS. The longest walk I ever did was 20 days long. The area is very remote, with unique flora and fauna. It is also extremely exposed because there is no land mass between there and the Antarctic. You feel like a pioneer, conquering a true wilderness and being at one with it.

When I come home in the evenings I ...

Read. I particularly enjoy a Music magazine called The Wire. I also have a very big interest in music biographies.

Someone should invent ...

An automated feeding system, sort of like a robot, but it would do the meal preparation and feed you as well.

I knew I would reach 50 because ...

Seven years ago, I discovered a new treatment for MS, vitamins and supplements as part of a low fat diet, rather than taking drugs. Professor George Jelinek proved to me that it was the way to slow the degenerative progress down and really improve the immune system. As soon as I started, the galloping of my condition stopped and I got little bits of movement back in my arms and fingers. I don’t get tired during the day any more.

I made The Too Hard Basket, because...

I feel that sex is a very important side of human expression. It should be equally available to everybody, able or disabled. It would free the lives of people with disabilities. Since it was broadcast, I’ve been contacted by mothers of young disabled fellows who’d never known how to deal with the subject but have always been conscious of it.
• Click here to download The Too Hard Basket, as well as full-length interviews with each of the documentary's main contributors.


    • 1. At 06:56am on 03 Apr 2010, AndyfromCornwall wrote:

      This is completely inaccessible to deaf people.
      Do you think we don't have sex lives too?

      Complain about this comment

    • 2. At 6:39pm on 08 May 2010, David Bower wrote:

      Dear Cornishandy , How can you say that the work was inaccesible to Deaf People , when you had not seen it ? You wrote your commenta bove on the 3rd of Aprl and the programme went out on the 9th of April , Please stop your prejudice and support innovation , access creativity and the arts ! Also your comment about Deaf People and sex has nothng to do with what the interview says , and is not even a subject within the work . Actually the Deaf guy , gets the girl ,./ which .. of-course he would ! Take Care ,

      Complain about this comment

      View these comments in RSS

      Bookmark with

      Bookmark with...

      What are these?

      What are these?

      Live community panel

      Our blog is the main place to go for all things Ouch! Find info, comment, articles and great disability content on the web via us.

      Mat and Liz
      Listen to our regular razor sharp talk show online, or subscribe to it as a podcast. Spread the word: it's where disability and reality almost collide.

      More from the BBC

      BBC Sport

      Disability Sport

      All the latest news from the paralympics.

      Peter White

      In Touch

      News and views for people who are blind or partially sighted.

      BBC Radio 4

      You & Yours

      Weekdays 12.40pm. Radio 4's consumer affairs programme.

      BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

      This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.