Kate Ansell: The Dis Connected Story
Kate Ansell - The director of our Dis Connected video series, blogs about how it came about.
The Ouch! team and I had the idea for Dis Connected back in January, mainly because it was snowing and therefore impossible to film outdoors. We had until March to make some films, and making them in a nice cosy studio seemed like a good idea. We also thought it would be fun to line up an eclectic group of disabled people, put them in a room together, and see what they had to say to each other.
Then came the task of getting people on board. Mr Blunkett, we were told, would be 'very busy' in March, and was regrettably unable to participate. I asked if this was because he was preparing for a May election, and was greeted by nervous laughter. (Yes, as it turns out.) Prof Hawking had no election to fight but could not commit the time it would've taken him to prepare for such an interview and Verne Troyer... Verne Troyer was too expensive.
Nervously, I fired off cautiously worded emails to Trisha Goddard, Gail Porter, Alastair Campbell, Marcus Trescothick, guessing they didn't identify themselves as disabled people, knowing they all 'qualify' under DDA legislation, and thinking they would have interesting insights into the topic.
There was cheering when Trisha and Gail agreed. Alastair and Marcus both declined gracefully, wishing us well with the project.
And Tanni Grey-Thompson. We wanted Tanni because she had just announced she would join the House of Lords and we thought it was an interesting time to catch her. Unfortunately Tanni is actually the busiest woman in the world, and fighting for a space in her diary was an epic struggle. Likewise Cerrie Burnell, of CBeebies fame. We called Jane Campbell because she has led an extraordinary life; we thought she might appreciate the opportunity to talk about disability rights in a wider context than the voluntary euthanasia debate she is so regularly called to opine upon.
We wanted Blaine Harrison out of the Mystery Jets because he is super-cool, and were delighted when he agreed. Likewise Cara Readle, a young actress who is finding her feet in adult roles having starred in Tracy Beaker as a kid.
We looked at our line up and knew it was stellar, but worried that it lacked something. We wanted to up the ante and find someone who wasn't a shiny celeb but would stick up for the rights of everyday common-or-garden crips. And we found John Horan, human rights barrister. Who better to pair with Tanni, our newest Baroness and law maker. He could tell her where the law was going wrong for disabled people.
And so our line up was complete. It was almost accidental but somehow we managed to start with a chat show host who never knew she was disabled, and end with a lifelong disability rights activist. It seems appropriate.
Along the way, our contributors find common ground and difference, and seem to really appreciate each other's company and the stories they were sharing.
• Watch the latest video in the series ... where CBeebies presenter and actress Cerrie Burnell meets Tracy Beaker actress Cara Readle. Both being in 'the biz' they had plenty to talk about. (episode 2 of 7)
• Next week, the daisy chain continues. Cara swaps seats and becomes interviewer to TV presenter Gail Porter. The chain continues all the way to the end when activist Jane Campbell is interviewed by Tanni Grey-Thompson in early August.