So where are the disabled television presenters?
We’re doing whatever odd jobs we can, we’re trying to pay the bills, survive the Governments benefit cuts, negotiate TfL’s lousy access and develop creative ideas that might appeal to a production company, a commissioner and an audience. Like most creative people, we’re hustling for the work where we can get it; sadly what were not doing is appearing on your television screens in mainstream programming.
Whenever there is a talent search for a disabled presenter my inbox is flooded with friends and colleagues suggesting I should apply; I have fairly extensive experience on television and would love to have more frequent and regular broadcasting work but so far, presenting on mainstream television has eluded me; though I have to confess I fucked up royally on my last audition and sometimes I fear that perhaps I’m just shit and no one has told me….
Frequently I’m asked to contribute to programmes, both on and off screen, asked for ideas and to share experiences but receive no credit or acknowledgement. Often it’s for programmes that aren’t presenter lead, (so I can’t try to land that gig) which tend to be voyeuristic, observational documentaries, falling under the umbrella of factual entertainment (reality TV), but the focus has to be on the contributor’s ‘story’ (which is the PC term for their disability), I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard production execs say, “it’s all about the journey”. (Pass the sick bag please)
I don’t want to be on TV exposing my private life to all, it’s private. I’m not about to turn my life into some pity party to which viewers are invited to watch and then post comments on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve turned down work that involves filming my home and family life; I would like to be a broadcaster not be the curious subject of a modern day freak show.
Too often it feels like we’re not on a level playing field with able bodied presenters, when we audition we are expected to be as perfect as Davina McCall, well that just ain’t gonna happen on day one, and neither did it happen for Davina, she was able to work her way up from late night shows like God’s Gift paying her dues to get where she is today. No one would have expected her to present live prime time entertainment shows from the get go. We need to be able build a career in incremental steps, starting with brief slots on magazine shows and news reports, as guests on panel shows, being allowed to grow and develop potential talent just like our able bodied peers.
Will I keep on pursuing it? Probably, yes, but now that I also work behind the camera, I have other goals to pursue but I’d hate to give up entirely without thinking I gave it my best shot.
This piece is in response to this article in the Metro: