Scope’s Radio 4 Appeal: Behind the scenes

If the words Rod, Hull and Jelly mean something to you then read on. If not, first hunt out some clips of Fist of Fun on YouTube. Richard Herring and Stewart Lee’s first TV sketch show back in the mid-90s was anarchic, surreal, comedy genius. So it was tough to stay cool when I found myself opposite Richard Herring in a Turkish cafe a couple of weeks ago, particularly as he was casting his eye over a script I’d written for him. Luckily I had Scope’s celebrity manager sitting next to me; it’s his job to remain calm in the face of legend.

The script was for a two-and-a-half minute slot on Radio 4 to encourage people to donate to Scope. It was tough. I had to squeeze into just 420 words our big, big vision (a world where every disabled person has the same opportunities as everyone else) and illustrate it with a moving story about parents that had just discovered their child is disabled.

And as if that wasn’t enough, in typical Scope fashion, we decided that we’d also throw in some humour, and something else I can’t tell you about. All in just two-and-a-half minutes.

There was every chance that Richard Herring, an accomplished writer, would hate it. And then probably refer to it in stand-up sketches for evermore. He took a long look at the script, and asked to change just one word.

We then headed to Broadcasting House, the stately West End home of Radio 4, to record the appeal. Sally, the producer, guided us into a small studio. The soundproofed room was split in two. One side was a small table mounted with a microphone. Richard Herring sat down there. On the other side of the half-glass partition was a mixing desk behind which Sally positioned herself next to the engineer. He had an enormous cup of tea, which suggested we might be here some time.

In fact, Richard Herring, writer, comedian, columnist, is also a highly accomplished broadcaster (as anyone that listened to his brilliant Objective series will know… Radio 4: please commission some more). We did a practice take, then a real one and then another. And that was all it took. Richard nailed it. Listen out for his skilful handling of the tongue twister: “finally a third physio” and a wonderful Tony Blackburn impression (yes… and again I can’t say any more).

After the recording Richard did a couple of interviews. We’ll be sticking up the footage on the appeal page soon. Then Sally demonstrated her experience of hunting out pockets of light in the dim studio, as we took a couple of photos. Sadly we didn’t grab one of her balanced precariously on a wheelie chair, which I was trying to hold still as she tried an aerial shot of Richard Herring.

The appeal will be broadcast at 7.55am and 9.26pm on Sunday 1 April and at 3.27pm on Thursday 5 April. Find out more at


Film with Beaumont College students seen by Queen

Beaumont IT Technologist Zak Sly reports on an exciting development:

Over the past six months a group of students from Beaumont College, Lancasterhave been working with the BBC R&D (Research and Development) on a research partnership to make television more accessible for disabled people.

As part of the partnership some of the students got to opportunity to visit MediaCity in Salford, the BBCs new centre in the North. The students had a great day and thought this couldn’t be topped… Well…

On Friday 9 March three students Rebecca Hall, Jodie Turner and Hannah Dilworth were asked if they could have one final session with the BBC to do some filming. They were told that the short show reel will be shown to a VIP at MediaCity on 23 March. The VIP’s identity was secret at the time of the filming taking place.

The three students were filmed using a switch and a head mouse.

For those of you interested in the technical details – the switches were used to control a grid set from ‘The Grid 2’ on a normal laptop, which was connected to another computer (via a router) running a modified version of Mythbuntu (an open source Linux operating system with a media centre application built in). The operating system has been adapted to implement BBC R&D’s Universal Control API, and the Universal Control Mythbuntu files can be downloaded from GitHub.

The switch and head mouse allow the person using them to control a communication aid, which as well as giving them a ‘voice’  means they can do lots of everyday activities from talking to their families to controlling their environment (lights, heating, TV) and ordering a take-a-way or booking tickets to the cinema.

A couple of days later an email came from the BBC  to let us know that VIPs due to watch the show reel were Her Majesty The Queen, while Lord Patten (Chairman of the BBC Trust) and Mark Thompson (Director-General of the BBC) had seen it at a previous screening. Read more about the opening of the BBC’sMedia City and the Queen’s Jubilee Tour.

The three students were all really excited about this! Rebecca Hall said “When I got the email off Zak about the Queen I was really excited.” A staff member who was with her at the time said that when Rebecca read the email she screamed with excitement! Jodie Turner said she was very excited and Hannah Dilworth agreed.

Beaumont College welcomes the Bishop of Blackburn

Bishop of Blackburn with Beaumont College student

Beaumont College, Scope’s Further Education College in Lancaster, was proud to welcome the Bishop of Blackburn earlier this month as he met students to learn more about their life at college.

The Bishop took up his position in March 2004, and has since used his seat in the House of Lords to press the Government on issues relating to young people and disability. This was his first time meeting staff and students at Beaumont College – situated in his Diocese – and his visit proved to be inspirational not only for staff and students of the college, but also for the Bishop himself.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, said after his visit:

“I was very, very deeply moved and impressed by everything I experienced at Beaumont College. For once it was neither hyperbole nor romanticism to talk of miracles.

“Futuristic technology, endless patience, imagination and care by tutors and support staff, and reservoirs of realistic compassion that ought to hallmark every Christian community, combine to proclaim for people with severe physical and learning difficulties new life in all its glorious potential.

“Everyone – students and staff – was so open about what they were doing, in helping me to understand what was being achieved. I came away deeply grateful for all I had experienced, and so better informed to be able to talk of the College’s wonderful work in wider communities.”

Tesco Mum of the Year

Guest post from Sharon Sambrook Face 2 Face Co-ordinator for Sandwell and Dudley

Unbeknown to me when I was shopping in Tesco last summer my son Ben picked up a Tesco Mum of the Year leaflet, nominated me and I won out of over 4,000 entries nationwide!!!

There were 8 categories and I won ‘Most Charitable Mum’ for the fundraising I have done following Ben’s diagnosis with an aggressive malignant brain tumour aged only 7. At that time I realised that brain tumour research was extremely underfunded and that treatments for Ben’s tumour type hadn’t moved forward in 20 years and so my fundraising began in attempt to change this staggering fact. To date I have raised over £90,000 and funded three research projects. I have also volunteered with various brain tumour charities and now I am the Face 2 Face Co-ordinator for Sandwell and Dudley supporting parents of disabled children.

The award ceremony took place at The Waldorf Hotel in London on Sunday 11th March and was a star-studded event, very different to my real life! Many celebrities attended including Pixie Lott, Amy Childs and Sinitta with the event being hosted by Fiona Phillips.

After a champagne reception and a three-course lunch, the awards were given out with a short film being shown for each of us Mums. The place was in tears with each story having an impact on everyone in the room and each of us getting a standing ovation when it was our turn to take the stage. My award was presented to me by Arlene Phillips OBE.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the next day we were taken to No. 10 Downing Street and had tea and biscuits with the Prime Minister David Cameron and I even got chance to tell him about Face 2 Face!


Trendsetters Blog by Bradley Roper aged 12

Guest post from Bradley Roper, aged 12.

The day after Kayne and I appeared in the BBC1 programme, Racing with the Hamiltons, I was a bit late for school so my Nan said, “Let’s catch the bus.”

The first Bus Driver wouldn’t let us on and wagged his finger at us. We are used to this and I had discussed my experience of bus drivers’ attitudes with Nic Hamilton on the TV programme the night before.

My Nan stormed away with steam coming out of her ears. Then a bus hooted behind and pulled up beside us. The bus was ‘out of service’ and the Bus Driver called out to us: “Where are you going?”

I said, “To school.”

He said, “OK, I’ll drop you off – I am going to change your opinion of bus drivers.”

Although the bus stop is near the school, he drove right down to literally outside the school gates – he had obviously seen the programme!!

Scope’s call of Lords Help Us answered as Government is defeated

Members of the House of Lords once again gave the Government a further bloody nose over proposals to cut legal aid.

Peers are in the final stages of scrutinising the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which attempts to save £350 million by limiting the availability of legal aid. But so far the House of Lords is far from convinced.

Following three defeats on Monday night, the Government lost three more. Most significantly, the Lords voted to keep legal aid for people who need advice and support to appeal incorrect decisions about their benefits – most of these people are disabled.

This advice can be crucial in ensuring that disabled people receive the support to which they are entitled and, at a time of such a dramatic overhaul of the welfare benefits system, it is more important than ever before.

Scope and our supporters have been campaigning tirelessly on this issue – particularly calling on the Lords to save legal aid for disabled people in the innovative Lords Help Us campaign. And we were heard.

There were some particularly powerful speeches from Peers who demanded that the Government not take this vital advice away. Introducing the debate, Baroness Doocey said that “the decision to press ahead with the proposals… sends a very confused message to the disabled people that the Government have promised to protect.”

Lord Low added, “The proposal to remove legal aid for welfare benefits cases represents a triple whammy for disabled people”, while the Bishop of Exeter called on his own experience with his disabled daughter to call on the Government to save this legal advice, which gives “essential help to ensure that disabled people have access to the benefits and support to which they are entitled”.

This is a significant victory for campaigners, and we are now determined that the Government sits up and thinks about the impact that this Bill will have on disabled people.

However, the battle is far from over. The Bill will now return to the House of Commons where we can expect the Government to try to force through the changes. We saw the Government use ‘financial privilege’ to reject the changes that the House of Lords made to the Welfare Reform Bill, and we must work to keep up the pressure on MPs to make sure they realise how important this help and advice is to disabled people so that this not repeated.

We called upon Peers to help us save legal aid, and they did. Now we must ask MPs to finish the job.

Nic Hamilton documentary

Nic Hamilton and Trendsetters

The Trendsetters team is really excited to report that the filming Bradley and Kayne took part in with Nic Hamilton made it onto the TV!

Last night’s BBC1 documentary, Racing with the Hamiltons: Nic in the driving seat showed Nic visiting Scope offices in London where he met Kayne and Bradley and was interviewed by them. The documentary is very interesting and well worth a viewing, so have a look at it – you can find it on BBC I-Player.

Well done Trendsetters, you made it!

Racing With The Hamiltons: Nic In The Driving Seat

The BBC’s new disability season starts on Tuesday 6 March at 10.35pm withRacing With The Hamiltons: Nic In The Driving Seat.

Becoming a racing car driver isn’t easy for anyone, especially when you have cerebral palsy and your older brother is the world’s youngest F1 winner. In a sweeping one-hour documentary that captures the highs and lows of starting out on the racetrack, Nic hits the competitive Clio Cup to see if he has what it takes to make it as a driver. With his family on the track and brother Lewis on hand for advice, Nic is determined to prove that he can go beyond being disabled to kickstart a career as a driver. But his cerebral palsy and lack of driving experience means that he’s facing tough odds just to finish each race in one piece, let alone do well enough to continue beyond just the one tour. When a high-speed accident threatens to end his career before it’s really begun, it takes every ounce of Nic’s courage to get back in the driving seat. A moving documentary that looks at how one ordinary young man pushes beyond being disabled to take on an extraordinary challenge.

Young disabled people from our Trendsetters project met Nic Hamilton during the making of this documentary, and here’s what happened:

BBC documentary

Increasing numbers of disabled young people have been looking up to Nic Hamilton as a role model, and they were keen to explore this in the programme. They asked Scope if we could arrange for Nic to meet some young disabled people and to film this for the documentary. We thought the Trendsetters would be an ideal group of people to meet Nic so of course we said yes!

It was very short notice but we managed to get Bradley and Kayne to Scope’s head office to meet Nic, and be filmed interviewing him. Jamie Robertson from the Scope campaigns team came along too. Bradley, Kayne and Jamie had some interesting questions for Nic and asked him about his racing career, his adapted car, his experiences of growing up, school and bullying, and his relationship with his brother Lewis Hamilton, the Formula 1 racing driver. We found out that Nic and Lewis play a competitive car racing computer game when they are apart, and that both of them want to win!

Trendsetters project

Nic asked Bradley and Kayne about the Trendsetters project, and they talked about living with cerebral palsy and the attitudes of other people towards them. Nic told the boys that being different isn’t a bad thing, and explained how he deals with any challenges he faces with a positive attitude.

“A wicked day”

The filming took nearly two hours, and we are hoping that some of the footage will get used in the documentary… so look out for Bradley, Kayne and Jamie, they could be famous! Everyone enjoyed the experience, Bradley’s Mum and Kayne’s Dad got to meet Nic and chat to him over lunch and as Kayne’s Dad said afterwards, “What a wicked day!”

Kayne told us that he went go-karting a few months ago, but crashed his go-kart and didn’t want to go again. But after talking to Nic he felt inspired to go back to go-karting and he was getting ready to search the web for places where he could go and get involved.

Thanks to our London Trendsetters and their families for joining us at such short notice, and for proving to be such good interviewers.

Let’s hope we get lots more opportunities like this!