Guest post from Colin Young who will feature in tonight’s Call the Midwife.
The reaction to this Sunday’s Call The Midwife has been overwhelming!
The episode features my character Jacob, who lives in an institution for disabled people. We learn about his relationship with another resident, Sally Harper, who has Down’s Syndrome. The story follows their struggle to be together as everyone around them rejects their right to be in love.
The media has described the episode as the most controversial story line yet. For me it’s highlighted an aspect of our social history that has not had the recognition it deserves: disabled people in love.
My character Jacob first appeared in series two of Call The Midwife. Living in St Gideon’s institution, he symbolised the segregation of disabled people in post-war Britain.
In the episode a couple need to decide if their child with spina-bifida should be put into St Gideon’s. Jacob steers them towards bringing their child up in the community with the line: “there’s a biscuit factory next door… we get the broken ones”.
Viewed by over 10 million people, people praised the show for using a disabled actor.
When we meet Jacob again in today’s episode he’s a responsible young man, contributing to the running of St Gideon’s.
How things have changed
Lots of the media attention has been on my own love life. I’ve always tried to be as independent as possible, with support to enable me to achieve this. I believe that dating should be an ordinary part of my independence.
People aren’t as shocked at this as they were back in the 1950s. To see disabled people in a relationship isn’t the taboo it used to be. But it’s still difficult for disabled people to date.
Inaccessible venues, pressures to conform to stereotypes, and people’s attitudes all make dating challenging.
Changing attitudes towards disabled actors
I believe the courage shown by Call The Midwife will encourage writers and agents to include disabled people in their programmes. I hope we will see more disabled people in ordinary roles, where the focus is on their inclusion as equal members of the cast.
It was incredible to get my first professional acting role on such a popular drama. Playing the role of Jacob has been an amazing honour, but the best part has been the acceptance as an actor by the cast and crew. During the filming I felt like one of the family – chatting with Miranda in make-up, Helen and Bryony between scenes, and sharing banter with the sound crew. It gave me the sense of being an actor in my own right.
You can watch Colin in tonight’s episode at 8pm on BBC1.