Tag Archives: superhumans

Not a superhuman? Never feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’

Anna Scutt is an actor, singer and hypnotist. In this blog she writes about the impact that adverts like ‘Meet the Superhumans‘ had on her, and how she’s come to accept that it’s okay to admit you’re not okay.

That ‘Meet the Superhumans’ advert. It, and programmes like ‘Disabled Daredevil’, used to make me feel inadequate for not doing something amazing like a bungee jump or a triathlon.  Until two things happened last weekend to change my mind.

One, I read Kim Daniel Daybell’s blog ‘You don’t have to be an athlete to be superhuman’, and two, I got talking to a man sitting next to me at the theatre.

“How does your CP actually disable you?”

He was very impressed that I had come to London on my own.  In the course of conversation, I told him I had also been to Milan to the opera, and that I’d sung in opera myself at university.  At which point he asked ‘Forgive me, but how does your cerebral palsy actually disable you?’

That made me think. Things that I consider ordinary – I drive, I sing, I’ve got a language degree and can watch all those Scandi-noir dramas without subtitles – non-disabled people consider superhuman because they realise that those things are way more difficult for me than they would be for them. They’re not being patronising, they’re just being non-disabled. He was genuinely interested though, so I answered his question: I am in constant pain. I didn’t tell him I hate it. And it took me a long time to admit it, but it’s OK to hate it.

Anna acting on stage. She sits on a mans knee, turned towards each other, in period costume
Anna playing Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest, with Paul Henshall as Jack Worthing

Never feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’

There are so many inspirational stories on the internet that not being OK with my CP made me feel like a failure.  But who doesn’t hate being in pain? That doesn’t make me a failure, it makes me human.

All these inspirational people tell you that you can do anything you put your mind to, but actually, ‘Yes, I can’ might not apply to you.  And that’s OK too.  I mean, it sucks, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I want to dance – tap, jive, quickstep – but my body doesn’t.  I am an actress and I would love to be in a lavish costume drama, but there aren’t many wheelchair users in Jane Austen.  Feel sad about it, feel angry, but never feel guilty.

Anna smiling at the camera in her wheelchair

If you want to play sport, opportunities have improved thanks to the Paralympics.  But if you don’t, nothing much has changed.  Coronation Street did more to raise awareness for me.  I used to get glared at in public if I got out of my wheelchair and walked, as if I was faking my disability. (I blame Little Britain’s Lou and Andy!)  But since Izzy Armstrong stood up out of her wheelchair at the bar of the Rover’s, the glaring has stopped.

Equality is still some way off, but it’s OK not to be a trailblazer or an activist. Someone else will raise awareness; someone will take that inaccessible shop to court, but don’t feel guilty if it’s not you.

You’re only human, after all.

If you want to find out more about Anna’s career, check out her webpage or watch her showreel. 

If you have a story you would like to share, get in touch with Scope’s Stories team.

 

“As a disabled person, you don’t have to be an athlete to be superhuman”

Kim Daybell is a Paralympic table tennis player and is studying medicine at the University of Leeds. He represented ParalympicsGB at the London 2012 Paralympics.

We spoke to Kim about London 2012, attitudes towards disability and Channel 4’s flagship Paralympics trailer.

Competing in London has been the highlight of my career so far and it’s been amazing to see a change in attitudes towards the Paralympic Games over the last few years.

London helped break down a lot of barriers, it challenged people’s perceptions and showed the public that disability isn’t something to be scared of.

Instead of people seeing Paralympians as disabled people, we started to be viewed as athletes. I think the focus is becoming less about disability and more about seeing us for who we are and what we are achieving.

Kim, a young disabled men, competes in a table tennis tournament

Channel 4 did such a great build up and coverage of the games people were suddenly realising that we can really compete. I think shows like The Last Leg have definitely helped reduce some of the stigma too.

London’s legacy has also helped to bridge the gap between the Olympics and the Paralympics. Before 2012, Paralympians weren’t really in the public eye and we didn’t get a lot of media coverage.

Now athletes have become household names, people like Ellie Simmonds, Johnny Peacock and Richard Whitehead have become just as big as some Olympians. Paralympic athletes have been in the shadow of Olympic athletes for so long, it’s good to see that starting to change.

The games becoming more mainstream has also encouraged young disabled people to get into sport. Since London, kids are now being given more opportunities because we’ve had a lot of money put in at a grass roots level. Our squad now has a pathway program and we have someone who goes around and looks for young talent to bring in. Initiatives like this have meant we’ve seen many more disabled people playing sport.

We’re all superhumans

Recently I featured in Channel 4’s trailer for the Paralympic Games, it was a great experience and I was really pleased with how it turned out. I know there has been some controversy around the advert, specifically around the ‘superhuman’ theme. I have seen the term be interpreted in different ways, but to me it just describes disabled people who are doing things above and beyond what non-disabled people can do.

Access an audio described version of the advert.

Some people have said it comes across as a bit patronising, but I don’t see it like that. I think the people in the advert are great role models and great examples for disabled people out there.

However, that doesn’t mean that as a disabled person you have to fly a car with your feet or be an athlete to be superhuman. A superhuman achievement could be anything from completing a university degree to going shopping, it doesn’t just apply to Paralympians. To me, it represents the idea that disabled people can go out and do anything they set their mind to.

I think that’s why they chose to feature disabled people who aren’t athletes in this campaign. The superhuman concept is inclusive, it encompasses all disabled people who are doing amazing things and the advert celebrates this.

People have also questioned why the Paralympics are marketed differently to the Olympics, but I don’t see this as a negative thing. It is to be expected because they are completely different things. They’re separate sporting events and separate organisations, so it makes sense that the marketing isn’t the same.

There is nothing you cannot do

I’d encourage disabled people who are interested in sport to embrace the opportunities that are now available to them. Look online for what’s available in your area, sports clubs are now catering for disabled athletes more than ever. ParalympicsGB are always looking for talent, they’re willing to take on anyone who wants to give it everything they’ve got.

Having been on the Paralympic scene for a while now, I honestly believe there is nothing you cannot do. I’ve seen some truly amazing things, we’ve got a guy in our squad who hasn’t got hands who plays table tennis. Anything can be achieved if you set your mind to it.

You can follow Kim on his Paralympic journey on Twitter.

Find out more about ParalympicsGB on their website.

What it was like starring in Channel 4’s Superhumans advert

Last week Channel 4 released the new ‘Superhumans’ advert promoting the 2016 Paralympics. Guy Llewellyn, a horn player and Virgin Media employee,  starred in the ad as part of the big band. Here, he tells us the impact music has had on his life and the best bits of taking part in the filming. #YesICan

I originally trained as a professional horn player at the Royal College of Music but, after a brief freelance career, I joined one of the pioneering cable companies based in Cambridge, and have been working as an access network planner for the best part of 23 years! Although I decided that a full-time career in music wasn’t for me, I still kept playing at a professional level.

Unfortunately, in 2010, I had a bad fall at home and broke my back. The fall left me paralysed from the waist down and meant I would use a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

It was important to remain positive

Guy playing his horn on stage
Guy playing his horn on stage

At the time, it seemed like both my career in music and at Virgin Media might be over. But, with the help of friends, family and Virgin Media, I was able to find my feet again and continue to work and play.

I cannot stress enough how important it was for me to remain positive and to motivate myself to keep going and beat the doubters.

This was a key message in the Channel 4 “We’re the Superhumans” advert in which I took part.

Being one of the ‘Superhumans’

I was absolutely astounded to be asked to take part in the film, and at one stage doubted whether I was going to be able to juggle all my commitments. I also have a wife and 4 daughters to think about! However, with support from Virgin Media and my family I was able to join the band.

I knew that this was going to be once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that that I will now never forget.

Nothing had prepared me for the complexity of this project and the sheer amount of tireless work by the dedicated crew. Not only was it a huge logistical challenge, (some of my fellow musicians had come from America and New Zealand),  but the project also demanded meticulous attention to detail. This meant that the shoot days were pretty long with a fair bit of waiting around. Yet, despite the long hours, I found the whole process fascinating.

The ‘best bits’ from filming 

Guy and his band outside Abbey Road studios
Guy and the band outside Abbey Road studios

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of doing the project for me, as a musician, was the opportunity to record the soundtrack at Abbey Road Studios. Not only that, we also got to record in Studio Two, where the Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper and Pink Floyd recorded ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

Of course, there was a lot of waiting around, but just to sit in the Abbey Road canteen and soak up the atmosphere was a truly awesome experience.

Guy and the band crossing the abbey Road zebra-crossing
Guy and the band emulating the Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road album cover

Most importantly, the team work I saw unfolding in front of me on the other side of the lens was nothing more than astonishing. We were also very well looked after and, despite some of the crew sometimes working 20 hour days, everyone kept smiling, and shared a real belief in what we were trying to achieve.

The release of the advert also came at an important time. For instance, it coincided nicely with the recent Charity Week and Virgin Media’s renewed commitment to recognising and improving the workplace for all of its employees.

“Watch the advert and let it speak for itself!”Guy and the band taking part in the ad

Unfortunately, time and space constraints mean I cannot possibly describe all the amazing things that happened and all the amazing heroes I met. But if you watch the advert I am sure you will see just how important the work of Virgin Media and Scope is in making positive changes to people’s lives.

We would love to hear your thoughts on Channel 4’s Superhumans ad. What were your impressions or reactions? Tweet your response using the hashtag #Superhumans.