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Friday 3rd September 2004

Laurence Clark, the fella who heckled me in Edinburgh emailed me today to give his side of the story. He's written about the incident on his weblog at http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/features/rword_edinburgh.shtml
I have to take issue with a few things he says. I never refer to anyone as a "retard" and this is not a word that I would generally use (doubtless someone will find some example from my work. I hope not. There's none in Warming Up. Well until now). Not only is it ugly and offensive, it is also a horrible Americanism. I refer to the game of CNPS as "retarded", but I am using that word in its true sense. I am not saying it is a game that would be played by "retards", or that it resembles a "retarded person", I am saying the game itself is retarded. I think it's an important distinction.
Also I think he may have been confusing my venue Pod 4 with the horribly inaccessible Pod 5 (which after a month of boozing I had trouble getting up to). I believe Pod 4 may have had three steps down and three steps up on the way in (hardly two "flights" of stairs) and there was a willing and hard-working front of house staff that would assist anyone who needed assistance. It was one of the more accessible venues on the Fringe. Not to say that that isn't a problem and that Laurence isn't right to complain and I wish him luck in his doomed campaign to create better access in Fringe venues. I am surprised that the Pod, which after all was a cinema previously, did not have better access. The problem with most Fringe venues is that they are not designed to host theatrical shows and take place in any room that happens to be available. There's no way somewhere like the Pleasance Attic could ever be made accessible, unless someone wanted to invest millions of pounds installing a lift. This simply isn't practical for a three week festival and a 60 seat venue. But seriously, all power to Laurence with this issue and it's good to raise awareness. It's not something I've thought about before when considering a venue, but will now be a factor in any future decisions (though given the limitations of Edinburgh and the spaces you get offered it will only be able to be a factor).
His views on charity are also interesting and certainly worth a read. I would agree with him that it is not enough to shake a bucket and think that giving some loose change will effect any significant change. Also that people throw in a few pennies and their consciences are salved. However, I don't think that is what I am doing and I feel a little aggrieved that I am singled out for criticism when I am actually trying to make a small amount of difference.
The fact is that charities need funds to operate. Laurence has a problem with SCOPE due to having spent 10 years in a segregated school affiliated to the charity. I have sympathy for his anger. My show was not really about disability (though to some extent it was about my own lack of physical coordination and my social awkwardness and a flirtation with mental illness. It's about how much it is possible to achieve regardless of your own physical imperfections, and I think that message is relevant to anyone regardless of the extremes of those imperfections), but I hope that through the information in the programme that it will make people aware of SCOPE's "Time to Get Equal" campaign (http://www.timetogetequal.org.uk) which is much more than about raising a bit of money, but about creating a society where everyone is equal. Please go and sign up for this if you want to. The truth is that the donations to SCOPE at least initially repay them for priniting the programme (which the Edinburgh run achieved with a nice profit) so it was mainly paying to get this message across.
So I think Laurence has been a little harsh on me, and I did get depressed today at the fact that I was being misquoted and misunderstood on his site. But I actually think the issues are more important and I only initially mentioned our encounter on this site in order to promote discussion.
He's made me think about some things I hadn't thought about and to be honest before I talked to him I hadn't even considered that fact that some disabled people were opposed to SCOPE. Having said that, many others do support it and are grateful for what it has done. I chose to support SCOPE in the first place because a friend and a child of another friend have cerebral palsy and are managing to live full and fulfilling lives and in their opinion SCOPE is helping others to reach their full potential.
Thanks to those of you who emailed me about this issue the first time I mentioned it. It feels slightly odd to be singled out for criticism when there are people out there doing much more offensive and thoughtless routines than mine and when I'm trying to make a small amount of difference. But all the same I do appreciate the feedback and it's good to get people thinking about this. And to think about it myself.

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