2. A Job, a life & giggles by Sarah Gordy

David has invited me to say hello to his followers for World Downs Syndrome Day. Thats lovely, hello everybody! Im clever, I have got mum to type while I talk. I think it is fantastic that all you parents all over the world talk to each other on the internet. You are really making a difference.

For my part I try to do two things.

First I like to encourage parents and their kids to be ambitious. My mum told me that the doctor said I would have weak muscles. So I have been on an exercise program since birth and now go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. She was told I had a learning disability and thats true. I will never be an accountant! and I am really bad at lots of things!! But I am good at language and understanding emotion.

So you start with weak muscles, work at it. No need to get fat, good eating habits. And start little kids on learning lines, it is good for the Little Grey Cells (Sherlock Holmes) a couple of words, a line and then a couple. It does not matter how long it takes.

I do want to make parents feel better about their situation. Most important thing is to have fun. I have learned everything by mucking about, story telling being in school plays, all the fun stuff.

Secondly we have been trying for years to get Television Producers to see opportunities, not problems. I put everything into a speech I gave at the Lord Rix lecture, Millbank tower which follows here.

Thanks for being interested in me.

Sarah on the set of Upstairs Downstairs (c) Upstairs Downstairs

Sarah on the set of Upstairs Downstairs (c) Upstairs Downstairs

Hi My name is Sarah Gordy

This is a wonderful opportunity for me to express my thoughts – on our industry – The Media and what it is like to be someone with a learning disability.

In the beginning of my career the stage managers and assistant directors were HORRIFIED when they saw me. How were they going to keep to a tight schedule with a central character played by someone with Downs Syndrome?

What happens is we KEEP on schedule, We DO good work – And – I earn respect.

I know this because they tell me later. But now they want to work with me again

Sorry if I am blowing my own trumpet but to change things I must talk about what I know

However my experience is probably relevant to other industries.

Lisa Evans wrote my first TV show. She then got commissioned to write my first professional play “Once We Were mothers” – In an 800 seater theatre, In the round – A challenge!

The play was a success and a few years later, it got another production at the Orange Tree Richmond with me attached. The writer trusts me. I Earn Trust

I am lucky as the press seem to like me. There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability. I think more of these people should be involved with the media. I think we should have more positive reflections in drama and print.

On stage I have played complex characters, who are sometimes… HAPPY and SUCCESSFUL. TV is inclined to only have stories about the problems disability brings. The character is a “Disability” not a “woman”.

However, some writers who work with me go onto writing more complex characters. Thanks Heidi Thomas for my character in “Call the Midwife” – and Lisa Evans. May I suggest to TV bosses – think positive have faith in your writers as my American dad says “some of the best ideas – come from left field”. I think that means – don’t be conservative.

You like winners! You create winners by thinking differently.

A few words about developing new talent and changing public attitudes. I would like to see more small parts played by people with learning disability. Where the character has Nothing to do with disability. Perhaps the person in the newsagent our hero chats to every day. Or the receptionist who makes you smile. Non “issue” roles. Just part of society.

One last thought. I had a young employee in a supermarket come up to me. Adam has a learning disability. He said “Sarah you were brilliant yesterday, but you are not doing us any favours. Your characters are always helpless and sad. Please play a character with a job, a life and Giggles.”

What could I say? I don’t rule the world. I’m happy to work ….. but can I change anything?

Thank You

Sarah Gordy is an actor and dancer with an impressive career on screen and stage.  She has Down’s Syndrome and passionately campaigns to help other see beyond the label.

Read more about Sarah at www.sarahgordy.com or follow her on twitter @sarah_gordy

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