Art, Activism Authenticity and a Touch of Crazy!

5 January 2021

In the first lock-down last year I found myself with unexpected time on my hands. I decided to explore an idea that had been in the back of my mind for a while about creating a social change podcast. At the time I was reading, ‘My Name is Y’ by Lemn Sissay and I remember thinking, ‘if I ever do anything with this podcast idea, he would be a great guest’. I was therefore delighted to end series one of The Aperture with Lemn Sissay as my guest.

In our episode we have a beautiful conversation about the role of creativity in creating social change and art as activism. We suggest play is under-rated and not unrelated to storytelling and acknowledge both can be a cathartic form of expression and a means to speak truth to power. We agree creativity uniquely navigates the Complexity and contradictions of the human spirit and so bonds community and champions change. Liv Torc then takes the idea of ideas to another level in her creative response to our conversation.

This concludes the first series of The Aperture. Having had no idea how to make a podcast at the start of the first lock-down, I am chuffed to complete series one at the end of what has been a tricky year. This is my ‘something good’ to come out of 2020 and I am proud of the pods!

Episode 6 Flyer

Episode 6 flyer



From Mars bars for your thoughts to thought leadership

23 December 2020

Marie-Claire and I have been friends since we met as newly appointed trustees of a charity board. She recently launched her New Leaf network, so it was great timing to have her on an Aperture episode to talk about lived experience. Marie-Claire is the Founder and CEO of New Leaf, specialising in prison to employment via a pathway of education, training and holistic support.

Whilst Marie-Claire and I work in different areas of the social sector, we both champion recognising the value of lived experience and developing LEX leadership. I specialise in supporting people with experience of disability and feed into systems change at a strategic level, while Marie-Claire does the same in the criminal justice system. What was apparent from our conversation is that you will have shared experiences of the same barriers – whether your lived experience is of disability or the criminal justice system. You may have faced stigma and exclusion at times. You will likely have encountered tokenistic engagement from charities and institutions that extract your views to tick a box; or encourage you to tell your story in order to hang their work upon. You may have been perceived as a risk, or somewhat ‘less than’ in pursuit of employment or promotion – ironically often by the charities or institutions that exist to support and serve those like you.

These examples represent the experiences of many, but it does feel like a change is on its way. Marie-Claire believes we are on the crest of an exciting tidal wave of change. She puts the change down to a shift in the language being used; the change in the funding landscape; and the work of the LEX trailblazer Baljeet Sandhu. Marie-Claire talks passionately about the insights and innovation that come from meaningful engagement with those with lived experience, and the cost saving benefits from employing, and engaging with, those who know the system. Memorably, regarding employment she says, “You get a lot more bang for your buck. If somebody pays me £20,000 a year to do a job using my lived experience, I am going to give you £40,000 worth of employee’

Episode five is out now. Jason N Smith combines his lived experience with his creative talents to provide his poetic response. All in all… it’s worth a listen. 

The Aperture episode five the one about lived experieince and the criminal justice system [7981]


Choose collective social impact and contribution over capes and competition.

17 December 2020

In our latest podcast I am joined by Daniela Papi-Thornton. Daniela has spent more than a decade designing and facilitating social change education programming around the world and she makes a compelling argument for systems-led leadership.

Systems-led leaders make decisions about their personal or organizational social-impact strategies based on understanding the systems within which they work. They envision wider system change goals – goals they know they can’t achieve alone but which help guide their actions so that those actions connect with, build upon, and contribute to the wider impact of the collective. Our guest poet, Chris Redmond takes the idea of ‘the collective’ to new heights (literally!).

This one is a goodie and well worth taking time out from your super hero timetable to consider your approach. We need greater social impact and fewer social super heroes…..

#SocialImpact #SocialChange #Leadership

The Aperture episode 4 the one about social entrepreneurship

Image of flyer


Sunny Days and Social Leadership!

8 December 2020

In episode three of The Aperture I am joined by the amazing Sunny Dhadley. He talks candidly about his social leadership journey which began shortly after detoxing from heroin. He found his purpose and began developing peer-led services, which supported thousands of people and inspired many more. His work in developing collaborative interventions aimed at supporting vulnerable and/or marginalised communities in a holistic way has been seen as ground-breaking, being cited in many UK and European best practice papers.

Sunny shares how it was other people who began recognising him as a social leader long before he realised it for himself. This mirrors my experience, and our commitment to social leadership is what brought us together as we met through our involvement with LEX Move. LEX Move is a lived experience collective which works to support and develop lived experience leadership in the social sector.

Ibby is our poet on this episode and he also came into my life through social leadership, as we are both from the same Clore Social leadership cohort of 2016. He too is a fantastic example of a social leader so was perfect to be our poet on this episode.

This one is definitely worth a listen…

The anchor episode 3 the one about social impact flyer2

Episode 3 flyer

Celebrating milestones on the route to destination disability inclusion

4 December 2020

Purple bus image

It seems that disabled people and purple allies have waited all year at the bus stop for something to celebrate and then we are inundated with party buses!

On International Day of People with Disabilities it feels appropriate to pull over to acknowledge the road well-travelled by past and present disability activists and allies. I raise a glass to celebrate these anniversaries:

  • The fiftieth anniversary of the Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act (1970), the first legislation to recognise disabled people’s rights in areas as diverse as access, education, employment and mobility.
  • The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), a landmark piece of legislation making it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people and to provide equal opportunities.
  • The ten-year anniversary of the Equality Act which replaced previous anti-discrimination laws (including the DDA) with a broader, single Act.

A milestone is a stone set beside a road to mark the distance to a particular destination, so it feels like a very appropriate place to pull over and pause during Disability History Month (18 Nov to 18 Dec). Appropriately, the theme this year is, ‘Access: How far have we come? How far have we to go?’

Last month hosted Purple Tuesday, an international call to action to celebrate the purple pound – the spending power of disabled people and their families. It’s a milestone-awareness moment (there’s that word again!) for an issue that is recognised as being relevant 365 days a year. The Purple Tuesday bus was super-charged this year! The campaign:

  • Trended in the top ten worldwide on Twitter for a large part of the day, which is extraordinary when you think it was US election day and two days before the second Covid-19 lockdown in the UK.
  • Achieved a media reach of 17.4 million, across 272 pieces of media – up 51 percent on last year.

The folks behind Purple Tuesday are celebrating, but acknowledge it will count for very little if Purple Tuesday is perceived as a one-day awareness event and disabled people don’t feel, see and hear the impact.  It will count for nothing if Purple Tuesday doesn’t take on board the very loud feedback from organisations across all sectors, particularly SMEs, who say “we get it, we want it, but we need some support and guidance to do it right”.

We all have a part to play: disabled people need to be driving the bus; disabled people’s organisations need to be signposting in the right direction; policy makers need to be removing road blocks; and everyone needs to want to follow the route.

Yesterday, the route was lit up (literally!). PurpleSpace’s ‘Purple Light Up’ started in New Zealand and Australia at sunrise and finished at 17:00 in New York. It is a fully digital, worldwide broadcast sharing the growing commitment to disability inclusion, and appreciation of the economic contribution of disabled employees: a way to celebrate and connect with disabled people worldwide. 

Disability is a global issue, with 15 percent of the world’s population having an impairment – this equates to over one billion people, with a purchasing power of $8 trillion. That’s surely worth shining our purple headlights upon!

The questions to contemplate as we board the bus again are: how will we ensure the rights won twenty-five years ago are maintained; and how can we fast-track our route to full participation and equality of opportunities for disabled people? The road ahead remains long, but I get a real sense that more and more people are wanting to get onboard.

A milestone also signifies a change or stage in development, and the lemonade maker in me is optimistic that we are on the brink of real change. This year has been difficult in so many ways, but I have a sense that next year will mark a significant development in the acceleration to destination disability inclusion.

Why the name?