A justice ‘pilgrimage’…

It’s confirmed. A celebration – Of Rights and Colour – organised by Learning Disability England will be held on December 2 in Aviles, Northern Spain.

Truly, truly spectacular…

It wasn’t long before talk in the Justice shed turned to walking the #JusticeforLB bus and flag to Aviles from Santander in readiness for the event. A bus made from cardboard boxes by the Boumelha family for 107days of action. And a flag that has graced two Glastonbury festivals and travelled as far as New Zealand via Sydney (meeting People First, Dunedin and the NZ Disability Rights Commissioner among others) thanks to Katherine Runswick-Cole, Rebecca Lawthom, Dan Goodley and families.

Along the Northern way of the Camino de Santiago. We’re planning to set off on October 25 and cover the 150 miles in around 12 days. George Julian, Agent T (my sis) and me so far [anyone is very welcome to join us on part or all of the route]. I think it’s fair to say we ain’t brilliantly fit. And our vague convos so far around how to get the bus from A to B are along the lines of the odd “Maybe we should strap it to a backpack” to “Pull it along on a trolley?” type exchanges on twitter…

But whatever. It will be a remarkable and deeply powerful experience. A time to reflect. To laugh, cry and rage. And maybe make some sense of what has happened over the past three years or so.

Of rights and colour. And love.

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In search of rights and colour…

Came across some serious craftivism this evening. Mind and the Drunken Knitwits (among others) set too on the Radcliffe Camera. A welcome distraction from the continuing non action by those who should.

Left me thinking about plans for a bit of a #JusticeforLB shindig later this year (not quite confirmed) called In Search of Rights and Colour. Involving people, human rights, commitment, explosions of colour, love, brilliance, enthusiasm, stitching, passion, double decker buses and a pilgrim path.

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Drops of brilliance.

The JT Show

For some time now, we’ve had a bit of a beef with Mencrap in the Justice Shed. Not least because they continue to make the extraordinary claim to be ‘the voice of learning disability’. A claim so inappropriate I don’t really know where to start. I’ll just leave it at their failing service provision (details of which are buried deep on their website…)

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Well, and the ludicrously extravagant Strategic Executive Assistant to the CEO post currently being advertised to do the work that the CEO should probably be doing herself.

George has written about her experiences of working for Mencrap and, more recently, of daring to challenge the organisation on live television. Post Victoria Derbyshire, there was further approbation from a couple of parents on twitter. Including a baffling post about ‘Two mums’ that seems to accuse #JusticeforLB of being the equivalent of a Young Ones tribute band. Ho hum.

Anyway. Back to today. The Telegraph (I know) ran a spread about Mencrap CEO, Jan Tregelles (JT). This coincided with Mencrap’s Learning Disability Week and was published in their Lifestyle/Women section.

What did we learn from this article?

JT dined at the Sloane Club that day (a reference for typical Telegraph readers) and “Mencrap’s about giving people with learning disabilities the opportunity to experience life to the full”. She doesn’t mention it but I hope the learning disabled people she took with her enjoyed the “posh lunch with the great and good”.

The new Mencrap campaign faithfully reflects JT’s vision for learning disabled people. Such power and omnipotence. Blimey. I hope she’s using it well….

How are you using it JT?

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Oh boy. This generated some sandwich related mischievousness on twitter. Not surprisingly. From the Sloane Club to cheese sarnies down a well in the space of a few sentences*.

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JT could not peg her true colours to the learning disability gravy train she is riding more openly. Empathy? What about empowerment, autonomy, civil and human rights… ?

Sadly, the article doesn’t end there. It rattles through clothes, grooming, family, number of marriages and volunteering at Citizen’s Advice where something (not revealed) ‘clicked’ and bounced JT to Mencrap where she became PA to the ‘director’. From there it was PA to CEO.

And a series of statements so blinking depressing/enraging:

I just wanted to do something that I wanted to do. 

I would have done it for nothing. 

I could do support work now though.

Why, when you get on a bus and there is someone a bit odd are you instantly fearful.

We need to equip people to see someone with a learning disability as a person

Now Jan. I know you’ve blocked me and you ain’t interested in anything #JusticeforLB has to say but seriously, if you really want to make a difference, you are going totally arse over ‘immaculately polished’ tit about it.

  • Public attitudes really ain’t the main problem. The establishment, including Mencrap, is.
  • In Learning Disability Week the focus really ought to be on learning disabled people.
  • You should have a look at Learning Disability England. This fledging organisation has a more legitimate claim to the voice of learning disability already.
  • I really wouldn’t do support work if I was you. I’m not sure you’d be very good at it.
  • There are some serious issues around what Mencrap as an organisation do. Not least the services you provide. If you need the support of a Strategic Executive Assistant perhaps the focus of this role should be less about public relations, media and project management objectives and more about actually improving people’s lives.

But what do we know?

Postscript: To those who think it’s heresy to critically challenge ‘the voice of learning disability’, I say do one. After you’ve done the sums.

*Turns out sarnygate was freeloaded from this Brene Brown Tedtalk… (thanks to  FionaQuigs for the sharp spot).

The duck boat and turning tides…

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It was the launch of Learning Disability England yesterday afternoon. In the House of Lords. With afternoon tea. I came out of Westminster station with the streets flooding and the London Duck Tour waiting by the lights. Ooof… One of those moments. My mum and dad took LB and Tom for a day out on the duck boat in the holidays. Years ago. I’ve not seen it since (thought it had been disappeared).

Another sign, I thought. As the sign bucket overflowed.

On to the launch. And Learning Disability England. Guts, passion and punch also by the bucket full. A membership organisation for pretty much everyone (£12.00 a pop for membership for individuals), democratically run; e.g. no big decision will be made unless 1/3 of the vote is from learning disabled members… Wow. A wow moment that so shouldn’t wow in 2016. Underpinning principles; challenging, empowering, being creative and putting learning disabled people first. Wow… 

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The various pieces of LDE are just brilliant. Colourful. Random. Expert and passionately committed to improving people’s lives. The rain stopped…

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After nosh, tea and chat, the ‘speeches’ (brief, to the point, heartfelt and led by Gary Bourlet) included Jane Campbell who held her hands up in acknowledgement and recognition that the UK disability rights movement just didn’t think about learning disabled people back in the day. (Physically) disabled people were too busy fighting the civil rights fight.

It was an emotional event.

I remembered another afternoon tea at the House of Commons type jobby. Way back before the duck boats were recommissioned. The Mencap Breaking Point report launch. A small group of (uppity) families travelled by the train from Haddenham. We got through the day, kept a lid on the excitement, stopped a stampede on the cake table and managed to calm down a cab driver on the way back to Marylebone after LB announced there was a bomb in Big Ben… We were very much the mint chocs that come with the bill that day. Meaningless and typically tasteless trimmings.

Hearing Jane Campbell put her hands up to an omission of non inclusivity (everything about us without us…) in a diverse crowd of people, made me think how far we have come. Then that blinking boat went past on the river. Twice. In one day. A reality check.

Bring it on Learning Disability England. We will be supporting, cheering and challenging.

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