In October I spoke in public, in front of audiences, with people and everything! Real people! It was the Southbank Centre’s very own Women of the World festival. I also met some fabulous people with whom I hope to remain friends and keep in contact.
Saturday’s talk was about Birth Stories. We only had an hour to discuss all sorts around the topic, talk about our experiences and answer questions from the audience, and we could’ve carried on much longer given the time but I think between the three of us we managed to get some interesting points out there. The three of us being myself, Marianne Stephen who is an Obstetrician currently working in Devon but who has delivered and saved many lives in some of the poorest, most politically unstable and volatile countries in the world, and finally Katie Villa, who is a mum of two, a theatre director at Quirk Theatre and performer, she chaired the panel.
Just before we were due to start the discussion though, Genevieve, our 4-year-old decided to fall and cut her head open on the edge of a windowsill about a foot off the floor. There was a fair amount of blood, it was all very dramatic looking but she was very brave. Daddy’s first aid skills came in handy as he was handed a first-aid kit by a slightly shocked-looking technician working at the festival. He stopped it bleeding and used his until-then-unpracticed bandaging skills to give her a suitable head wrapping. I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing with the child and the bleeding head and everything – I think the impending speaking-to-an-audience distracted me from thinking that this was the worst thing that could’ve just occurred. Kids have the best timing, don’t they?! Well, mine definitely seem to.
After some lunch and a quick look round Primark (obviously) we went back to the theatre and watched Liz Carr in an interview with WOW Founder Jude Kelly – it was during this fascinating discussion in the auditorium with a much larger audience than when I had spoken the day before, that I realised this is where I’d be talking on the other panel the next day, with Liz Carr herself, talking about how the Women’s Rights movement often forgets about disabled women.
Fast forward to Sunday, Mum was also there to watch me this time, as well as Tom and the children, and I was a lot more nervous since I knew the potential audience size.
I went in by myself about 15 minutes early, and met my fellow panel members – Liz Carr, actor, comedian and disability rights activist, Clair Beckett, dancer and yoga teacher who has recently been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, and Michelle Daley, a founding member of Sisters of Frida who are a collective of disabled women creating a network of fellow women with disabilities in order to share experiences, provide support and try to take away the copious amounts of bureaucracy and discrimination we face on a daily basis. Michelle was chairing this panel.
The lights were really bright and in-your-face, though they were turned down; I actually found this quite helpful as I couldn’t see the audience staring at me and I could just pretend I was talking to a bright white light, as you do.
The discussion went really well, I think, although looking back at the footage of the talk that Tom filmed for me, there were moments where I completely lost my train of thought -Ironically whilst talking about this blog, at one point! I tend to ramble a bit when I don’t have a plan of exactly what I want to say but hopefully, no one noticed. In hindsight, I wish I had been a lot more prepared in what I would say, but in my defence, I didn’t get emailed some of the information that went into more detail about the questions the chair speaker would ask. And of course, you cannot predict what questions might come from the audience. Also, I do have a tendency to stumble over what I’m saying when lots of people are watching me talk, and I hate it, which is why I hardly ever do it!
It was, of course, brilliant to meet Liz Carr, (and also Clair Beckett and Michelle Daley) but meeting somebody that you’ve known of for years, and who you never expected to be able to work alongside in this capacity was really very exciting.
All in all, I think the weekend went very smoothly if you take out the crying toddler and the child who cut her head open. I can forgive them for that because of course, they are particularly beautiful and funny children if I do say so myself. If only they’d realise how tricky it was for me to mentally prepare to talk to an audience!
To see some of the footage from the weekend please watch the video on my YouTube channel. WOW Festival Vlog.
I’m hoping The Southbank Centre’s WOW Festival will have me back next year. The children will be bubble-wrapped and I might invest in a personal microphone.