Chapter 17 — Posters, Talks, and other Publicity
We have attempted posters for Outsiders right from the beginning but most have failed dismally. This has proved to me how little society, including poster designers understand what we do. The best poster ever was made by us (but now a bit dated).
In February 1995, the Management Committee Chair, Annette Taylor, and myself, travelled to Israel to take part in yet another International Symposium, this time entitled, ‘Women and Disability’. I was reluctant to go, reflecting how little impact the last symposium had made, almost eleven years ago. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that some serious research was being done on the sexuality of disabled women. It was also heart rendering to observe that, internationally, Outsiders is still regarded as an amazing, unique phenomenon.
One of my sex therapy lecturers, the amazing pioneer Dr Alan Riley invited me to speak to a group of GPs about Outsiders and I had only prepared half a talk as I made it a rule that I would never talk about sex and disability on behalf of disabled people, always bringing a disabled person with me. But the morning of the talk, my disabled speaker cancelled and I was left on my own to deliver the entire speech. Thrown in at the deep end, I seem to have gained a new confidence, and since then my public speaking has taken off.
In 2012 I spoke at two conferences to health professionals — hospice staff and brain injury case managers. I was invited as the “liberal” and regarded with suspicion and nervousness by both organisers and speakers. However, delegates enjoyed my openness and candidness, so I felt I had triumphed over adversity. I think the tide has turned. Now, I frequently speak to health and social care professionals and disabled people around the country.
In 2013, the press started to quote me as an authority and, in April I was offered my own article in The Guardian! I hope this is the start of success.
In the early 80’s a television documentary was made about Outsiders. It was called The Skin Horse and screened on Channel 4. Apparently, it has been shown in the USA many times, winning awards, but never screened again in the UK.
In 1996, Outsiders agreed to take part in a BBC documentary about us, made by their Disabilities Unit. They promised that the programme would promote the club and help us raise funds. When we saw the programme on TV we learned otherwise, it was manufactured scandal and gross misrepresentation. The film makers were disabled people who still couldn’t cope with the nature of our work, and projected their own sexual problems onto us, assuming we must be exploitative. Fortunately, most of our members grinned and bared it (in front of the telly with their families or care-workers!) and we ignored the seedy phone calls which resulted from the programme.
Claire Richards won the Grierson Award for her documentary on Outsiders in 2006. The film was called Disabled and Looking for love and it was screened at midnight on BBC3. Sadly it was never shown on telly again, but can be viewed on YouTube.
The trend of Channel 4 programmes after 2010 have mostly been factual drama and fanciful programmes ignoring Outsiders. Having said that, there have been some wonderful features like the French film, The Untouchables and the American film The Sessions.
In 2014 my book, Supporting Disabled People with their Sexual Lives was published by Jessica Kingsley in the UK and USA.