Thursday - all eyes on us: the interviews

In today's series of interviews, read the interview with Jacqui Adeniji-Williams. She is the person asking the questions in the interviews in the film. Jacqui works for Theatre Royal Stratford East and has been involved in A New Direction's projects for several years.

27 June 2013

(Image credit: Barry Edmunds)

What's the film about?
It's about regular people who do extraordinary things, and the different journeys they take. It's easy to group people together, but everyone's an individual.

What links them together?
They're all at different stages of their life and have different stories. Johnnie wasn't born disabled. David was born deaf - he doesn't know any different. And Lauren - she's just a young girl, like me, just trying to get by. Stephen is 'having his moment' - which touched me more than anything else. But together, they're all very honest about their lives. They've got nothing to hide behind. They also have an inner-fight, like 'just because of x, y, z doesn't mean I'm not going to do a, b and c'. I know it sounds cheesy - but it's also about having the courage to not be judged. Everyone wants to be accepted whether you have a disability or you don't.

In the film there's a bit where it says you welcomed athletes into the stadium - what was that all about?
I was part of the team welcoming ceremony - we did five shows a day for countries in the Olympic village. And at the opening ceremony we stood at the entrance to the stadium welcoming the athletes in. After Team GB had passed we had to run back round the outside stadium and sneak back in, to our seats, to watch the rest of the show.

What do you think it is that the characters in the film are overcoming?
With Johnnie, he's like a 'man's-man' but they're going to give him a pink umbrella! For David, acting was his world already so his challenge was about working with a spectrum of disabilities. For Lauren it was about the equipment she had to use. And for Stephen it was very much about accepting his disability along with all the things the other characters were dealing with!

How do you want the film to change people's perceptions?
People shouldn't 'pity' disabled people. People are over-helpful or completely oblivious - if we can find somewhere in the middle, that would be great.

Each disabled person is different, but the Paralympics was supposed to change our attitudes to all 'disabled people'. Do we need a 'code of conduct?' Like - how do I know when to open a door for someone? I don't want to be patronising, but I don't want to be unhelpful.
I think it's just about asking. I don't mind if people want to open doors for me. But some people don't like it. You just have to ask them - 'would you like me to open the door for you?' You shouldn't expand from what one disabled person does and apply it to all disabled people.

Do you think the Paralympics have changed attitudes disabled people?
I think it was amazing. I'm not going to take that away for them. It was really good for younger kids with disabilities - it gives them a drive, something to look forward to, something to aim for. But older people with disabilities are a bit more cynical because they've lived it. As great as the Paralympics were - a month later, things had gone back to normal. Especially with bus drivers - I think they were put on high alert during the Olympics to make a good impression on visitors. If it changed one person's life, that's great. But if you think that out of millions of people, 100 people see the world differently. It's just 100 people, it's not that many.