The disabled comedian who said 'no' to Britain's Got Talent

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This is a full transcript of the Ouch Talk Show: The disabled comedian who turned down BGT, as first broadcast on 16 June 2018 and presented by Kate Monaghan and Simon Minty

[Jingle: Ouch]

KATE - Okay. So two disabled people go into a tiny old radio studio, one of them in her wheelchair, the other one on his mobility scooter, when one turns to the other and says… Oh wait a minute. That's us. We're two disabled people in a tiny old radio studio. I'm Kate Monaghan.

SIMON - And I'm Simon Minty. This is the Ouch disability talk show for June.

KATE - Now, the reason I was trying to be all alternative comedy there was because, as we record this, Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, a comedian with cerebral palsy and an old friend of ours, has just won 'Britain's Got Talent'.

SIMON - So we're jumping on the bandwagon and using this as a platform to launch our own comedy careers, just like Lee did.

KATE - Yeah, that's the idea.

SIMON - No, not really. But we do have some exciting news of our own about Lost Voice Guy which we'll share with you a bit later. And we'll be asking whether this is really the moment that disabled comedians go mainstream.

KATE - Oh, that would be good for you wouldn't it? You've been trying to go mainstream for a while haven't you?

SIMON - Here's your chance to be a bit mean and horrible. You have a problem with this don't you, Kate?

KATE - I don't have a problem with it.

SIMON - You don't like short people do you? [laughs]

KATE - I love you short people. Some of my favourite disabled people are short. We've got guests here with us as well.

SIMON - Thankfully!

KATE - Maybe we should chat to them instead. Now first of all we've got Rosie Jones. Welcome back to Ouch, Rosie. How are you today?

ROSIE - I'm very well. How are you?

KATE - Very well, thank you.

ROSIE - Good.

SIMON - Rosie has cerebral palsy and is a stand-up comedian and writer for shows including 'The Last Leg' on Channel 4.

ROSIE - That's me.

KATE - And on the line all the way from San Francisco in the United States of America, it's Nina G. Hi Nina.

NINA - Hey, how are you all?

KATE - Yeah, we're very good, thank you.

SIMON - Nina, welcome back to you as well. You appeared on the show many years ago. Are we saying five, six years ago?

NINA - Yeah, it's been a long time.

SIMON - And you were part of a troupe of disabled comedians, but you are here in your own right this time to tell us about what it's like to be working as a comedian with a stutter. And also what the American comedy scene is like for disabled people.

KATE - And that's not all. We are a fully three dimensional podcast, so along with the comedy, here in the studio with us are Vanessa Boachie, who's the founder of a mental health charity called Inside Out UK. And with her is Isaac Fletcher who used the service and now works with her.

SIMON - Vanessa and Isaac, you'll tell us about the mental health charity that is aimed at the black and minority ethnic community. Hello to both of you.

ISAAC - Hello, hi.

VANESSA - Hello. Lovely to be here.

ISAAC - Yes, thank you.

KATE - Lovely to have you with us. Now, when we invited you on you probably weren't expecting to get roped in to any of our stand-up comedy routines? No? Did anyone mention that to you?


KATE - Okay, well let's hope you can just join in the discussion anyway. Are you up for that?

ISAAC - Sure.

VANESSA - Yes, let's go for it.

KATE - Good.

SIMON - A few days ago, a comedian with cerebral palsy who goes by the name of Lost Voice Guy won 'Britain's Got Talent'.

KATE - Now, you know, we don't want to sound a bit full of ourselves but we have known him for a very long time here at Ouch.

SIMON - We were trying to see who does know him the longest.

KATE - And the best, and I think it's me.


KATE - Simon disagrees but, you know, I'll show him the texts on my phone.

SIMON - But we know him and we love him.

KATE - We do. We always knew he was talented, and he's been working with us for ages. But here he is at our Edinburgh Disability Storytelling event last August.


[Lee Ridely] I think my most awkward moment came after a gig at The Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle. I had just been on stage and was chilling out in the bar when this bloke came up to me. He asked me if I really could talk. As if I was only putting it on to take advantage of the disabled parking. [laughter] I have never been in a position where someone had questioned my disability before. Well, if you don't count my disability benefits assessment. Surely it was obvious I was disabled. I mean I have the funny walk and everything. And not even the best method actor could put this on for days at a time.

SIMON - There's been a lot of talk in the press about how Lost Voice Guy, whose real name is Lee Ridley, has helped smash stigma. However, there are contrary bits in 'The Sun' newspaper, they said he's captured the nation's heart.

KATE - Hmm. Patronising?

SIMON - It feels it.

KATE - What do we think?

SIMON - So what we want to know is, is he going to help us with our comedy careers?

KATE - Well that is the big question. Is he going to help us now he's got his quarter of a million pounds?

SIMON - Will he remember us?

KATE - Seriously though, if you're a budding disabled comedian does this mean your time has come? Have the likes of Lost Voice Guy opened doors for other disabled comedians who are hoping to make it? And for that matter, have they broken any other barriers for disabled people in society in general? Rosie, what do you think? You are a young comedian with cerebral palsy, has Lost Voice Guy started to break down some barriers for you?

ROSIE - Yeah. I do think he has. I feel like in my personal life people don't expect me to be funny. I am. [laughter] Believe me. But I think now that Lost Voice Guy is in people's minds they'll be more open to accepting me and going, oh, disabled people can be funny.

KATE - You don't think it's going to be a case of, well we've had one person with cerebral palsy, you know, he's the comedian with cerebral palsy now, that's it. No, we don't need any more.

SIMON - He's taken the space.

KATE - Yeah.

ROSIE - Yeah, and as another comedian with cerebral palsy I'm really hoping that's not the case, because I would quite like a career.

KATE - Well, Simon's actually got some other career options for you.

ROSIE - Oh, tell me, Simon.

SIMON - So we googled 'suitable careers for disabled people', and one of the first things that came up was…

KATE - Was it stand-up comedian?


KATE - Oh, okay.

ROSIE - What?

SIMON - Thirty-four great jobs for disabled people. This feels very old to me, because it includes things like medical administration, market research and…


SIMON - I'm not kidding, and this is why it sounds very old, any career that lets you work from home. So it's terribly pigeonholed but…

ROSIE - Well, actually…

KATE - Are you going to say you were a medical administrator?

ROSIE - Yeah, whatever that is. [laughter] And actually I'm okay with working at home.

SIMON - But not great as a stand-up. Where's your audience?

ROSIE - Oh, don't worry, I make myself laugh a lot of the time.

KATE - I mean, do you think that comedy is an easy path for disabled people to follow?

ROSIE - No, not at all, on many different levels. The first level being physically it's long hours, a lot of travelling. I can't drive which means it's a lot of trains, a lot of late nights, bloody knackering, and then getting into venues. I'm okay on my feet, but unbelievably a lot of comedy clubs don't have wheelchair access.

SIMON - You remind me… So, former host of Ouch, Liz Carr, and we were all part of Abnormally Funny People, Liz was starting out doing stand-up, and she's a really strong disability activist, amongst everything else, but she said to do stand-up, to get stage time, she had to compromise. There were times that she would do the, "I have to be carried because I can't get in and I won't be able to do the gigs otherwise."

ROSIE - Yeah.

KATE - And there's no other area of her life where she would have stood for that.

SIMON - Absolutely. There was a trade-off I guess, and you think if I want to do this I've got to let something go.

ROSIE - I was booked to do a gig, it was a disabled charity gig, and they wanted to do it at the Comedy Store, which is an iconic comedy venue, and we had to move it because it's not accessible.

SIMON - They've got a weird little chair lift that goes down the steepest stairs you've ever seen. I remember Laurence Clark going down, I was terrified for him. But it's not good, it's really not. You can't have 50 people turn up and do that.

ROSIE - Yeah. So that's just physically, and then you've got to get over that stigma, people assuming that because you're disabled you're not funny.

SIMON - I think Mik Scarlet mentioned something about this: is the rest of the world catching up? You've been doing stand-up, you're funny, lots of other disabled people are funny and doing stand-up, this was everybody else, television, the voters catching up with something we've known for a while.

ROSIE - That's it, and I think live comedy, thankfully, is a little ahead of TV and the media. So I've been going for a few years and getting the reputation, Lee hasn't been doing the circuit for so long. So it's good that the media and the general public are finally catching up to where we were about ten years ago.

SIMON - Exactly.

KATE - Okay, I mean you have said that you're funny, you make yourself laugh.

SIMON - Oh, that's harsh.

KATE - But I want to know if you can be funny right now if I put you on the spot.

ROSIE - Oh, God.

SIMON - That's the worst question. [laughs]

KATE - Okay, so we're going to form half of the 'Britain's Got Talent' judges here, so Simon is Simon Cowell.

SIMON - [makes buzzer sound] I always get the wrong buzzer.

KATE - And I'm the lovely Amanda Holden.

SIMON - You've already got the golden buzzer from me, Rosie.

ROSIE - Right.

SIMON - Just for being here.


KATE - Are you ready to give it…? That is not Simon Cowell, you're meant to be more Simon Cowell. Into character.

SIMON - Sorry. Well, Rosie, I've got problems with this. Is that better?

ROSIE - I think you need to be showing more chest.

KATE - That's true, that's true. And I need to be showing a lot more boob to be Amanda Holden.

SIMON - That was nice that dress, wasn't it?

KATE - Yeah. Okay, so Rosie, do you want to give it a go in front of us right now?

ROSIE - Yeah. What, some material?

KATE - Yes please. Right, this is your big moment, come on.

ROSIE - Okay. Okay. Hello, my name is Rosie and as you can tell from my voice I suffer from… being northern. [laughter] It's so hard. Let me address the disabled elephant in the room. That's what my mum calls me. [laughter] I do have a disability called cerebral palsy and I guess the worst thing about having cerebral palsy is how long it takes me to say… cerebral… palsy. Blind. Deaf. Why do they get one syllable, but the slow talker gets five bloody syllables? It's not fair. But apart from that, being disabled is amazing. You can dribble on people you don't like. "I can't help it!" I can. [applause]

SIMON - Yay!

ROSIE - I'm so happy that I didn't get a buzzer. Thank God.

KATE - That was actually quite funny. Well done.


SIMON - Unbelievable!

ROSIE - Why do you sound surprised?

KATE - That's me being Amanda Holden.

SIMON - No, that's…

KATE - That's basically what she said to Lee at the end of his first audition.

ROSIE - I make a living out of this. I'm all right.

SIMON - I think you're very… I wouldn't do it like that, cold, in this kind of random studio. You remind me of… I remember walking along Edinburgh George Street, with someone who had cerebral palsy, who dribbled, and I felt this big wet thing getting on my hand and I just went, "Oh look everyone, it's raining," because that's what I thought was happening. And then it kind of got really awkward because I didn't know how to get out of it.

ROSIE - But that's the thing and that's what I find in my day to day life, people have awkward situations with me like I'll eat a bowl of soup and it'll go everywhere, and the person opposite me will feel awkward, but I just want them to go, "Rosie, dude, you've got soup in your hair. You look like an absolute idiot," and we can laugh it off because it's a part of life, and being disabled does mean that I get myself into funny situations and I just want people to relax and laugh.

KATE - Nina, you're in the States over there at the moment. Do you find that disability should be something that people can laugh along with you about and that maybe those awkward situations turn into anecdotes that you can make jokes about?

NINA - Oh yeah, I mean as a disabled comedian it's pretty easy to write because you just kind of live your life and people just say really weird stuff. And you're like, "oh, perfect, I can put that into my act. So thank you very much there." And in terms of the audiences, it's kind of varied, you have the ones who are fine with it and you have the ones who think they're fine with it, they're totally politically correct and they're so politically correct that they won't laugh at the disabled person telling jokes.

SIMON - I know exactly what you mean about that, Nina. Now, we're going to hear a little clip, we're not going to put you on the spot, we're going to hear a little clip of your stand up.

NINA - You can put me on the spot too, that was kind of fun.

SIMON - No, no, no, we've got a clip. I need to tell the listener, there is some bad language, we're used to that in the Ouch office working with Kate, but just to give you a little heads up.

KATE - Potty mouth Monaghan, that's my nickname here.


[Nina G] It's so great to be part of the Comedians with Disabilities Act. The thing is, a lot of times people say, "You know, stuttering and dyslexia, those aren't real disabilities, you shouldn't be in that show." So I have to explain to people that if you look at the definition of what a disability is, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it's a physical or mental impairment that substantially results in having to deal with assholes. [applause] I'm pretty sure it qualifies. And I wrote you guys a jokey joke. Okay, ready, ready? Okay. How many disabled people does it take to screw in a lightbulb? How many? Thank you. One to screw it in and five able-bodied people to say, "You are such an inspiration." [applause]

SIMON - So obviously stand-up and live comedy is about timing. Do you have certain words that you know are going to come or is it random? And how does that impact on your timing?

NINA - Yeah, it's a really weird process. There are certain sentences that I say that I know I will always stutter on that word in the midst of that sentence and that sentence order. So I tend to work that in if I know that. A lot of times, the more that I practice a bit, the more that it becomes like a prayer. So that it becomes like a song that it just goes into automatic, so I will stutter less. So there's that piece. So you always know kind of like what's my new material because I'm stuttering on it a lot, lot more. So it's a really interesting process and your brain just comes into it in lots of different ways.

KATE - There are rumours now that Simon Cowell is going to take Lost Voice Guy over to the States and get him to perform on 'America's Got Talent'. What's the scene like over there for disabled comedians?

NINA - I think it's different in the clubs than it is on TV. I think in the clubs the thing is if you're funny, like you have to be funny past the novelty of the disability, and I'm sure Rosie has experienced this too.

SIMON - Rosie's nodding.

ROSIE - Yeah, yeah.

NINA - And after two minutes you have to deliver and you have to be good. And I mean here, just like there, what about the ramps on the stages? And like my friend, Michael O'Connell who started the Comedians with Disabilities Act, he was such a favourite at this one club that they eventually built a stage, and even though Michael passed a few years ago that stage is there and it's welcomed so many new disabled comics who don't even know about him.

But because it's one of the few accessible stages and they also teach comedy at the Sacramento Comedy Spot where it's at, like that has this ripple effect that has included everybody's perspectives. And that's where a lot of comedy clubs, they don't have very diverse perspectives when you look at, you know, the gender and the ethnicity and all that stuff.

And then going into TV, this might be controversial, some people might disagree with me, but I really think that TV producers think that if you have any kind of intersectionality that people's heads are going to explode. Because why is it always a white dude who is the comedian? And I rarely see a female comedian on TV with a disability. It's like you can only have one thing in the eyes of producers. And I'm not sure if it's like that there but it's like that here.

SIMON - We've smashed one stigma, but there's still loads to go. This is a perennial question for disability in stand-up and it sort of irks me but I think it's still valid. Maybe I'll come to you, Rosie, and then Nina. In terms of your material, I presume you have to do a bit about disability because the audience don't get over it. And is your whole act about it? Is it partly about it? Is there an issue with that?

ROSIE - Well, I've written a joke about it, but it's true, every set I do needs to address the disabled elephant in the room because I get on stage and you can feel the audience tense up and go, "Oh God, does she know where she is? Does she know that it's a comedy club?" And you can feel the nerves. So I get over that quite quickly and make sure that my first two, three jokes are quick and they address the disability. But now in my newer stuff I move on and I talk about other things, because believe it or not…

SIMON - No way.

ROSIE - …I am more than a disability. So I talk about other things. But yeah, I do need to spend a minute or two going, "Look guys, I get it. I sound funny, I wobble, but I'm okay, and it's okay to laugh."

SIMON - It's kind of giving permission isn't it? Nina, you were giggling in acknowledgment. Is it the same for you?

NINA - Yeah, I mean I think for me what I used to find is that it takes about a minute and a half for the audience to understand it. They also think that it's an act, and just like Rosie, I think they're so used to bad stuttering that they don't know what it sounds like to hear good stuttering, like what I have. And so it's just that able bodied society has been presented with all these images.

And as a comic, especially telling dick jokes, you don't fit those images and they're like, "Oh, I don't know what to do with this," and then we have to help them get to that place. And I do frontload my stuttering jokes oftentimes, but when I'm having a really fluent day those don't go over so well because I'm like oh yeah, here I am fluent telling stuttering jokes. So it can be weird.

SIMON - Will you fake it? Will you put one in?

NINA - Okay, I have a rule that I don't fake my stuttering and I don't fake my orgasms, no matter how long either of those two things take. [laughter] So no, I won't fake it.

KATE - I feel like you walked into that one.

SIMON - Yeah, I said "yes" half way through that as if I knew. I'm feeling slightly awkward. Thanks Nina. [laughs]

KATE - Isaac and Vanessa, have you heard of Lost Voice Guy? Is he as big a phenomenon as we think he has suddenly become?

VANESSA - I'm going to very honest. This is the very first time I'm hearing of him. I'm very out of touch with TV at the moment. Isaac, what about you?

ISAAC - Yeah, so I briefly heard about him because I had a friend that was on the show as well and got to the finals as well, so I briefly heard about him, but I didn't see the whole of the finals, no.

SIMON - Who was the act? What did they do?

ISAAC - B Positive, the choir. The choir group.

SIMON - Oh yes, yes.

ISAAC - Yes, so the conductor, he goes to the same church as myself.

KATE - How did he feel about losing out to Lee?

ISAAC - I've not spoken to him yet.

KATE - He'll be feeling pretty sore I imagine.

ISAAC - To be honest with you he's a very lovely guy, he's a very lovely guy, and so I'm pretty sure he would have been very appreciative of just the experience alone and the fact they got to the final.

KATE - That's what everyone says, "I'm really…"

SIMON - Did he have any disabled singers in the choir?

ISAAC - I'm not sure.

SIMON - That's the thing you see. Rosie, there's a link up.

KATE - I have a feeling they did.

SIMON - Oh did they?

KATE - I think they did have one actually.

ROSIE - No, you don't want me. I am tone deaf. It's actually my biggest disability.

KATE - Your singing voice.

ROSIE - I cannot do it.

KATE - Okay. And his pay off, so kind of his final words are often, "Thank you for laughing at a disabled man." How does that make you feel? Isaac? Do you think that's okay?

ISAAC - I think it's okay because he's delivering it and it's comedy. If it weren't in a comedic setting then yes, I'd feel awkward and I'd feel almost like I'd been tricked.

SIMON - Yeah.

ISAAC - Which is obviously the whole point of it, but it's comedy. So yeah, in that respect I'd feel okay.

VANESSA - Yeah. And it sounds like he's owning it as well so that makes you feel a bit more comfortable if that makes sense, yeah.

KATE - Yeah, he absolutely is owning it.

SIMON - Oh, an earlier joke is, "If you don't laugh at the disabled guy that's up to you but you will go to hell." I mean it exactly is kind of really playing with it.

NINA - You know, and I think there's something about Lee that is really unique to some of the comics that I see that have a disability, is that he really places the finger at society and not himself. Instead of like, "ha, ha, ha, look at me, I'm funny because I have a disability," it's more like "ha, ha, ha, look at you, you guys are uncomfortable and you need to change."

KATE - Now, Rosie. Has this opened the doors now to other disabled comedians going onto 'Britain's Got Talent'? Because we all know that some people do audition for 'Britain's Got Talent' and some people get approached for 'Britain's Got Talent' and Lee got approached and I think Simon's got a couple of comedian friends who have been approached in the past and said "no".

SIMON - And some have said "yes".

KATE - Okay, some have said "yes". But Rosie, if you were approached what would you say?

ROSIE - So I did get approached.

KATE - Oh, this year?

ROSIE - This year.

KATE - Oh, it could have been you, Rosie! It could have been you.

ROSIE - Yes. On Sunday my first thought was, "oh I'm so happy for Lee." And my second though was, "damn it."

SIMON - Yeah.

KATE - So did you turn it down?

ROSIE - Yes.

KATE - Why?

ROSIE - And actually I kept turning it down because they kept ringing me. I said no because I'm at a point in my career that even though I'm not famous I am doing quite well for myself and I'm developing quite a career as, not just a comedian but also an actor. And for me, I love 'Britain's Got Talent' but I want to make it on my own. And that might take 10, 20 years, I know it won't happen overnight, but I know that when it does happen, and believe me, it will happen, when it happens I know I'll be ready for it and I'll know I got there on my own and I won't have 'Britain's Got Talent' looming over my career forever. So I'm glad that Lee did it and it's definitely the right choice for him, but for me at the time and even now it wasn't right.

SIMON - The money wasn't big enough, is that what you're saying? You wanted half a million didn't you?

ROSIE - I wanted half a mil. I live in London. What could I buy for a quarter…?

KATE - Exactly. Lee lives in Newcastle, he could buy a mansion now.

SIMON - Exactly.

KATE - He's set, it's fine.

SIMON - And I don't know if this is an absolute watershed but I think Nina and Rosie and other people, just doing more and more comedy, this will help, we know this will help, but only so long as everyone keeps doing it and keeps pushing the door.

ROSIE - Yeah, and I feel like we're fighting two fights really. As a disabled comedian, but also as a woman, because that fight isn't over yet. So we've got our boxing gloves on and we're ready.

KATE - Excellent.

NINA - Yeah, because they don't think that women are funny and they don't think that disabled people are funny. And really what I think underlines all of that is in order to be funny you have to be smart and so they can't say. "Oh women aren't smart" or "disabled people aren't smart," instead they say that we aren't funny.

KATE - Thank you both very much. Please stay with us for as long as you can so that you can take part in the rest of the discussion. I know Rosie, you've got to rush off and be amazing at a gig in Piccadilly and Nina, soon the money's going to run out on the meter that's connecting our line to San Francisco, but stick with us while the going's good.

NINA - No, that guy's there, I'm not going to leave till he kicks me out, so yeah.

KATE - Great. Keep peddling on the bike that's powering it won't you? But now let's have our regular look at what other disability stories have been buried in the news this month. Niamh, we're welcoming you back again. How are you doing?

NIAMH - I'm very well, thank you.

KATE - Now I feel like your first story's a little bit saucy, what's this first one about?

SIMON - Hello?

NIAMH - Saucy? Yeah, it could definitely be construed that way. So it's taking us to South Korea, and now the South Korean constitutional court ruled on 31st May that only the visually impaired can be licensed masseurs in the country, despite opposition due to the fact that it can actually infringe on free employment rights.

KATE - What…?


KATE - But why?

NIAMH - Okay. Well I'll give you a bit of background history. And the law came into effect in 1912…

KATE - Okay, so this isn't a new law, this is them just saying we're sticking with the law.

SIMON - It feels quite old.

NIAMH - Yeah. It's only visually impaired can be licensed masseurs. And it happened when Korea was still under Japanese colonial rule to help guarantee the visually impaired a livelihood, and that's according to the Korean Association of Masseurs, and that has like just over 7,000 visually impaired people as members.

KATE - Okay. So…


KATE - Right, go on then, Simon.

SIMON - Blind people have this, because they can read braille… You know I'm generalising and being sarcastic, but the perception is they've got such a light touch because they can read braille and there's all this sort of… And it's pigeonholing, it's pushing people into one career, because it's that or piano tuners or lift operators. That was the…

KATE - Really?

SIMON - Yeah.

KATE - I've never heard about this before.

SIMON - Well, I'm glad because it's a generational thing and it shouldn't be kicking around. It kind of feels a little bit… But how can…? So only blind people can do massages in South Korea?

NIAMH - U-hum. It's so niche. And the association said of the ruling that the regulation is meant to provide visually impaired people with an opportunity to have a personally rewarding occupation and ensure that they have a means of earning a living. And they also said the court decision is not only a verdict on our right to live but also a measure of South Korea's conscientiousness. They really backed this.

KATE - Oh, so they're happy about it?

NIAMH - Yeah, they're happy about it.

KATE - Wow.

SIMON - And we've just said, you know, if you're disabled and a woman it's really hard to be a comedian, it's like saying, well if you're blind you must be this. This is daft.

NIAMH - It is, it's quite bizarre to be fair.

SIMON - What's your next story? Number two.

KATE - I feel like you've got a..

NINA - Guys, before you start, I actually am being kicked off.

KATE - We knew it. We knew the money wouldn't last.

NINA - The massage thing, I had so many thoughts and ideas. You'll have to have me on again, this was so much fun. Thank you everybody.

KATE - We will for sure. Did you have a book to plug or something that you want to give to us before you go?

NINA - Yeah, that would be awesome. So next year my book, 'Stutterer Interrupted: The Making of a Stuttering Stand-Up Comedian' is going to come out and it's just about my journey into stand up comedy. And also I want to do a shout out to the British Stammering Association and the Irish Stammering Association, because they're both awesome groups and if anybody is looking for a community and support they need to find them because they're super great.

KATE - Okay, wonderful. Thank you so much, Nina. It's been a pleasure.

NINA - All right. Take care everyone, thank you.

KATE - Right, Simon. I feel like you should be interested in this next story.

SIMON - In story number two.

NIAMH - Yes, it's to do with the National Dwarf Games.

SIMON - Well…

KATE - Oh, yes.

SIMON - I didn't post this in.

KATE - Where you came back victorious.

SIMON - Silver.

KATE - Silver, sorry.

NIAMH - Silver, that's great.

KATE - Almost victorious.

SIMON - What's it all about?

NIAMH - So a father and daughter from County Derry in Northern Ireland, John Brady and his 10-year-old daughter, Dearbhaile, they both have hypochondroplasia but 10-year-old Dearbhaile brought home 11 medals for running, javelin and swimming from the event in May. And her father John, this was his first time competing and he got nine medals.

KATE - How does that make you feel, Simon?

SIMON - A silver feels a little bit pants now doesn't it, compared to that?

KATE - Yeah, first timer. Nine medals. I just wonder if, you know, everyone's getting all these medals whether… Is it a real…? Like the Paralympics, you know the level of sport is super high, people are coming back with like 20 medals from the Dwarf Games?

SIMON - I'll be talking to you about this, Kate, off mic. [laughter]

NIAMH - But to close this social media news segment we got some great news from Charles Michael Duke the other day. Cast your minds back to December when Ouch made a video about a cystic fibrosis choir, and Charles Michael Duke, he was a member of the choir, fantastic voice, and he let us know that he needed a lung transplant, in fact a double lung transplant. And he was on the waiting list and that was his story so far. Anyway, we found out that he has had a double lung transplant after three years of waiting.

KATE - Hurray!

NIAMH - We reposted the video in his honour on the Facebook page, so do check that out if you just want to search for Ouch via Facebook.

KATE - Congratulations, Charles.

SIMON - Has his singing improved as a result of the lung transplant?

NIAMH - I don't know.

KATE - Short term, I think that would be a bit of an issue.

SIMON - Well I don't mean the day after he comes round from the general anaesthetic. Sing for me!

KATE - Thank you, Niamh.

SIMON - Yes, thank you, Niamh.

KATE - Is it a good time now to share our big news about Lost Voice Guy?

SIMON - Oh, go on then.

KATE - No, no. I think we should wait. Don't you?

SIMON - Er yeah. All right, everyone's going to have to wait till the end.

KATE - Okay. Well instead let us turn our attention to Vanessa Boachie and Isaac Fletcher. Welcome to Ouch.

ISAAC - Thank you very much.

VANESSA - Thank you. Thanks for having us.

SIMON - Vanessa, you started the mental health charity, Inside Out UK, which is targeted… Well, is it targeted specifically at black and minority ethnic people, or is it a little bit broader than that?

VANESSA - So generally it's a bit broader but at the heart of it the focus is on black and ethnic minorities, simply because the statistics tell us that those are the people who are suffering the most when it comes to mental health. Black people in the UK are apparently 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a severe mental health condition than their white counterparts.

KATE - Wow. I mean, that is huge. Do you have any idea what's causing that kind of disparity?

VANESSA - The first thing that comes to mind is the identity sort of issue. And I say that because being black British you have two different worlds. If I narrow it down to being… So using myself as an example, I'm Ghanaian but I also consider myself British. So I was brought up in a Ghanaian household and my mum has Ghanaian principles which she brought me up by. Whereas when I went to school anyway there are different principles and different cultures which are…

KATE - So what are the principles that your mum brought you up with that would be maybe at odds with your friends'?

VANESSA - So for instance what you wear and what you're aspiring to be like. So even taking into account that my mum's also quite religious as well your outfit needs to be a certain way, whereas in secondary school for instance you might have your friends going out with shorter than usual skirts or showing a bit more cleavage, whereas…

SIMON - The Amanda Holden dress we're talking about.

VANESSA - That sort of stuff, whereas I would have to sort of hide that.

SIMON - More modest.

VANESSA - Yeah, be a bit more modest, and then also the culture itself, so actually holding onto the Ghanaian culture. So wearing the traditional clothes, eating the traditional foods. Yeah, that sort of stuff.

SIMON - One of the comedians we work with, Don Biswas is from an Indian family, and he said because he has a learning disability he said he got depression because it was quite difficult with the family accepting a disability. Is that the same where we're talking about here and the Ghanaian stuff, or am I mixing too many things?

VANESSA - No, 100%. So mental health is a taboo subject when it comes to the Ghanaian culture or African culture as a whole. Generally speaking, what tends to happen is people attribute it to things that they find strength in, so people who are Ghanaian, they find strength in their culture itself and spiritualism. So because that is what they know of that's what they're going to attribute to mental health issues. So even in some cultures there isn't an actual word for mental health or for mental health…

SIMON - Illness, yes.

VANESSA - Illnesses, yeah. And I think that's where the disparity lies because of that lack of education that's not available to them. They're not aware of what these conditions are.

KATE - So what drove you to start this charity? Was it a personal experience with mental health problems or was it friends you knew?

VANESSA - My first encounter with mental health was when I was about 17 and I had a friend who was going through a mental health issue but at that time I wasn't aware that's what it was. So their condition got to a point where they attempted to commit suicide in front of me a couple of times.

KATE - Wow.

VANESSA - And that was a very traumatic experience, just seeing that happen. And from that I felt quite helpless, I felt quite hopeless because I didn't know what to do to help. I really wanted to help the situation. And from that it made me realise that there are probably a lot of other people who are in that same position because we don't know much about it. You do want to help but you don't know what to do.

That was my first encounter with it and then from then I decided to do more research into it, so ended up studying psychology, and then the field that I've gone into, workwise, professionally, is in mental health as well. After graduating I started work in a rehabilitation recovery home, and there I was working with clients who had schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, OCD etc, and through that it made me realise that there's a lot of things that we have in place for people once they have acquired the mental health condition, but prior to that stage there wasn't really much in place.

So I was trying to find something that I could join to sort of spread that message and work on the preventative strategies and the early intervention strategies.

SIMON - What sort of services and support do you currently offer at Inside Out UK?

VANESSA - So we do workshops and events, so everything that we do is based on the education, so providing that psychoeducation. Because generally speaking, people don't really seek out information, they seek out entertainment. So what I'm trying to do with the team is to package the information to them in creative ways, hence why we combine the psychoeducation, so the psychological knowledge, the mental health information, all of that with the creative aspect. So it's a bit more appealing for people to understand and digest.

SIMON - When you say that's how people… Is that a part of BAME community or are you just thinking that's a better way of doing it?

VANESSA - Both. So it's a better way of doing things, and also particularly for the BAME community as well, because of the huge stigma that's attached to it it's hard for… This is me generally speaking, it's hard for people to digest that information. As I said, people won't go and look online and think okay, what does this mental health condition do? But if you give it to them in the form of a production then they are able to be engaged, to be entertained and also to learn, if that makes sense.

KATE - So Isaac, you've been sort of nodding along with a lot of that. How did you get involved with the charity?

ISAAC - Well, Vanessa came to my church and did a programme on it related to stress. And I was there, I was very engaged because it hit home. A few years back I would have easily said that I've never been stressed out. We're going maybe about five years ago, five, six years ago I was saying, "No. Stress? No." I blew it off. And that was genuine. I'm also a dancer, so I was often performing or rehearsing and dance releases those happy hormones, those endorphins as we all know. So I was doing this in my prime of dancing and loving it, performing all over the world and stuff and I was carefree.

But then when my parents fell a bit ill and I thought I can't travel as much because I didn't want to get bad news and be abroad I took dance away from my life and then I started to realise things were stressing me out. I lost my father four years ago and then soon after that I hit a deep stage of depression. And then one thing tends to happen and then the next and the next, and before you know it you've stopped doing certain things that you love to do, certain things that you really enjoy doing. So there were a lot of things that Vanessa was speaking about that hit home for me personally and I thought, I want to be a part of this.

KATE - You were really nodding along when Vanessa was talking about sort of the attitudes of people in your family around mental health. How was it for you when you were having your depression? Did you find that your kind of support network was inside your family or do you think that they weren't quite as supportive as they could have been because they maybe perhaps didn't believe in it or didn't understand it as much?

ISAAC - No, my family in all fairness are great. They actually are a good reason why I am still here. And I say that not using the word lightly, because I did consider suicide a couple of times as well. My family are a great support system, they don't shun the idea of mental health but generally speaking… I was nodding along with Vanessa because I'm aware of it within the community that yeah, it is an issue, it's something that is a taboo subject and people do disregard it. They'll be quicker to blow it off and say that you have just gone crazy as opposed to you are in need of support and help because you're suffering from some form of mental health illness.

SIMON - Could that be more like friends? So family might be strong but other black men, would you be able to have this conversation or is it more difficult?

ISAAC - I personally would because of just the type of person I am, but it's interesting that you say men, because yes men, as we all know, tend to hold things in and keep things quiet, especially amongst the black community as well. Some black men that I've come across personally, it is a thing whereby it's almost like a weakness to speak on these things, especially to admit that you are struggling or suffering. Whereas I'm the opposite, I think it's a strength. I went to my GP and I sought out counselling. I was suffering and I needed to make a change.

KATE - How are you sort of trying to change attitudes within the black community around mental health? What do you think needs to be done?

VANESSA - Education is key, and even just to answer one of the previous questions that you asked, I think with the stigma attached to mental health in the African or black community most of the time stress is a big factor and it's something that they are sometimes not even aware of themselves. So the whole process of even migrating from, you know, Africa or the Caribbean to get to the UK is a stressful process. And it seems to be the case where… So, in my experience like years later I've figured out that maybe that stress of being in a different country has been put on me, if that makes sense, so it's been put on the children, the second generation, you know, people who are in the UK. So that plays a big factor.

And to answer your last question in regard to changing it, I think people need to come to terms with what's going on, so come to terms with the reality of what's going on.

SIMON - There's something lovely about what you're saying in the sense… I mean I've had counselling and I will have counselling continually, but part of me, when I go I'm thinking, will they get the disability bit? Will they understand it? Is it going to be too much or too little or whatever? Is that the same with you guys that there's a sort of, the people who you go and the support services you offer, you get where this person's coming from, you get that instinctively. And presumably that makes it incredibly powerful or useful.

KATE - And accessible to a lot of people I guess.

SIMON - That's a better word, accessible.

VANESSA - Yeah, exactly. So even some of the people who have used our services, some of the things I've heard from them is they have been to professionals who may not necessarily be of the same origin or the same colour as them. And that experience has been a bit daunting for them because…

SIMON - Misdiagnosis. It can be really risky.

VANESSA - Exactly. Particularly if someone does not understand the culture and understand why things are a certain way. Then if you haven't been through something yourself you're not really likely to be able to understand it properly. So the fact that there are people like us out there who are doing what we're doing and other people as well, it's a way for people to even take that step to try and understand their mental health.

KATE - And if people want to find out more about Inside Out UK how can they do that?

VANESSA - They can follow us on all social media platforms @insideoutuk_. We also have a website,

KATE - Lovely. And Rosie, give us a plug. You must have a show coming up that you want to tell us about?

ROSIE - Yeah, my big, big plug is in August. I'll be at the Edinburgh Fringe. I'm taking my first hour show.

SIMON - Wow.

ROSIE - It's called Fifteen Minutes and it's because I've only written 15 minutes of material but at the speed of my voice it'll take one hour. So that's the whole of August at the Pleasance Courtyard at half eight.

KATE - It's time we wrapped up so thank you to our guests, Nina G, Rosie Jones, Vanessa Boachie and Isaac Fletcher. And a last congratulations to Lost Voice Guy.

SIMON - You know what? That reminds me. We've got the big news.

KATE - Oh, yeah.

SIMON - It's official. Lost Voice Guy is going to be the host at our disability storytelling event in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Fringe.

KATE - That's right. He'll be presenting BBC Ouch Storytelling Live on 9th August. And you can share the stage with him. All you've got to do is write a true story on the theme of going out, which relates to your disability or mental health problem. Go to our webpage, to find out more and to find out how to get tickets.

SIMON - Also, and this is very exciting, for the next Ouch talk show in July we've got the ABC.


SIMON - Yeah, coming in to chat. That is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

KATE - Oh, big news. Now, the Bible talks a lot about curing the sick and the lame, but we'll be finding out exactly how the Church is trying to include disabled people in 2018. Two of the archbishop's children have mental health problems and a third has learning disabilities, so it should make for a very interesting conversation. So don't miss it.

SIMON - Well that really is it for this month, and I still don't want to stop, I'd like to carry on for a bit longer.

KATE - Your production team today have been Niamh Hughes and Beth Rose. The studio managers are Gilly Chauhan and Alan Zani. The producer was Daniel Gordon.

SIMON - Remember, you can tweet @bbcouch. Email or find us on Facebook. Don't forget there is a podcast on this feed every week. And Robyn, Jamie and Lion will be returning soon with their very own series, 18,000 Seconds on Autism. As always we ask you to like us. Share us, and for goodness sake leave us a review on whatever podcast service you use.

We've had no music for the last couple of shows but today we do have some. And they are Bug Prentice with…

KATE - Wait a minute. You know the rules, no musician shall be allowed on this show unless they declare their disability credentials.

SIMON - Sorry, so they're Bug Prentice whose lead singer, Ally Craig, is a wheelchair user and their song is called, 'Don't Be That Dude'.

KATE - Goodbye.

SIMON - Bye.

[music: Bug Prentice, 'Don't Be That Dude']