Diary: swimming not sinking

Simon Jarrett is baffled by a furious response to a lido visit, finds the dull aspects of being a trustee worthwhile and sees some awe-inspiring  presentations and performances

The day after the Panorama programme on the abuse of people at Whorlton Hall, an organisation I know took a group of children with learning disabilities to the local lido. It was a warm summer’s day and they had a great time splashing around in the water.

Later, an irate member of the public rang the head office. She was disgusted, she told them, that we had allowed these children to get cold and made them do things they could not possibly understand. She had seen the programme the night before and was amazed that we would allow this to happen the very next day. Sigh. You never can predict public reaction.

The ghost of history

Two days at the Social History of Learning Disability Conference at the Open University in Milton Keynes. It’s been going for 25 years, and is always an amazing event.

Its co-founders, Jan Walmsley and Dorothy Atkinson, who were both present, made from the beginning an uncompromising stand on inclusion which has never wavered, and many of the presentations were, as always, by people with learning disabilities, often with colleagues who were not learning disabled.

Not all the presentations were about history, but the ghost of history always hovers when people talk about issues such as employment, media, community safety and belonging – problems from the past are at the root of problems today.

Extraordinary activity is going on around the UK, and we hear stories from some extraordinary people. I make a beeline for some of them, and their stories will appear in Community Living.

In praise of the everyday stuff

On a Tuesday evening, I’m at a trustees’ meeting of Corali Dance Company. They develop the skills and careers of talented young dancers who happen to have learning disabilities.

Corali’s office is opposite the Oval Cricket Ground in London and, while we review the accounts and examine risk frameworks, a sell-out cricket match is in progress.

Every few minutes, huge, drunken cheers and bursts of music erupt as someone hits a boundary or a wicket falls. A bit of me feels envious and wishes I was on the other side of the road.

Then I recall being at Sadler’s Wells Theatre the week before watching an amazing performance by the National Youth Dance Theatre, which included one of Corali’s exceptionally talented dancers and choreographers, Paul Davidson. Without Corali, he might not have had the chance to realise all the talent he has.

And, without trustees doing all the routine stuff, Corali would not have been able to support him to do it. That’s worth missing the occasional good night out for any time.

Stunning drumming

Talking about talent, I recently saw a performance by the Percussion Orchestra. It is a collaboration between musicians with learning disabilities from the City Lit, an adult education college in central London and young musicians from the Royal Academy of Music.

All their music is original composition. I found them stunning. Check them out and, if you like them as much as I did, try and get to see them if they come and play down your way.