Podcast provides a platform for us

All manner of topics are covered in podcasts created by self-advocates and, whatever someone’s skills are, they have a role in making them, say Hanna Bennett and Catrina Farnell.

People First Keighley and Craven

One of the few podcasts by people with learning disabilities is run by People First Keighley and Craven.

The People First Podcast, launched in June 2021, is one way in which we advocate. We have created more than 20 podcasts, each up to 30 minutes long.

A podcast is like a radio show but you listen whenever and wherever you want, on your phone, TV, computer, in a car or on a smart speaker. Anyone can make a podcast and get it online, so they have become a popular way for people to communicate with the world.

We can talk about whatever we like in our episodes, and we discuss issues that matter to us and our members.

People from all walks of life, backgrounds and professions are hosted. Those interviewed include politicians, social workers, doctors, nurses, cybersecurity experts, wrestlers, entertainers, artists, authors and more.

We want to learn from our guests’ experiences and share our experiences with them so listeners can be informed and entertained.

Eight of our members work on the project, alongside one staff member, although the whole office team support the podcast and feature regularly in episodes.

There are many ways our members can be involved. Some favour the technical side and like to use the equipment in the podcast studio and the computers in the office. Some like to interview guests, while others promote the shows on social media.

We always want to recruit new members to the team, and we are confident that whatever someone’s skills and abilities, there is a role for them and they can learn new skills and have fun while making a professional podcast.

People First Keighley and Craven, based near Bradford, has around 30 members who come into the office each week. In total, around 300 people attend our social events throughout the year.

Our group was formed in 2004 and, although there are many People First organisations around the country – all affiliated to national People First in London – we all operate independently.

We are a self-advocacy group run by and for adults with learning disabilities, representing ourselves and speaking out on behalf of others people with disabilities. We believe we can support each other to lead fulfilling lives with dignity and respect.

It doesn’t stop there

The podcast is just one of many projects that our members can get involved with.

Our work includes running craft and gardening groups, campaigning, promoting healthy living, organising social nights, offering training and peer support and a cookery school, and we will soon be opening a community cafe.

Our in-house campaigning and admin teams are always busy. Recently, we organised Covid booster drop-in information sessions and an event highlighting the work of community pharmacies, so people can better manage their health, as well as an event, Dying Matters, which focused on getting people talking about grief and bereavement.

Recent campaigns include successfully challenging our local council and MP to stop taxis overcharging customers who use a wheelchair.

Another was supporting Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson to get equality in abortion law about Down syndrome. This campaign was not about whether abortions are right or wrong. We firmly believe everyone deserves equal rights and equal opportunities and that extends to inside the womb. It is about the inequality in the law.

Our members Tracey Line and Daniel Jones travelled to London with two staff members to attend the proceedings at the Royal Courts of Justice.
The way we see it is that, while it would be far easier to look away, nothing would change. The message this law sends to our disabled community is that our lives are worth less than those without a disability.

We have interviewed social workers, politicians, doctors, nurses, cybersecurity experts, wrestlers, entertainers, artists, authors and more

We run regular week-long residential educational retreats offering everything from healthy recipes and cooking skills to inclusive exercise. There are also regular healthy cooking courses in the cafe below our office where members learn food preparation, hygiene and service skills that contribute to life skills and employability.

We ask a lot from our members because they are capable of incredible things. Sadly, however, society doesn’t always recognise the ability in disability. Our mission statement is for people to aim high and aspire to have the autonomy, self-confidence and self-belief to create both the life they want and a society that recognises people’s value.

So the podcast is another platform to raise awareness about the issues that affect people with learning disabilities in our community and all over the world. This is like having a stage where we can speak out and get our voices heard.

We believe that, just as one flame can light an infinite number of candles, one advocate can change the world.

The People First Podcast is on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other platforms

Hanna Bennett is chief officer and Catrina Farnell is team leader at People First Keighley and Craven

Photo: Our voices out there: podcasting allows the team to raise local and global issues – People First Keighley and Craven