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Fringe favourite Juliette Burton wows Blackpool's Disability First

Alan Reid was among the first to put disability first in Blackpool - that was 25 years ago. Disability First is still going strong today. Ask those who attended the recent summit in Preston.

Fringe favourite Juliette Burton wows Blackpool's Disability First

"Alan got the mix just right. I certainly never expected to laugh as much and I think many of us came close to tears too. "
Ruth Lambert CEO N-Vision

Multi award-winning comedian, writer, performer, presenter Juliette Burton reels off her mental health issues with the zeal of Mary Poppins singing Super-cala-fragilistic-expi-alidocious.

(Even though the sound of them is something quite atrocious...)


She was diagnosed with OCD – “you’ve got to say it three times” – acute anxiety, manic depression, bipolar, anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating disorder.


She’s experienced psychosis, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, has been a mental health inpatient four time and was sectioned under the mental health  act at the age of 17.


It's not stopped her from selling out her Edinburgh Fringe show for the last three years running – and now she's off to the Lowry, Manchester, on her Butterfly Effect tour.  Lots more venues around the country. 


She would love to play Blackpool.  This is the next best thing. Preston. The Gujaret Community Centre, but it’s a Blackpool ‘gig,’ organised by Blackpool community interest organisation chief Alan Reid, who is also  a musician and entertainer in his own right.


Alan is chief executive of Blackpool’s Disability First and Juliette is the keynote speaker of the charity funded community interest organisation’s 2018 summit. 


She’s a campaigner on mental health and body confidence.


The applause which follows Juliette’s account of her life, the trolls that plagued her on social media after she held one ‘beach body ready’ “sludge drink” ad campaign to account, and her struggle to be her self – shows  Alan’s choice is inspired.


“I’ve loved it,” says Juliette. “It’s been a real privilege to be part of it. It’s very life affirming for me too.”


The same goes for performance poet, Morecambe-based and with strong links to Blackpool, Big Charlie Poet, Charlie Hart, who draws inspiration for his poem It’s the Grit That Makes the Pearl from his own experience of being bullied to highlight mental health issues and the need to reach out and seek help.


Both are powerhouse performers, thought provoking, inspirational, innovative  - and in their different ways reduce many to tears, either of laughter or empathy.


They top and tail an event which attracts charities and allied health and welfare organisations from across the county.


The summit marks 25 years of Disability First –  with celebrations to come in November. Alan, who own life changed after a crash turned his car into a fireball,  was one of the first to put disability first in Blackpool back then,  campaigning on access and disability rights out of an upstairs office  in the town centre.  


Today Disability First is based – as it has been for many years – at the Centre for Independent Living on Whitegate Drive,  a fully accessible hub for the local disabled communities of Blackpool.  “I’m very proud at what we’ve achieved and continue to achieve” he adds. “The fact we’re still here shows we’re doing something right. We certainly know we are needed.” 


Some would say more so than ever before... 


At the now annual summit the emphasis is on inspiration by example – Juliette  for starters and Charlie at the end – and practical aid.  Sarah Clubb, local funding officer for the Big Lottery, stresses applicants shouldn’t  get over faced by  detail, because funding officers are there to help.  The emphasis, she says, is not on ‘how good the application is’ but ‘how good the project is’. Local panels play their part too.

The message: “don’t be daunted”.


Freddie Baker of the Information Commissioner’s Office puts GDPR, the bane of email inboxes, into perspective. Jennifer Mulloy of the Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit hosts an equality impact session linked to the number of items going off prescription. Tim Crampton of Idox addresses funding for the 3rd sector and the use of Grantfinder software to take some of the pain out of the process.


One of the many delegates from the Fylde, Ruth Lambert, CEO of N-Vision, the Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Society for the Blind, says: “It’s been brilliant. I think Alan got the mix just right. I certainly never expected to laugh as much and I think many of us came close to tears too. I’ve got a lot from it  – certainly with regard to GDPR and the Big Lottery Fund. But I’ve also enjoyed it immensely too. That doesn't always happen at such events."


Disability First offers advice, assistance and support to anyone living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability. Call 01253 476450 (general), advice and information on 01253 472202 / 472203