Friday, 1 February 2019

Powerchair Update | 1 Year On

Back at the beginning of my fundraising journey it seemed impossible to even imagine having had my new powerchair for a whole year, it all seemed so far away. One year on and it still hasn't quite sunk in that we raised £11,500 in just over 3 months. My life is unrecognisable compared to a year ago, I'm doing things that felt impossible, seeing shows every month, spending more time with friends and family and just doing more of the things I love. Life changing has always been an understatement when it comes to talking about the impact that your generosity has had on my life.

Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

This post is going to be a little bit of a long one because there is so much from this past year I want to talk about but first, let's go over everything I've been up to over these past 3 months!

It will come as no surprise that seeing shows, mainly musicals, has been the thing I've done the most over these past few months. My favourite show came to an end, I went on a quick trip to Manchester for a double show day and I went to a few cabaret/concert stagey evenings!

My whirlwind 6 month journey with Bat Out Of Hell The Musical came to an end on January 5th. It was a bittersweet day as the show has gotten me through one of the toughest experiences of my life and it became my happy place so I was nowhere near ready to say goodbye. However, closing day was also one of the best days of my life as I spent it with the people I love, friends I've made through the show, cast who have brought so much joy into my life and I smiled that night so much that it was difficult to be sad in the end (I absolutely cried like a baby throughout the last 2 shows though).


I also went on a quick overnight trip to Salford to do a double show day seeing Doctor Dolittle and Six! It was fate when I saw that Six was on at the same time as Doctor Dolittle when I was trying to find somewhere to see the now sadly closed show. I'd heard so many good things about The Lowry and it's accessibility and I was truly blown away, I was about 10m away from the stage at Doctor Dolittle, the closest I'd ever been to a stage and I honestly could have cried. I then saw the incredible Queens of Six in the evening, a show I've been in love with since the Queens performed at West End Live last year. It was incredible to see them on tour and to be able to see the encore (once everyone stands up at it's London home, the Arts Theatre, I can't see a thing even using my iLevel), which also meant I could finally take some photos of them doing their thing! It was the best evening and well worth the trip. I'm looking forward to many more Six trips and double shows day this year!


I also saw Heathers for a second time and I definitely enjoyed it more but it still wasn't for me and that's okay! Mum and I finally saw Kinky Boots just weeks before it closed in the West End and we were so happy that we did, it was such a feel good show and it feels like a real loss to lose it from the West End but thankfully you can still it during it's UK tour and I cannot recommend it enough.


I managed to squeeze in a Christmas themed theatre trip too, The Old Vic kindly gifted me tickets to see A Christmas Carol and talk about the access improvements they are making in the theatre this year, it was also my first visit to The Old Vic. As you'll know if you read my review of the show, I was truly blown away by this production. It brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face, the parachuting brussel sprouts still stand out as a highlight for me. I also saw the Book Of Mormon for the first time recently, I booked it for the week after Bat closing which was a wise move as it was the lighthearted show I needed to pick me up! I laughed until I cried and ended up taking off my glasses in the end as they were on and off every minute to wipe away my tears of laughter. I'll definitely be heading back there whenever I need a laugh! I also revisited Everybody's Talking About Jamie last week for the second time for cast change, one more chance to see some of the fabulous original London cast. I went with Perry, someone you'll be familiar with from our Bat Out Of Hell video, and we of course filmed another video together about access at the Apollo Theatre. We had a lot of fun as per usual and you can expect many more Accessibility In Theatres videos from us this year!


I also went to 3 stagey cabaret/concert evenings, the first being the West End Live Lounge at The Other Palace which feels like ages ago now! We went along to support 4 cast members from Bat Out Of Hell and were treated to an evening of the most stunning music from performers from a huge variety of shows. It was such a lovely evening made even better by how accessible The Other Palace is, I didn't miss out on anything and that always makes for an enjoyable night!

No surprise but the second stagey evening was also supporting Bat cast members, Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton, in launching their album, Vision Of You. They performed a few songs at The Theatre Cafe, somewhere that was finally made wheelchair accessible a few months back, and it was a lot of fun followed by celebrating a friends birthday and my first Friday night at Bat, a day to remember for a while!


The final one was Guys Sing Dolls at The Space West End which is within Studio 88 just off Leicester Square, another beautifully accessible venue! Myself and some of the friends I've made through Bat went along to support Ryan Anderson, previous Bat cast member who is now starring in Grindr: The Opera. The evenings theme was leading ladies songs, the twist being that all 3 performers were men! It put such a different spin on the songs and we laughed so much that night, whilst enjoying some sensational performances. That's another venue I'll be sure to return to.


Now, moving on from theatre (I promise, I do other things!), in November I headed to Manchester with Quantum to attend Kidz to Adultz North, an event put on for companies from the disability industry to exhibit their products. I went along to be on Quantum's stand to basically talk about how much I love my chair all day, and I do love talking about my chair so it was a lot of fun. I know I'd have valued speaking to an actual user of the powerchair when I was choosing mine so I hope those I spoke to did as well. I also got to see a lot of friends and I'm looking forward to doing it all over again at Naidex in March!


I also took part in an exciting photoshoot for a feature in the Evening Standard all about how technology has changed people's lives. I'm a big advocate for technology and social media and how much of a lifesaver it is for disabled people so I couldn't say yes fast enough. I absolutely did not feel cool enough to be involved when I arrived at the photoshoot but the end result was the most badass photo of people who have changed their lives with technology. It was so empowering to be in a room full of people doing so much good!


One of the first big things I booked when I got my new powerchair was to see Christine & The Queens perform in Birmingham and it came around so quickly! It was my first concert with my new powerchair and it was so much fun. It was several hours before they came on stage though so my tilt and recline functions definitely helped and it was something I never would have been able to do in my old powerchair.


If you read my 2018 round up post then you'll already have a good idea of just how much I've crammed into this past year. When my powerchair was delivered a year ago I joked about how I was going to catch up on the years of missed life and experiences, not expecting that I would actually deliver on that statement. At first I didn't know quite what to do with my new freedom, I went into the city centre a lot and accepted more media invitations like going on the Channel 5 news but it took me a while to realise that so much more of life was open to me, I guess I just didn't know where to start! After being stuck at home so much for years it was exciting but also terrifying.

My first theatre trip with my powerchair was a big deal and an emotional day, I took my Mum to see Les Mis for the first time. She'd wanted to go for basically all of my life and I'd almost given up on the hope that I would get to take her one day, so when we raised the funds needed for my powerchair I said 'what the hell' and booked Les Mis for February 2018. My Mum cried from start to finish and I will truly never forget that day because not only did your generosity allow me to experience all these things, but it allowed me to experience them with the people I love. That of course was the start of a slippery slope as I saw 10 shows a total of 41 times throughout this past year and have even started reviewing shows and the theatres access on my blog. And yes, I absolutely am aiming to beat that number in 2019, challenge accepted.


I've also found myself taking part in several different photoshoots throughout the past year including my one with Kaye from Fordtography within the first few weeks of having my powerchair and my Behind The Scars photoshoot with Sophie Mayanne. I've grown in confidence so much thanks to my powerchair and I'm saying yes to things that I wouldn't have even considered with my old wheelchairs. Having a chair that fits me, that works for my life, that actually looks nice has made me feel the most me I ever have.

I've also been able to see friends that for so long have only been faces I know online, I was able to attend the launch of the Shaw Trust Disability 100 Power List that I was included in, I went to West End Live and London Pride for the first time and I went on my first night out at 21 years old. I've been in London just about every week over these past few months and that's something I never thought would be possible, I've lived a 20 minute train journey away from central London all my life and yet the prospect of going there terrified me but now, it's like popping into town. One of the biggest things is I was also able to build a relationship with the company who make my powerchair, Quantum, they've been such a huge support and have welcomed me with open arms.


Sure, £11,500 is a lot of money but reading back my update posts has shown me that you could never put a price on the impact that my powerchair has had on my life. I feel like I've really blossomed over this past year and so many more doors seem open to me now, I'm even going back to education in just a few days, something I truly thought was impossible. I don't exaggerate when I say that I feel like a completely different person, a better person. I went into 2018 believing it would be the worst year of my life after a lot went wrong in my personal life but getting my powerchair turned things around, it came about at exactly the right time.

All that's left to say really is thank you, whether you donated or just shared a post it all helped me get to this point. I hope that these updates have shown people how much just £5 or a retweet can help someone. I might have started the fundraiser but it was all of you that made this happen and I will be forever grateful.
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