Have you heard of the Clore Leadership? No, nor had I until my boss said it might be a good thing to do for my own professional development at my annual contract review. I did what every self-respecting person would do and ‘googled’ it and thought, “yeah this looks like it could be fun and an opportunity to expand my skills” but if I’m being honest I still wasn’t 100% sure what it really entailed but it looked fun so I agreed to apply.
This is all well and good but why are you telling us this?
Quite simply, this blog wouldn’t be happening had it not been for me attending the Clore Leadership short course last year (November – December 2014). Over the two week residential course the aim was to develop as cultural leaders in our field of work. Unsurprisingly I was the only one from Television, sharing the experience with a bunch of great people from Theatre, Libraries, Museums, freelance artists etc. Also, unsurprisingly I was the only disabled person. That’s not to say there aren’t any other disabled cultural leaders (or potential ones waiting in the ranks) just that in these kind of things I tend to find myself being the only one, that being said out of the 26 people on the course there were only 4 men and, let’s say, it was really quite white!
The lovely #Clore43 gang!
On the last day of the course I had lunch with my fellow diverse candidate who asked me how I had found being the only disabled person as she was looking forward to getting home to mixing with her fellow brown people (her words!). It seemed like an odd question to me as I hadn’t really thought about it but it did spark some interesting thoughts. Firstly, Clore had done a great job at making me feel part of the group. Not once did I feel like I was being fussed over and was left to just get on with it, which I like! Secondly, it did make me think about what it is like to be the only disabled person within a group of non-disabled people.
I’m quite good at playing the role of the independent, nothing is wrong, everything is easy, I don’t need your help girl. So easy in fact I don’t notice myself slipping into it and it isn’t even an effort. It is now totally subconscious and is just a part of who I am. This is until I’m in my comfort zone, with people I know or in a building or venue I’m familiar with. This is when everything becomes much easier and we all know where we stand. It’s almost like a secret unsaid understanding, I know what I’m doing and where I’m going and if at any point I need help or a hand with something I will just ask.
When I’m with people I don’t know, in a building I’m not familiar with and doing something I’ve not done before; acting the role of “I can do this and it’s all fine” becomes tiring, especially after a few days. Declining the offer of opening a door for me, having to explain that I would rather struggle to pick up my own bag than accept your offer of passing it to me, having to find the accessible loo and figuring out which route in and out of a building I can use are added thought processes. The additional explanation and pointing out why I can’t use that door to get through to that room because it has a step or that I can cope with this door but I’ll let you open the other main door because its too heavy for me is tiring. Nothing major but enough to make me notice when its no longer there. Once I have got to know the people, the building and how I can use it, the added strain disappears as we all get used to each other and explanations are no longer needed. Is this the same for everyone with a disability? Maybe, I don’t claim to speak for everyone but I would imagine it might be, even to some degree.
All of this tumbled through my head as I drove home on the last day of Clore. I started to think about the difference between the first impressions I made with my fellow Clore members, how different my perspective as a disabled person was to theirs and what this might mean in the future. After finishing on Clore I drew up a list of things I wanted to do professionally, and also personally, so slowly but surely I’m working my way through. The idea and commitment to the blog began here! So thank you Clore for pushing me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to think about things I hadn’t expected and giving me the confidence to do things I’ve wanted to for a while.
I wrote a blog for my work’s website about my experience on Clore. If you are interested you can read it here: http://bit.ly/135XVIb
For more info on the Clore Leadership and what they do you can visit their website: http://www.cloreleadership.org