14600588_10207073676179740_1526156950_oLet us step back in time with the latest in our Retrospective series (sadly without the aid of a TARDIS), looking back on the earliest successes for the Hidden Talent Project B.T.B (Before The Blog, any excuse for an acronym).


With Choice Unlimited 2017 on the horizon, it only stands to reason we delve into the past and take a glance at Hidden Talent’s first venture with Choice Unlimited the previous year.


For the unaware out there, Choice Unlimited is an annual event hosted every April taking primarily taking place at Welford Stadium in Leicester. The event is organized by LCIL (Leicester Centre for Integrated Living) and sees various support organizations from across the UK come together to talk about the many services around to support people. Maybe you have a hidden condition that requires some support. Maybe you’ve come out as part of the LGBT group and you’re looking to spread your wings. Maybe you’re a senior citizen and want to see the care services offered by organizations. Or maybe you’re a wandering bystander looking to add a bit of diversity to your day. Whatever the reason, Choice Unlimited has something for you.


And it’s not just the support groups. Several mainstream business appreciate the value of empowering disabled people and try to get in on the act with their own presence, including Barclays, Costa Coffee and Highcross Leicester.


There are several events that take place at Choice Unlimited from book launches to guest speakers to artistic performances to some innovative sport that boggles my mind to this day…


Arriving there to set up early, I was weighed down by sleep deprivation, so, just as a car needs petrol, I needed J20s, which was supposed to give me more bounce than a trampoline… until the sugar rush wore off.


I was supported at the event by three of Talent Match Leicestershire’s finest; the charismatic Callum Black, the amazing Aadam Hajat, and the loquacious Lee Ward. While getting set up for the event, it was agreed that all TM representatives needed to wear similar clothes. We quickly agreed on a long-sleeve shirt before wrapping our heads around the next encompassing enigma; which colour should we wear?


Truth be told, we probably put more thought into that then was needed(!) But then again, clothes make the man!


Our first thought was for everyone to have a plain white shirt before all deciding to coming wearing purple. I must say, this still feels like one of the best decisions we’ve ever made on this project. And I assure you, that has nothing to do with my obsession with purple(!)


Anyway, we all arrived there, looking like some kind of Purple Man Cometh (no, NOT Kilgrave from Jessica Jones), we went to work setting up the stall, getting everything set out and trying to come across as zeniths of our profession… or failing that, act and look like we know what we’re talking about.


We had some questionnaires on hand for people to fill out. Up to this point, Hidden Talent’s audiences had been predominantly members of the general public. So, this was the first time we were acting alongside seasoned professionals. And we felt, having worked closely with people linked to our target audience before, they would have some constructive ideas for our research. Of course, we had to emphasize that we needed the questionnaires returned to us by the end of the day. And seeing as how none of us were exactly Usain Bolt, I don’t think any of us wanted to spend the day running around the stadium chasing down respondents.


For the most part, the questionnaires went down quite well. We got some diverse feedback from the respondents. Once again, the big condition that rolled off everyone’s lips (or, in this case, pens), was autism. Surprise, surprise.


We also had two other ‘games’ on hand for people to try. Much to my chagrin, we lacked the budget and facilities for Laser Quest. So instead, we had some word association games, looking at tactless terms for hidden conditions and seeing which ones resonated with them. We heard the usual idiotic terms like, ‘freak’, ‘gimp’, and ‘spastic’ – the major offensive terms that only an oaf would consider dropping in a conversation – while also covering the more casual terminology that slip into everyday conversation like ‘special’ and ‘hysterical’ and ‘lunatic’.


We also had a film quiz on hand, but a lot of people didn’t feel they knew enough films to have a go, and the ones who did only really knew Rain Man. As a noted film fanatic, this was a monumental blow that I felt I could never recover from…


…until 30 seconds later when the latest visitor showed up at our stall.


At one point in the day, a pair came over to us to talk about the work we were doing. They seemed quite interested. And then, once I was done motormouthing, they revealed who they represented…


…Channel 4, more specifically the TV show known as the Undateables, a notable show depicting people seen by some as ‘undateable’ (fairly self-explanatory), and these two people were on the lookout for stars for their next series. I must say, a year later, I’m still trying to think of a fitting response to that. As someone who doesn’t want to see people with hidden conditions tainted by the stereotype brush, I do worry about the damage such a show could do to how the general public view people with conditions.


But then again, what do I know? Maybe I’m just overreacting about the whole thing. I’ll let you learned readers make up your own minds on this sensitive subject.


And thus concludes our first time at Choice Unlimited. We shall be returning to Choice Unlimited in a few days time and as to what will take place on that day, who knows… or dares to dream…


…Actually, we do know, just wanted to sprinkle a bit of mysticism on the whole thing. They will have live performances from a creative clique, a book launch, activity workshops and much, much more.


And of course, Talent Match Leicestershire will also be there waving the Hidden Talent flag, looking to delve into our own box of tricks…


For more information about Choice Unlimited and the event’s host LCIL, please follow the link here:

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out the other blogs in the Retrospective Series!


Retrospective Series: 

Hidden Talent at the Leicester Business Festival

Hidden Talent and the Highcross Pop-Up Shop



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