18425315_1754752788170189_576574439344224094_nIt would appear that in order to attain a major goal, you may have to travel lengthy distances to get there. Luke Skywalker had to travel across the galaxy to become a Jedi Knight. The Fellowship of the Ring had to travel across Middle-Earth to destroy the One Ring at Mordor… and Hidden Talent have had to travel across lengthy British motorways to deliver a presentation at the Prince’s Trust Central Outreach, Assessment & Outcomes Day… for the sake of not getting tongue-tied (or in this case, type-tied), we shall be falling back on acronyms.

Admittedly, the stakes didn’t include the fate of the world, but we had high hopes for the day. Emma Southern and I set off for Wellingborough in the early hours of Tuesday morning on 9th May 2017 (trust me, to an insomniac with the sleeping pattern of a vampire, an 8:30 start is nightmare on the eyes).

After an hour-long journey, we arrived in Wellingborough at Weatherbys, where Emma and I made our way to our tables. Everyone else seemed to retain fairly light luggage compared to me who looked like I’d just come off of a last minute Sainsbury’s raid. We got reacquainted with a few friendly faces from the Leicester branch, including Nutan and Jai, before the day began.

By the time Hidden Talent was due to feature its presentation, I had been skimming on my laptop in a last minute hope that my short-term memory would not desert me for at least another hour.

Emma and I took to the stage where we worked out who would be saying what. Emma spent the first fifteen minutes introducing Talent Match (I really wish I’d made some slides for this), and then I was on. Drawing on all I had learned about public speaking from the Alien Saga and The Walking Dead (sans the megalomaniacal aspects), I got the ball rolling by getting them to guess hidden conditions featured in films. I’m so glad I got to use my experience as a film quizmaster here. Took a little bit of guesswork, which I felt a little perplexed by, considering that I had chosen fairly ‘easy’ titles. Although everyone got Rain Man. Oh, how I yearn for the days when hidden conditions films were met with, “Oh, it’s Percy Jackson!” or “Silver Linings Playbook, the greatest bipolar film ever made!”… granted, those days haven’t actually happened yet, but I can dream, can’t I?

Then I commenced with the presentation, trying not to look like I was being dwarfed by the enormous podium (I don’t know how politicians manage with those things). I bought the audience up to speed on what the Hidden Talent project was, and what our goals were. We then tested the audience’s knowledge of hidden conditions with an updated rendition of Danny’s Game, featuring seven celebrities, many of whom had a hidden condition (I’m sure they will be mentally thanking me for not going for 30 celebrities like last time).

We made sure that the winning table had a prize on hand for their efforts, a trophy that solidified their prosperous knowledge and the unspoken nobility of their kinship… a box of Heroes Chocolates. Of course, I had to hope that there were no diabetics on that table otherwise it could have been a very bittersweet prize.

Once again, we emphasized the damage done by the all-encompassing use of ‘disability’, and how we tried to take a more neutral stance on the condition, while also exploring the positives of the person, if not the condition.

I also got the chance to talk a bit about my own story, which was probably the most nerve-wrecking part of it all. It’s funny how you can list off significant facts with the knowledge and enthusiasm of a game show host (or in my case, a poor man’s Jonathan Ross), but when it comes to talking about yourself, you’re like a deer in the headlights. I even managed to share a few personal details about my journey that I had been reluctant to do so beforehand…

To conclude the session, we bought out the piece de résistance… a series of five scenarios I had designed focused on five different hidden conditions. Each one took a different individual with different circumstances – some had been supported through education which had been halted, some had been undiagnosed, while drawing all that we have learned about hidden conditions up to this point. I had tried to make the issues as broad as possible while giving specific weight to the characters. The objectives of the five scenarios were: each table would take a different scenario and write down in as much detail as possible what kind of careers these young people could go into and what kind of support they would need. We’d been developing some new activities as part of the next step of the project, which would entail identifying specific support for specific conditions.

Now, originally, Emma and I had planned for the groups to write down their responses on large pieces of scrap paper, but through a series of mind-boggling circumstances, the scrap paper was replaced and we had to compensate with post-its.

During the allocated 20 minutes the groups were given to bang their heads together, I took the time to pace around the room, taking in the conversations being held by everyone in the room. I almost felt like an examiner in a GCSE session. Thankfully, I didn’t let it go to my head with phrases such as, “absolute silence during the test”. But you could tell that this was encouraging a lot of thinking and possibly drawing on past experiences.

Of course, after 15 minutes working on the scenarios, we had to collect those up and put an end to the activities. It was a productive session and from what I hear, the audience enjoyed the passion that Emma and I shared with the audience (at the very least, they didn’t pelt us with rancid tomatoes or make for the exits).

I feel that this could be the start of a new aspect of research for Hidden Talent. This was one of our longest sessions yet, which gave us a little more room to breathe and try out some of our new concepts. All we need are more willing participants for our sessions…

….Which is why we should probably look at training a hypnotist.

A major thank you to Sue Haslett for hosting us for the day and giving us a chance to shine before the audience…

…and the Lucozade brand for helping me to hold off the sleep deprivation(!)

(Photos provided by Emma Southern)


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