After the initial few weeks of adjusting to working and studying from home, and not being able to see friends and family due to shielding, I soon found a 'new normal' and focused on the things I could control.
I completed the first year of my course with the highest grade I could get and managed to continue to work until the college broke up for the summer holidays. I was lucky compare to many who struggled to study remotely and many were furloughed.
Don't get me wrong it hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows, but I am choosing to focus on the positive elements and the silver linings as oppose to the negative side of things!
I start work again soon, as well as the final year of my media production course. There are a few on screen media opportunities over the coming weeks too but you will have to wait to find out more about that soon...
Stay safe out there!
I can't believe I am saying this but I am doing a Ted Talk! It all happened very fast but on Sunday 17th November 2019 I will be taking to the stage at the Bristol Old Vic to do a Ted Talk as one of the fifteen TEDxBristol Speakers 2019!
I don't wan't to give too much away but my talk is about rebooting fashion and its inclusivity; or lack of inclusivity currently!
My profile on the TEDxBristol Website reads:
Why isn’t fashion inclusive of disabled people?
There are almost 14 million disabled people in the UK, but the fashion industry seems to be ignoring them. As a result, businesses are losing a potential two billion pounds per month in ‘purple pound’ revenue, and high street shops are forfeiting £267 million.
Chloe Ball-Hopkins is a wheelchair user on a mission to find out why such a large sector of society is still invisible to retailers.
In July 2018 she pioneered a collaboration with ASOS, the brand that supply kit for Great Britain's Paralympians, to create a jumpsuit which met her need for comfortable, practical and fashionable activewear. The campaign took the fashion and media world by storm… with Vogue, Grazia, Elle and New York Magazine taking up the story.
But a year on nothing more has been done.
Chloe’s TEDxBristol talk will explore why the fashion industry is dragging its heels, and reboot the mission to create accessible, fashionable clothes for all.
Chloe Ball-Hopkins is a freelance journalist, archery champion and wheelchair user from Kingswood in Gloucestershire. She was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis which led to numerous operations on her legs. At four years old she was diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy which means she has weaker muscles.
This hasn’t stopped her taking on a variety of big challenges - from competing in the Para European Championships and winning the Bronze medal as an archer to most recently taking on the fashion industry! Her mission is to create clothes that help people like her feel comfortable and fashionable whilst being in a wheelchair all day.
Even something as simple as having a handy pocket to put your phone would help. The industry doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to this huge gap in the market - yet.
Chloe has just returned to South Gloucestershire and Stroud College’s WISE Campus to do a degree in Media Production while working within the fashion industry to create inclusive fashion.
I have finished my script and have the next few weeks to learn it off by heart ready to present to the audience of 500 in the theatre on the night and not to forget the hundreds of thousands who can watch the live stream of the event!
There are so many amazing speakers on the day broken down into three sessions. You can see the full line up on the main website: https://tedxbristol.com/speakers
If you would like to get tickets to come and watch me on the big night you can get your tickets here: https://system.spektrix.com/demo1/website/CookieBounce.aspx?redirect_url=https%3A%2F%2Fbristololdvic.org.uk%2Fwhats-on%2Fmini-series%2Ftedxbristol-2019
I am in the reboot session! I hope to see you there!
Sorry for those of you who already know this but I was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis which basically means I had deformed hips and feet which has required more operations than I can count over the years. Being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at four only added to the complexity as you can imagine!
I have done well and managed to avoid any surgery on my legs for 7 years but the time has come to replace my right hip … at 22! So the first thing I do of course is google it to see whats what to find that all the information available is for how should I put it … the more mature patients! There also isn't any information out there for someone having a hip replacement who is a wheelchair user. Now I can “walk” a little with the help of things like people and crutches but 99% of the time I am in my chair which for about 6 weeks at least I won’t be able to sit in so I believe - There’s this thing about being able to sit at 90 degrees or something?
So I thought the best thing I could do would be to bore you all which a series of blogs about what this experience is like for someone younger and who already has a medical condition which will play a part in the surgery itself and the recovery.
I am going to dive straight in …
I was told my surgery would be about September time so when the letter came a couple of weeks ago telling me it was 19th March I said a few naughty words I must admit - naughty Chlo - but it was a real shock! A good shock I think …
My head instantly went to the fact that I am a Freelance Journalist now so theres no sick pay as such for my time off so I have had to start being a scrooge with my money to be able to get through the next couple of months when I won’t be able to get out the house much let alone get to work.
Then I starting thinking about the things I needed to get for being in hospital and there was only one place to start for me - PRIMARK!
So here is my list of things to buy (based on what I got) for when you are staying in hospital (if you are a female):
Basic Jogging Bottoms - £5 a pair
Basic T-shirts/Jumpers - £5 each
Buttoned Up Night Shirt - £11 (Had to be the Beauty and the Beast one for me!)
Comfy and Modest Panties (I went for boxer style) - £5 for pack of 3
Slipper (Memory Foam) - £4
Trainers (With a good sole that are easy to get on/off and happened to have a memory foam insole) - £8
This is a good starting point because time flies by … I had a month to get ready from when I got my letter in the post and it’s already down to two weeks! So this is where to start. Get your basis bag sorted ahead of time - the less you can stress about in the lead up to the big day the better.
Anything you think I have missed? Let me know ... A few already have so thank you for the feedback!
So when you are diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy you are told that "it is a muscles wasting condition with no cure" and it is a double whammy when you are told you have a form of it called Nemaline Myopathy which only 50 people, out of around 65 Million in the UK, have. Oh and I have Arthrogryposis on top which means I was born with no hips, feet bent up to my shins and I think I have had constructive surgery every year of my life (the longest being 11 hours). So it has been eventful to say the least.
So what happens when you find out that there has been funding put into research to help find a treatment to slow down, and potentially stop, muscular atrophy (weakness) for the 50 people like me in the UK and the others likes us around the world? Well it's a bit confusing to be honest. When since the age of 4 you have been raised knowing that as you got older you would get weaker and then you are told that there is a chance that could be stopped. Wow. It's hard not to feel like their is hope. Now I have excepted my condition 110% but I would be lying if I said I didn't like the idea of being able to stay stable and not slowly loose the ability to do things.
So Great Ormond Street have told me I am unique and they can't work out what is going on with my body. But I wonder if the Professor Coen Ottenheijm and Co. can work it out and use it to their advantage? Well I sent him an email to find out. So let's wait and see what he says ...
But in the mean time, here's all the nitty gritty of it for you to read: http://www.musculardystrophyuk.org/grants/putting-the-brakes-on-muscle-atrophy-in-nebulin-based-nemaline-myopathy/
In the past week 1 in 6 people will have experienced a mental health "issue". Just as an example look around at the nearest 5 people to you and 1 of those, and then including yourself, would have experienced this. It could be any of you but you wouldn't know who because mental health "problems" are invisible.
I can think of so many quotes I could use because over the years I have sent many motivational quotes to friends who have been battling with a mental "illness". But for now ...
Who here likes Disney? I am hoping everybody reading this is saying yes to that question but even if you aren't bare with me because this will make sense (I hope).
So you might be thinking I am telling you conflicting information by saying a mental "illness" is invisible and then referring a film where the "problem" is very obvious. But my point here is, I guess, never to judge a book by its cover. Things aren't always as they seem. For Belle she accepted Adam for who he was despite what she could see. Whereas with a mental health "illness" you may see someone as being fine because they tell you "I'm okay" and you believe it. But are they really okay? Do they know that sometimes not being okay is okay? Be aware of this and make sure if you think someone isn't okay that you offer them an ear because a problem shared is a problem halved and it will most likely then be the first step to becoming themselves again.
From experience of helping those in that positions I know that if someone is struggling with a mental health "illness" they feel like they are burdening you. The labels given to this top never help. Mental "illness" and calling things a "problem" or an "issue". So if today, Mental Health Awareness Day, teaches you anything let it be the below quote:
'When "I" is replaced with "We"
even Illness becomes Wellness!'
All of what I have told you is based on the role I have had in peoples like as a friend or a mentor helping them face physical or mental challenges. So I may not be an expert but I have learnt more in my 20 years than some people have in a full lifetime. I know I am lucky because of that, which is exactly why I use it to help people in anyway I can. So trust me, if you're reading this and thinking you need a little nudge in the right direction just get in touch. I won't bite ... much! I want to make sure that everyone ends up like Belle and Adam and help make sure that they get as close as they can to their very own fairytale lives, living happily ever after!
8 months ago I was being told that I was a medal chance for the Paralympics in Rio which starts tomorrow. But as I'm sure you can work out by the word WAS. That isn't what I will be doing now. That door slammed in my face; but the BBC gave me a key to a very different door.
Let me give you a visual. So right now I'm sat at my No.17 desk at BBC Bristol. To my right, the journalist from Points West. To my left is the Radio Studios. But immediately all around my desk are the Sports Reporters who have spent the last 8 weeks helping me become a better journalism. I've been a BBC Kick Off Sports Reporter.
I couldn't have asked for a nicer group of people to spend my summer with and to learn from. Oh and leant I have! Studying sports journalism for two years and presenting a sports show for a year certainly helps, but being in such a prestigious working environment like the BBC has helped me come on leaps and bounds as a journalist; and as a person.
I have had a chance to help do research, preparing thing for the local Paralympic radio coverage, editing clips and writing ques for bulletins bit I have also been able to get out and about talking to local athletes and sports teams.
I have attended my first Cricket game and interviewed some of the biggest names in Women's Cricket Internationally. I've interviews the Bristol City Women's Football Club. I put together a radio package about a local Paralympian Jo Frith ahead of flying to Rio. For me though my ultimate one was Eddie the Eagle. Cuppa with Chloe right there. We sat in Gregg's for 2 hour drinking tea/coffee and eating pastries. He is even going to do some Archery and Skiing wit me. How crazy is that! All of these experience have not only created radio packages for me but also lasting connections, and I would even say friendships, with these amazing athletes.
But now that this placement is coming to an end I'm wondering if this door is going to close or whether it will open even more? Right now your guess is as good as mine. But fingers crossed I will find out my options soon.
All I know right now is that I have had the best summer at BBC Bristol which I don't want to come to an end. I guess this is the definition of as one door closes, another one always opens ...
Danielle Schofield from Wotton-Under-Edge started ballet when she was 3 years old at Ruth Osborne School of Dancing purely for something to do. Who was to know that good toes naughty toes would lead to where she is now? It wasn’t until a few years later she started learning tap and modern too. A young Danie started doing her grades and exams, finding herself wanting to progress more and more so would do 3 or 4 sessions a week to allow practice in all genres.
Street dance became another contender for Danie during secondary school with Di King and Edge Street Dance. When paired with Georgie Arkell the pair won competitions as a duo for 4 years running.
Danielle completed her GCSE’s in 2011 and she knew they had to go well to allow her to study a level 3 diploma in Dance at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College. During her time at SGS she even had experience with the Royal Ballet and at Heart radio carnivals through the cheerleading. How did she have time for all of this and still do so well, finishing the course with a triple distinction.
Judith Hockaday College of Dance and Drama came next for Danie in 2013. Studying here allowed her time to continue climbing up the grades. Whilst at Judith Hockadays National Dance was added to her ever developing portfolio, allowing the dancer to learn a variety of cultural genres too. Danie said “I feel like Judith Hockadays was the right stepping stone needed to get more experience before looking at further training in performing arts. It was to help me progress and become stronger”. To date she has got her Diploma in dance instruction to teach others who are where she used to be, trying to get to where she is. Not only is she battling to realise her dreams, she is helping others to do the same.
A degree in performing arts is the final door before she can enter the professional Musical Theatre world. How can she work to make her wishes come true? Offers from SLP (College of performing arts in Leeds), Bodywork (Performing arts in Cambridge) and Performers College (Essex) have already come through and she is soon to audition for URDANG (London) but to be able to accept these places she will require financial support and there is no government funding available for the performer.
As cliche as it sound every little helps. If you enjoy being able to go and see a Musical Theatre production performers like Danie need help to make it as a professional. Can you help this local girl fulfill her potential? You can find out more by visiting her website www.dontwishforit.weebly.com or www.gofundme.com/dontwishforit.
Can you imagine the courage it must take to turn away from friends and family who are stumbling on the word “goodbye” and crying as you leave for who knows how long for? Can you begin to apprehend the fear you would have to face whilst trying not to shut your eyes when they say “stay with me”? Can you even consider how much strength it would take knowing that all this could happen and that you may never get to see those at home waiting to say “hello” again?
When they faced that unthinkable moment Dave Henson and Michael Hall’s lives were turned upside down. But they got to say that “hello” not only to their loved ones, but too a whole new adventure; becoming Potential Paralympic athletes. They are two of many heroes who have gone from representing their country in the forces, to representing their country as athletes.
Michael’s role in the army was The Reece Regiment which required him spying on the enemy without them knowing, a job that takes a lot of skill and time. Much like the sport he competes in now; Archery.
But how did he get from the Army to Archery?
Running and completing assault courses with 22 kilograms on his back as well as a radio was common practice for Michael. How was he to know that falling off a rope bridge 15 years ago would result in breaking his neck in two places and back in seven.
“I know I'm still in a wheelchair but I can do anything. Sport played a vital role in my rehab it's made me realise that I can do anything, I've done ironmans, triathlons and I biked from Edinburgh to London”.
But this just wasn’t enough for Michael. He wanted to take on bigger challenges like the Invictus Games that was hosted last September, and achieved more than he could have imagined. He came away with a bronze and gold medal to show for it. After a year of representing his country as part of the Archery GB Para Team, and has a gold medal from his debut shoot wearing the GB flag shirt at a World Archery event too, he now has his sights set on the Paralympics in Rio next year - pardon the pun!
Being in charge of 6 other soldiers is a huge responsibility, as well as having others deployed elsewhere in Afghanistan on top of that. So who was watching Dave Henson’s back the day he stood on an Improvised Explosive Device; IED?
Dave and his troops were searching for a compound that had been used by Taliban. He triggered the booby trap that took both of his legs. If Dave hadn’t have done this, farmers would have began using the land again and triggered it themselves, which could have had even more devastating effects than it did.
So similarly to Michael, how did Dave get from the trenches to the track?
“When I was in the Army running was my main method of keeping fit. I loved the feeling of freedom when you're out on a run, it really helps clear the mind, and the physical benefits are obvious, so I knew it was something I wanted to get back into if I could. I got my running blades exactly 10 months to the day after I lost my real ones, and that first day, the feeling of freedom they gave was just incredible”.
Not only was Dave the Captain for Great Britain at the Prestigious Invictus Games last summer,he was also promoted from Lieutenant to Captain in a work manor when returning to work after his injury.
Dave is now a British Athletics Blade Runner and competes internationally, most recently at the IPC World Championships in Doha. He is currently preparing for the Invictus Games next year and potentially the Rio Paralympic games too!
So the Invictus Games; What is it and where did it come from? Prince Harry himself is the reason for such a prestigious event. After visiting America in 2013 he realised what sport meant to injured service people and wanted to find a suitable way to honour these brave men and women. Naturally it was London that hosted the first Invictus Games September 2014 and the foundation are busy planning the next Games in Orlando 2016.
When Prince Harry announced the next games he said “For every competitor last September, there are hundreds of others around the world who would benefit from having the same opportunity. I wanted other cities and countries to look at the competition - what it meant to those taking part and those who saw it - and take up the challenge for the next Invictus Games”.
“Just do it it is good fun and it is awesome being disabled does not stop you doing anything” is what Michael would say to people who are going through the process he had to so that he could get to where he is today. Dave Henson said “It really was an exhibition of determination, spirit, strength and camaraderie. Obviously to be nominated as the British team captain was the icing on the cake really, it was such an honour to be a voice, a representative of those amazing people on my team; one of my proudest honours”.
The word invictus means unconquered which definitely sums up Michael, Dave and all the other service people who are now athletes. So whether it is their “Road to Rio” or their “Adventure to America”. There is so much more to come for these heroes.