Positive Reflections: Actress Sarah Gordy’s address to Improving Lives conference

Positive Reflections: Actress Sarah Gordy’s address to Improving Lives conference

  • Sarah Gordy
  • 13 February 2017
  • Posted in: Health & Social Care

Sarah Gordy is an actress, dancer and model with Down’s Syndrome. Sarah has had a successful acting career in television, radio and theatre. She addressed delegates at the Improving Lives: Supporting Adults with Learning Disabilities conference and you can read her speech below.

Hi my name is Sarah Gordy,

That was a clip from Upstairs Downstairs which is one of the TV dramas that I have been in. Let me tell you about my career. In the beginning the stage managers and assistant directors
were Horrified when they saw me.

How were they going to keep to a tight schedule with a central character played by someone with Downs Syndrome? 

What happens is we KEEP on schedule, we DO good work – and – I earn respect. I know this – because they tell me later. And now – they want to work with me again.

Sorry if I am blowing my own trumpet but to change things I must talk about what I know. However my experience – is probably relevant to other industries.

Lisa Evans wrote my first TV show, she then got commissioned to write my first professional play. “Once We Were mothers” – In a 800 seater theatre in the round – A challenge.

The play was a success and a few years later, it got another production at the Orange Tree Richmond.

The writer trusts me, I earn trust.

I am lucky as the press seem to like me.

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability and 19% of the population in the UK have a disability. But only 3% of the film work force are disabled. 2% work in production and only 1% in exhibition.

I think more people with learning disabilities should be involved with the media.

I think we should have more positive reflections in drama and print.

On stage I have played complex characters, who are sometimes .. HAPPY and SUCCESSFUL.

But TV is inclined to only have stories about the problems disability brings.

The character is a “Disability” not a “woman”. However, some writers who work with me go onto writing more complex characters.

Thanks Heidi Thomas for my character in “Call the Midwife” – and to Lisa Evans of course.

I suggest to TV bosses – think positive, have faith in your writers. As my American dad says “some of the best ideas – come from left field.” I think that means – don’t be conservative.

You like winners! You create winners by thinking differently.

A few words about developing new talent and changing public attitudes. I would like to see more small parts played by people with learning disabilities.

Where the character has nothing to do with disability. Perhaps the person in the newsagent our hero chats to every day. Or the receptionist who makes you smile. Non “issue” roles. Just part of society.

One last thought. I had a young employee in a supermarket come up to me. Adam has a learning disability. He said “Sarah you were brilliant yesterday, but you are not doing us any favours
your characters are always helpless and sad. Please play a character with a job, a life and Giggles.”
What could I say? I don’t rule the world.

That is the challenge ahead.

Thank you.

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About Sarah Gordy

Sarah is an actress, dancer and model with Down’s Syndrome. Sarah has had a successful acting career in television, radio and theatre.
Sarah played the role of Lady Pamela Holland in BBC One’s production of Upstairs Downstairs. Part of her role was written to illustrate the 1930s attitudes to disabilities.
Sarah also starred in Call the Midwife, pl…