As we come to the end of the year, DH co-editor Martyn Sibley shares some thoughts of the year that has been.
My fellow co-editor of up and coming magazine Disability Horizons and I decided to write an end of year article. I felt if I were to attempt a general news round-up it’d be shockingly stale and whilst I do have a reputable voice in the disability world, I decided to not pontificate on the past 12 months of disability news and policy – many others are much better at this. You see, my blog, the magazine and all of my other projects resonate with people like you because I am an everyday guy who runs a business, has a passion for travel, loves quality time with good people, and I happen to require an intricate package of technology, funding and personal support to function because I’m disabled. This piece will therefore simply look back at the past 12 months of my life. I am not sure myself what is about to happen…
This time last year I had overcome the routine winter chest function, returned from an amazing road trip in California and I was in reflective mode. When I travel, the sense of adventure, meeting new people and broadening my horizons makes me question my life and the world. I think it’s fair to say that this particular trip surfaced my real dreams, but more so the fact I could achieve them and in a sense I realised it was now or never!
The first few months of 2011 were centred around surviving winter, managing the 9-5 office hours, grabbing some sun (quick trip to Tenerife in February and the annual family holiday in April) and lots of thinking. The crux of these dreams and plans were around running my own business. As you’ll know I worked at Scope straight out of university, learnt a great deal and was well respected. However, it was time for a change and rather than go into a similar role elsewhere I decided my ideas of running my own business were now possible. Without a wife, children and major commitments the risk was only on me, something that might not be the case later on.
In May, without any real discussion with my close ones (something I usually would do) I waltzed into work and quite spontaneously handed my notice in. I knew that with time I could harness my work on my blog to launch my own projects for disabled people. I could see there being webinars, online learning courses, e-conferences and the brand new Disability Horizons magazine; all innovative, useful, engaging, helpful and fun resources. They just needed time. I didn’t know how on earth I could monetise these projects, but in hindsight an amazing sense of self belief and trusting in fate enabled me to take such a risky decision.
Since leaving Scope at the end of June I have run 3 webinar series. The first through my blog where I received kind sponsorship from Future Fundraising and the creative agency Flourish. I was also commissioned by Scope’s information service and Hackney Borough Council. I learnt so much from this in terms of the information disabled people (plus their friends and family) require, how it should be provided and about my own strengths and weaknesses. I am now planning in 2012 to run a webinar per month on specific topics, with guest speakers, interactive polls and Q&A sessions.
Beyond planning, executing and evaluating the webinars; I had my debut on BBC breakfast in January, my tv presenting debut on BBC1’s Inside Out, I appeared on Radio 4 with Julie Fernandez, Richard Herring and ‘you and yours’. I have enjoyed the media work as a novelty factor, but also to be a spokesperson for disabled people on key issues. I am not the old school campaigning type, but I thoroughly believe the government should invest in disabled people – essential benefits, social care packages, access to infrastructure, educating people’s attitudes and legal protection from discrimination. I think the guys at the Broken of Britain are doing an amazing job fighting the government cuts on disabled people, and it was great to be involved in the Hardest Hit march!
As you’d imagine money has been tight since leaving the salaried job. My savings and webinar contracts have kept me afloat, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to join Srin and Toby in New York in September. Sometimes crazy is the only way to live! Also, my quick trip to Edinburgh resulted in my finding romance with the lovely Claire. Apart from these 2 amazing trips, life has been less frantic socially. I know once my business picks up I can get back to seeing friends more in restaurants and bars. Its all ‘needs must’ at present.
Whilst the next months are crucial in getting new work and making Sunnier Days safe and sustainable, my definition of success has altered slightly. Whilst I want enough money to be comfortable, I have been far happier and healthier due to other reasons. I am making my own work decisions, working the hours my body prefers, staying in from the cold winter and managing my life to my own needs. As long as I am not financially broke, I place such a high value on my health, happiness and relationships.
So to round this up! I am recovering from another chest infection and scrambling to tie some loose ends up workwise. Then I plan to really relax over Christmas with the family. It will be great seeing mum, dad, sister Claire, the step family and my mates back in Cambridge. I’ve got tickets to Tottenham at Norwich on 27th December. Then the family are coming to mine for New Years, before Claire comes from Edinburgh on 2nd January for a few days.
I am then planning to grow my blogs readership, make Disability Horizons ‘the’ disability publication to read, make the monthly webinars ‘the’ event to attend and finally launch my employment ecourse by February. In the past 6 months I have misfit-inc to thank for technical support, I really know what content is required to make a difference to disabled people, I have great networks to communicate my services through and I am confident the sponsorship offers will come in time. Now I am officially part of the Nexters project I have a great outlet of support and the potential to meet companies interested in my plans to change the world with disabled people.
My personal vision is to be running a business that changes the world using new media, whilst I am travelling the world, being in warmer climates throughout UK winters, maintaining my close relationships and just staying happy. The past 6 months have been a slog, at times stressful and scary, but going into 2012 I am confident it has been worthwhile. The hard work has given me a platform to really achieve my dreams, whilst empowering the next generation of disabled people to achieve theirs too.
I hope you had a merry Christmas and I wish you a happy new year! Thank you for all of your support.
By Martyn Sibley