A dramatic change

I left school when I was 17 and started attending a large day
centre for people with learning difficulties in County Durham. I
was picked up by a special bus and, although it was only eight
miles away, the journey took an hour and a half. All my friends
were at the day centre and in the evening I usually stayed in with
my mother watching TV and listening to music.

For the next 18 years my routine was more or less the same,
spending hours travelling to a segregated day centre and evenings
with my mother or at the club for people with learning

Then things got me down a little. With help I developed my own plan
and would attend a smaller unit where people had more say over
their daily lives. Over time, I became more independent and began
travelling on public transport. I went to the local shops and the
sports centre. I learned to make my own meals and began to make
decisions about my own life.

I started to go to college, became interested in drama and joined
the Special Needs Unity Group (Snug), a drama group that includes
people with disabilities as well as those without disabilities. I
made new friends.

Now I’m a volunteer at Snug two evenings a week and really enjoy
it. Last May I went to Tubingen in Germany with Snug and the
Moveable Feast Arts. We performed some big shows and received
standing ovations. Moveable Feast Arts led six workshops for people
with learning difficulties. The workshops involved doing a play and
teaching songs and dancing.

Moveable Feast Arts was set up to do issue-based plays and we try
to convey the message about the importance of inclusion. It also
produces cassette tapes every month, in the form of a radio show
with music, requests and sketches, called MF Radio. The important
part of the tape is to give information to people with learning
difficulties about what is going on in County Durham. People with
learning difficulties, including myself, are the DJs and

One other thing I am involved with is Durham’s person-centred
planning task group which meets every two months.

My life has changed enormously from being segregated with other
people with learning difficulties to enjoying life with people in
the wider community. I’m a member of the South Moor Operatic
Society and I often go to Sunderland football matches and to
church. I enjoy drama particularly because I can be equal with
others. I have a group of friends who help me to stay in control of
my life. I also have a girlfriend who I have exchanged rings with.

In the future I want to take part in the theatre business and I’m
doing a computer course. I feel great and I now know what I

Guy Blankley has learning difficulties and receives direct

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