Opinion: My compliments to the man above me

Columnists tend not to compliment each other, even if they occasionally complement each other, largely because this sort of thing in print runs the risk of sounding too self-satisfied.

Well, I'm sorry. You see, I want to congratulate John Knight and Leonard Cheshire Disability, the charity of which he is assistant director of policy and campaigns, for the Creature Discomforts campaign.

Creature Comforts was originally a short film, conceived and directed by Nick Park, the creator of Wallace & Gromit, and produced by Aardman Animations. The style was later used for TV commercials. Featuring the voices of everyday members of the British public, in the style of vox pop interviews, the modelling clay counterparts were unscripted and funny.

Leonard Cheshire's Creature Discomforts campaign, produced with Aardman, is playfully serious, using the words and voices of disabled people to open up their lives. Taking as its starting point the common perception of disabled people in the media as victims, the campaign seeks to change the way people think about and respond to disability. Public awareness of Leonard Cheshire has since risen from 27 per cent to 32 per cent.

So it was fitting that, at the Charity Awards, a lavish event held in London's Battersea Park a couple of weeks ago, Leonard Cheshire was given first prize in the disability category. It was up against some inspiring competition, too, including Mind in Croydon, which works to support parents with mental health problems, and Prior's Court Foundation, which has developed an innovative approach to autism education and care - after any awards ceremony you always leave with the lingering regret that not all can have prizes.

Yet when the glitz and the glamour have passed away and the podium has been dismantled, charities and active citizens are back out there, relentlessly striving to create what Aristotle dubbed the 'good society'.

And there's the rub: it is not individuals or single organisations but society that is the real winner. As one of Leonard Cheshire's characters, Flash the Sausage Dog, puts it: "Now let's get things put right. Not just for disabled people; for everybody. So we can all work in harmony together."

- Nick Seddon is an author and journalist: nptseddon@hotmail.com.

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