Friday, 8 April 2016

The Life of Mik Scarlet

Mik Scarlet has been and is many things such as a broadcaster, journalist, musician, tv presenter, columnist and disability rights campaigner.

I have to say, this interview has been one of the best I've done so far, all thanks to Mik that is!!

He did the hard work of answering my questions and what a pleasure its been reading them.

They are by far, the most interesting and informative I've read in awhile.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Mik for taking time out of his busy schedule to take part in my questionnaire.


Name - Mik Scarlet

Age - 50

When did you develop a cancerous tumour?
I was born with a Neuroblastoma, Adrenal Neuroblastoma.
It wad discovered when I was 6 weeks old.
I cried constantly for 5 weeks, but it was when I was unable to breathe that the medical people involved in my care stopped saying my Mum was panicking and took her seriously.
I was only days from death.

How was it treated?
I was put on a drug trail for a new chemo drug called Vincristin Sulphate, after the oncologist who was treating my read about a search for test subjects in the Lancet.
I was one of 6 on the trail and we all survived.
Not bad as back then Neuroblastoma was almost 100% fatal.
I also had surgery to remove the tumour, radiotherapy and was given lethal doses of vitamin B12.
Plus a lot of love and care from my parents.

How has your disability affected your life?
To be honest it’s a question I get asked a lot but I can’t really answer.
I have no idea what my life would be like if I wasn’t disabled.
Having said that, I mostly see my impairment as a positive thing.
Most of the amazing things I’ve done in my life are linked to being disabled in some way or other.
I wouldn’t have been a TV presenter which means I wouldn’t have done so many other things.
I also imagine what my life might have been like it I was not disabled and I am pretty sure it would have been crap.
I was brought up in the industrial town Luton, in Bedfordshire, and the usual life path for someone from my background was school, work at Vauxhall, marry, breed, retire and die.
Of course that was before the Vauxhall car plant shut down, so it might have been school, work, marry, breed, redundant, unemployed, retire, die.
Either way, I know that having the barriers that my impairment threw into my way made me want a better life, and gave me the resources to fight for that life.
Sure things haven’t always been easy, but I know my life is amazing because of my impairment.
I would never have met my wife for one thing, and for that alone I love being disabled.

Over your career you have been a broadcaster, journalist, musician, actor and a campaigner..
Please answer the following:

What makes a good broadcaster?
I’ve always felt that if someone presents in such a way that the viewer feels they are being talked to directly then that’s good presenting.
Whether it’s something light or a serious news story, the presenter has to engage the viewer directly.
I would like to think I do that, and the technique I use is to talk to someone I love.
When I was young I used to present as if I was talking to my Mum, but now I talk to my wife.
I really like presenters who do not sound like they are reading, which sadly seems to be very fashionable right now.
The key skill is to make it sound easy.
If you take someone like Matthew Wright. It’s only when he takes time off and someone else sits in for him do you realise just how good he is.
Natural and warm, and despite the fact he is reading autocue through out the show you can’t tell when.

What technical abilities do you have within the work of broadcasting?
I trained at the BBC in both radio and TV broadcasting.
From script writing and editing through to on air, I did a pile of courses.
If a course was on offer I tended to do it, so I have done loads of courses that weren’t really that useful to my career.
I know all about health and safety on studio sets for example.
But I suppose the best ability I have is such a long time in the industry.
It allows me to understand how it’s changed and how the techniques required develop over time.
It’s not a static industry, and this really helps me move with the times.

How do you keep up to date with news?  It’s all online.
I watch a lot of TV news too, but never read a newspaper unless I reviewing them on TV.
Always shocked at how biased print is, and it’s best to avoid it if you want real news.

When and why did you become a journalist?
Haha. I fell into being called a “journalist” along the way, and didn’t really notice it happening.
I started as a presenter, and then as I moved in to serious news became a reporter.
As I had to retire from air for a while due to ill health, I began writing for magazines and online and this caused me to move over to being a journalist.
I am now a columnist really, as alongside reporting and sourcing stories I give my own views on what is going on.
That’s the key difference, when you are a journalist you report the news, but a columnist explores the news from their view point.
Depending on the story and the outlet, I can be either.
Just the pay is better for a columnist.

What is the competition like when competing against other journalists for a story?
Hmm. Not really sure.
I tend to cover my stories from a point of view that includes me, placing myself in the action, and so it’s very hard for people to compete for the story.
You do see a story you covered being explored by other writers, and I put my spin on stories I’ve read or seen, but I’ve never fought for a story.

What type of acting have you done?  Everything from stage to screen, from comedy to Shakespeare.
With acting if I get asked I tend to do it, as I enjoy exploring a way of becoming the character.
The only thing I won’t do is any part that I feel damages society’s understanding of what it means to be disabled.
I’ve ended up in raging rows with directors, writers and casting agents over this and have lost out on work, but it means I have never played a story that did not ring true or painted disabled people in a damaging light.

Who are your favourite actors/actresses and why?
Oh wow, a toughie.
If I listed all my favourite actors here it would be a long long list.
I suppose it has to include Rutger Hauger, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Brenda Blethyn, Keeley Hawes, Karl Urban...
oh the list goes on.
I love actors who can allow you to forget they aren’t the character mostly although I’m also a fan of those celeb actors who just play themselves.
One day I’d love to be one of those, but I doubt it’ll happen now.

If you could work alongside any actor/actress who would it be and why?  Angelina Jolie, as she is such an amazing actress.
You rarely get that combination of looks and chameleon like ability to become someone else.
I’d also love to be in Vera opposite Brenda Blethyn, but as Lisa Hammond is in it already I doubt that’ll happen.
There can only ever  be one disabled person in a drama apparently.

What was your first acting performance? It was in Brookside, when I played a friend of Owen.
Never acted before and it showed.

As a musician what instruments do you play?
I’m a tech head.
I play keyboards, and piano, and program like a wizard.
It means I have to have an understanding of the theory of playing other instruments, even if I can’t play them physically.
The way a violin reacts to being plays is very different to a bass guitar, but if you program music you need to understand that to make them sound realistic.
I'm currently learning to play lead guitar.
I can also play drums but need to program the bass drum and hi hats as I can’t use the pedals.
I also sing.
Rather well even if I say so myself.

What genre of music do you perform? Electronic.
Anything from dance to synth pop to nu metal.
If there’s a synth on it, I will play it.

Who is your musical idol and why?
Gary Numan, as he was my inspiration to get into music.
As a teenager I was a musical chameleon, but once I’d heard Numan’s music I found my niche.
I then became a massive synth music fan, with Depeche Mode being another musical love.
Martin Gore from DM is a genius.
Those two shaped most of the music I have ever written and to this day, if I want to lift my spirits I play something by them.
Yes I am an old 80’s fan.

What campaigns/causes are you currently supporting?
EEEKK. It’s weird, as I now keep getting called a Disability Rights Campaigner, but in truth I haven’t ever really campaigned.
I lend my name to things and run an access consultancy, that advises business on how to be more accessible and inclusive, but I’ve never created a campaign.
But I am working with Enhance the UK as an agony uncle on their Undressing Disability campaign, giving out advice on sex, sexuality and confidence to people who contact the charity.
I work with Scope on their End The Awkward campaign too.
I think that it’s difficult for disabled people as charities can reinforce stereotypes as they need them to raise money, and so it can prove dodgy to be involved.
However if disabled people don’t get involved they run campaigns anyway and then they really get things wrong.
I have raised the lack of disabled people working on campaigns with disability charities and I think in future we will see more and inclusion which will ensure a more representative voice

What makes a good campaign?
As I already said, I haven’t ever created a campaign and have only worked with existing campaigns.
Having said all that, as a journalist I do know what kind of campaign would make me sit up and listen.
I really feel that the best campaigns feature real people telling their story in a way that people can relate to.
The campaign mustn’t disempower the people it features, no matter how much a charity might want to raise funds.
If this doesn’t happen and it features disabled people who appear tragic or weak, or it reinforces any other out-dated stereotypes, it has failed.
Disabled people need to be involved in every part of the campaigning process when fighting for disabled people’s right and equality.
Not just stuck on at the end. It’s easy to spot those campaigns and when they drop into my inbox, they get deleted straight away.

What additional information can you share with me?
I hit 50 last year, and this is amazing as I was given no more than 5 years to live at birth.
So I’ve been doing loads of things I’ve never done before, in a kind of non-bucket list.
I’m planning to write a book about this year, using each activity as a jumping off point to explore a wider issues or story from my life.
It’s why I’ve been so damn busy this year. I’ve adopted a kind of never say no approach and so far it’s been great fun. I’d advise everyone to seize the day and enjoy the moment.
It’s the one great thing that being so ill so often in my has taught me.
You never know when the end will come, so make sure you are having fun.
Live each day like it might be your last, enjoy yourself and try not to have regrets. That’s not to say do what ever you want, as regrets can also be the way you treated people.
So be nice as well as enjoying yourself. All I know is a spent most of my adult life feeling like I’d be dead soon, only to reach 50 and realise that I might have another 50 ahead of me.
Cool, Gonna make sure whatever’s ahead is as much as fun as what I’ve already lived.
Other than that, I’d say watch this space. I’m in talks at the mo about a few projects and if only half of them happen I should be damn busy as I hit 51.

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