Stories of Men

having a positive attitude towards disability and a nueromuscular condition

Overcoming barriers by taking a positive attitude towards disability

Clare’s parents were told that there was no point in their daughter pursuing any academic or vocational qualifications as there would be no space for her in the workplace. Instead, the headteacher said it would be better for Clare to be kept busy as a space was found for her in residential care.

Overcoming barriers by taking a positive attitude towards disability

This new series of Our Voices starts with focusing on Clare, a woman who has taken a positive attitude towards disability. Clare was born with a neuromuscular condition which meant that she required a lot of support as a child. She was, however, born into a loving family who did not view her condition as simply being an inconvenience. 

A playful upbringing

Clare grew up with two brothers and a sister and the siblings had something of a playful relationship. 

“They used to hide me in the house. Fold me up into cupboards, or drawers, or wardrobes. And when my mum wasn’t looking, hide me, so my mum will go around the house looking for me and not be able to find me… it was all a game between us.”

Clare also describes how her siblings ensured that she was able to partake in fun, physical activities despite her neuromuscular condition.

 “They used to put me on a bobsleigh, and hold on to me so that I could be out in the snow like everybody else, or put me on a bouncy castle, because I can’t actually move myself. Everyone would bounce around me, so that I would bounce. They would always find innovative ways of actually making me part of what was going on.”

A positive attitude towards disability

The way that Clare’s siblings so completely involved her in their activities was no doubt influenced by the attitude of their mother. Even though Clare had a potentially life-limiting disability, Clare’s mother insisted that Clare was no different to anyone else and that she should be treated in the same way as her brothers and sister. This was Clare’s first exposure to a positive attitude towards disability.

One example of this equal treatment was that Clare was given chores to do around the house. She was also told from a young age that she was going to work. “She was always very determined. And I think that’s where I get my determination from as well.”


Unfortunately, not everyone had a positive attitude toward disability. Right from when she was born, her neuromuscular condition was diagnosed as being life-limiting. In fact, Clare’s mother was told that her child would not live beyond 18 months. When Clare began to go to school, the attitudes towards her disability were particularly negative. 

Due to the lack of opportunities for disabled people at the time, it was deemed appropriate for her to focus only on arts and crafts. Clare reacted to this with inner derision. “ I was laughing, because I was thinking, I’m not gonna do that. I don’t know what she’s on about, she doesn’t know me.”

Deprived of a voice

But the negative attitudes toward disability continued to be expressed at school. In the mid-’80s, when Clare was 11 years old, a meeting was held between the headteacher and her parents. Clare was present but was not invited to speak. Clare’s parents were told that there was no point in their daughter pursuing any academic or vocational qualifications as there would be no space for her in the workplace. Instead, the headteacher said it would be better for Clare to be kept busy as a space was found for her in residential care.

In spite of not being invited to participate, Clare had strong feelings about what was being said. The meeting was taking place in the room which was used to deliver typing classes. 

As Clare looked around and saw all the typewriters surrounding her, she thought “I’d love to have a go at typing.” However, Clare was not given a single opportunity to express her perceptions or wishes regarding her own future.

An inspirational visit from persons with disabilities

Although Clare describes feeling “bleak” about the nature of the meeting, she knew she could always rely on the support of her mother. At the age of 13, she was also inspired by a school visit from a man and a woman who were in wheelchairs. 

They told the story of how they had both been placed in residential care. In care, they had met each other and fallen in love. They then decided that they wanted to set up a home by themselves and had had to fight the system in order to achieve this. They had won and were now living independently.

 “That just changed my life for me, because I actually thought there’s another alternative.”

Clare was at a Special Education School at the time and she was used to being spoken to by professionals and medical people. But very seldom would persons with disabilities be invited to speak. Seeing that these two people had been able to live independently gave Clare hope for her own future.

Entering the world of work

Rejecting the advice of her ex-headteacher, Clare went to college and did work experience at her local council. At the age of 18, she interviewed for a job at the local electricity board. The interview was scheduled to last 20 minutes. About 1 and a half hours later, Clare emerged from the building knowing that she would be offered the job. Sure enough, she was and she became one of the few disabled people to overcome the barriers to participation.

Clare describes how she is still in contact with a number of the people she worked with at the electricity board. They tell her how she has helped to create a positive attitude towards disability simply through her example. 

Working with the Shaw Trust

Clare now works at the Shaw Trust, a charitable organisation. They support people who have complex needs to get into the workplace. She began as a development officer before beginning to work on the Disability Power 100, a list which the Shaw Trust puts together to help foster a positive attitude towards disability.

Clare describes the list as “about profiling, and telling the stories, shining a light on disabled people that are influential in all different sectors. Through their successes, they are opening doors for other young disabled people. Especially those who are extremely talented, to be able to fulfil their ambitions and their aspirations for the future.”

Inspiring change

Clare has herself been described as an inspiration. She doesn’t like the low expectations that are often placed on people with disabilities. 

However “if you’re an inspiration to make people change, and to change their attitudes, to change their thoughts about disability…. I’m okay with that. Because it makes me feel that I’ve done good. I’ve done well for other people.”

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.