Marxism 4: Sunday

My account of the Sunday at Marxism 2016.


Welcome to my fourth post about Marxism 2016 (see here, here and here), focussing on Sunday. Like the previous post, this one will be formatted slightly differently from my usual Marxism posts, again because I wish to focus on two particular meetings.


It being Sunday I was even more generous than usual in allowing for transport problems. In keeping with Sutcliffe’s Second Law of Travelling by Public Transport I therefore had my best journey of the week.


A sculpture outside Euston station.


A neoclassical folly, Euston Road

To help explain both my schedule for the day and the rest of this post here is the timetable for Sunday, with my choices marked…


What I am going to do now is write briefly about meetings 1,2 and 5 before covering the two disability meetings in a bit more detail.


My first meeting, Kate Hurford on White supremacy and the creation of “race” – where does racism come from? took place in Clarke Hall, which is on level three of the institute. The speaker was not well but still managed to deliver a very good introduction after which there was a lively debate.

For the second meeting I had chosen Shahrar Ali on How left is green politics? Although I am grateful that both he and Natalie Bennett were speaking at this event, and regret that a timetable clash prevented me from hearing Natalie speak I felt that there were important questions not dealt with, such as the roles of greens in office in various parts of the world (like the Aussie green party doing deals with the Liberal National Party, that country’s equivalent of the Tories). However, this caveat aside I enjoyed this meeting, and have no regrets about attending.

I will be covering meetings 3 and 4 in the next section. Meeting 5, for which I had chosen religion was an interesting meeting.


Kate Hurford and the chair just before the start of their meeting


Shahrar Ali and the chair of his meeting.
Anna Gluckstein (right as you look) and the chair of her meeting on religion.


Both of these two meetings, the first a panel meeting and the second the official launch of Roddy Slorach’s book “A Very Capitalist Condition” were excellent and in their different ways inspiring.

The first meeting started with a number of speakers talking about what they are doing, and about various campaigns before then being opened up for discussion.

Roddy’s meeting (we have previously shared a platform at a public meeting in Norwich) began with him introducing ideas that are contained within his book, which I have since read and enjoyed.

I suffered a double frustration because I had carefully planned contributions for both meetings (there are as yet no meetings at Marxism focussing specifically on autism, although this year the Silberman book was on display – if anyone involved in the organisation the event is reading this please take this as a hint) and did not get to make either although I indicated clearly on both occasions.


I had planned two different but linked contributions, each tailored to the specific meeting in question. For the first meeting, which focussed exclusively on campaigns My contribution would have covered the following:

  • A full introduction mentioning my role at NAS West Norfolk and the fact that I am #actuallyautistic and giving details of this blog
  • A skate through some of NAS West Norfolk’s activities including a brief mention of the Positive Autism Awareness Conference and the upcoming launch of adult activities and the inaugural Autism Awareness Cup.
  • Finishing with an account of the campaign around the Fermoy unit and our role in it, emphasisng that the Fermoy remains open.

For Roddy’s meeting I would again have given a full introduction before going on to cover:

  • The envisaged but not yet fully realized sequence of: Awareness – Understanding – Acceptance.
  • Emphasised that autism is a condition not a disorder – it is not a malfunctiion, it is a different operating system .
  • Might have produced the line ‘nothing about us without us’
  • Planned to finish by emphasising that different is not a synonym for lesser.

I finish this section by re-emphasising that these were two excellent meetings.


I stayed fairly late after the end of the final meeting, and was delighted to make the acquaintance of several people involved in disability activism during this period.


Positive Autism Awareness Conference

An account of the Positive Autism Awareness Conference staged by NAS West Norfolk yesterday at the Duke’s Head Hotel, King’s Lynn. Read, enjoy and please share.


Yesterday NAS West Norfolk held a Positive Autism Awareness Conference at the Duke’s Head Hotel in King’s Lynn, and this post,which will be a major one is all about that event.

The Dukes Head, where the Positive Autism Awareness Conference took place on April 15th. This photo was constrained by the presence of the Mart. After a fortnight in Lynn, the Mart splits in to two to go to various other places around the country – but it is only in Lynn that you get to see everything.


Some us went to the venue on Thursday evening to do a some preliminary setup work to reduce the amount that needed to be done on the day itself. Here are a few photos from that…


Adjoining my photographic stand the other stand I would be covering on the day – the NAS stand


My photographic stand – with a blank space for the laptop



Those of use involved in organizing the event were required to be there by 8AM so that we were ready when the guests started arriving. I arrived bright and early (given that the venue is a five minute walk from my flat so I jolly well should have done!), and got my stall up and running. Here are some photos from before the event started…

A close ups from the NAS stalll


An excellent acrostic


The Speads stall – the young woman running the stall goes by the name of Carly


Musical Keys


The seating area, already looking satisfactorily full.


Almost ready to start.
Lynda Niles preparing to give the first talk of the day.
My NAS West Norfolk lanyard.


Indefatigable branch chair Karan McKerrow opened the event and explained that the day was about being positive about autism and autistic people, mentioning both myself and Callum and what we were going to be doing during the day. Then it was time for Lynda Niles’ talk. At that stage we were operating without amplification, and I was stood at the back, but I still heard every word that Lynda said. Lynda’s talk was accompanied by slides, which show you what she covered…



One of the things we had at this event was a ‘dark den’ with a beanbag inside as the floor was quite hard. The den itself survived unscathed, but the beanbag was a different story…

That is now an ex-beanbag!


Callum Brazzo, the other of two autistic adults to be on the committee of NAS West Norfolk, recited a poem he had created about autism as the next feature of the conference. I am unable to remember the exact words, but it was a splendid performance, and I sure that if you email Callum he can supply the words (perhaps you could post them in the comments section as well, Callum). Meanwhile, here he is in action…



Clinical psychologist Dr Mel Bruce and a commissioner named Sharon shared the next session, but before I move on to that, Mel has learned some excellent rules for making sessions autism friendly, and here they are…


Mel Bruce Autism Friendly Guidelines
This shows all off the ‘rules diagrams’ in one picture – a composite of the other two pictures.


We had a working microphone by this point, which Mel and Sharon shared, taking it in turns to speak. They introduced the ‘bucket model’ for anxiety of which much more later, talked about their respective jobs and about quite a few other things.

Sharon speaking, with Mel standing next to her.


Karan had organised food for us, which turned out to be excellent, and thus fortified we were ready for the afternoon session, which opened with the undoubted star speaker of the event…


Anna had arrived during lunch and expressed her admiration for my photos. Anna talked about her experiences bringing up two autistic children, going on People’s Strictly (partnered with Robin Windsor) and launching Autism’s Got Talent (and successfully facing down Mr Cowell over that suffix!). Her talk was thoroughly inspiring.


Anna’s talk was followed by a short break, during which I took this picture…

My photographic stall, The NAS stall and Karan’s younger son Ciaran (I took this picture at Karan’s specific request)


The last session of the day was another joint effort, by Holly and Michelle,two of Mel’s colleagues at Starfish Plus. Their presentation went into more detail about the ‘bucket model’, and was an excellent way to bring down the curtain on the event…



My photographic stall was very successful. The event itself was a massive success. Not counting us committee members 145 people packed out the venue, every session was interesting and informative  and the stalls were all fantastic.

Sport and Spring Weather

Cricket, golf and a walk – features lots of pictures.


The county cricket season is underway, and just after midnight our time the first golf major of the year was decided. Additionally the weather today is so pleasant that for the first time in 2016 I am using my ‘outside study area’…



Reaching the point at which Jack Nicklaus among others has said majors really begin – namely the back nine on Sunday, this years US Masters was looking like Jordan Spieth was going to comfortably retain his title, but then he hit trouble, first in small way with bogeys at 10 and 11 (both very difficult holes) and then in a huge way at the 12th. At this tiny but fearsome par 3 Spieth put two balls in the water, clocking up a quadruple bogey 7 and losing the lead for about the first time of the tournament. England’s Danny Willett recorded a 67 to get to the club house at five under for the tournament, and Spieth reached the 17th needing a birdie, birdie finish to tie (barring miracles neither hole offers any chance of an eagle). A bogey at 17 and it was all over, and Willett, the previously unknown Englishman was the champion. The 18th at Augusta is a long par-four, not remotely drivable, and in any case the longest distance from which anyone has holed out to win a tournament is 176 yards by Robert Gamez (the victim of this freak, not for the first or last time in his career was Greg Norman).


Before the cricket started today (day 2 of 4, Nottinghamshire having peen put in by Surrey had run up 445, Surrey had survived two overs without incident) I headed off for a walk.  I was barely started when the first photo presented itself…


The riverside stretch to Hardings Pits yielded some cracking pics, a good few featuring cormorants…

The parkland stretch of the walk yielded two different types of train and several birds…

The walk back into town, following Bawsey Drain, yielded a wide variety of shots…


Having conceded almost 450 by poor bowling, Surrey are now struggling with the bat, at 149-5. Elsewhere, Durham and Somerset are enjoying a low-scoring tussle, while Ben Duckett of Northamptonshire has relieved the Sussex bowlers of 254 (and counting – he’s still there). I shall be doing some prep for my photographic display at the Positive Autism Awareness Conference this Friday once I have published this, which ends with this picture…


Many Things

Some pictures, a mention of a DPAC public meeting in Norwich, some stuff about the London Mayoral Elections, and some autism related stuff.


I have many things to cover in this post and some photographs to share.


The first few pictures I shall be sharing are from earlier in the week, but yesterday morning, with Saturday being treated as Sunday because my mother is travelling to Tonbridge today for an 11-week return to teaching, I went for a walk before going to my aunt’s for the journey to East Rudham, and that is where the rest of the pics in this section com from.


DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) are holding a public meeting in Norwich on Thursday 21st April. I shall definitely be attending. A jpg of their official poster for this meeting is below:

DPAC Poster


A few things caught my eye while at my parents house for lunch, and here are some pictures from there…


Although it is nearly 17 years since I last called the city home, I have been keeping an eye on the London Mayoral Elections (after all, the fact that I run a London transport themed website is evidence that I still retain some interest in the place), and there have been several interesting developments. The full list of candidates looks like this:

London Mayoral Elections List

Of these, seven have done nothing  to merit being taken seriously, namely David Furness, George Galloway, Paul Golding, Lee Harris, Ankit Love, Sophie Walker and Prince Zylinski. Of these seven, I would hope that Furness and Golding finish at the bottom of the heap, and a severe kicking for Mr Galloway would be no bad thing either. Now to move on to the big five:


Peter Whittle is as despicable as one would expect a UKIP candidate to be. Caroline Pidgeon has some good ideas but is standing for a party whose credibility is utterly shot after a disastrous five years in cahoots with the Tories. Sadiq Khan, the bookies favourite, also has some good ideas, and a win for him would be a good result. Sian Berry has run by far the best campaign to date, and has lots of good ideas. To borrow some terminology from the great bridge player and writer of the distant past S J Simon, a win for Sian Berry would be the best possible result for this election, while a win for Sadiq Khan would be in the category of a best result possible. I have left to the last Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative Party candidate. He and has team have run a despicable, divisive, negative campaign and deserve to have a disastrous result. I have two links relating to Mr Goldsmith’s failings:

My first is to a New Statesman piece in which a long-standing Conservative Party activist gives a crushing analysis of everything that is wrong about the Goldsmith campaign. The other link is to a Huffington Post piece regarding a spectacularly inadequate performance by Mr Goldsmith when quizzed about the city of which he wants to be mayor. Goldsmith achieved a risible 5 out of 9. When I took the similar quiz that Huffington Post produced to for  people to measure their own performance I managed 8 out of 9, with the one question I got wrong being about a TV program set in London that  have never watched. Those who follow the link and take the quiz are welcome to comment on their own scores.


This Friday, April 15th, is the day of NAS West Norfolk’s Positive Autism Awareness Conference, at which I shall be presenting a photographic display. Thursday April 21st as already mentioned is when the DPAC public meeting in Norwich takes place. Wednesday April 27th is James and Sons April auction, for which a full catalogue can be viewed online. On Saturday April 30th I will be attending a training session at the National Autistic Society’s London HQ. This is base closed to Angel station, and therefore within walking distance of King’s Cross, as the map with which I finish this post demonstrates.



All the Bs (And a Follow Up on Autism Awareness Day)

A follow up to my Autism Awareness post, combined with some new photographs.


The first part of my title refers to the fact that as well as birds I have a bee and some butterflies among my camera captures for the day, while the second refers to the fact that today is Autism Awareness Day and gives a nod in this direction.


I have some infographics spotted on the internet to share with you and a few links including an important petition. I will start with the petition, launched on by my friend and fellow NAS West Norfolk committee member Callum Brazzo calling for greater representation of non-verbal autistics on TV and in Employment. Please follow this link to sign and share the petition, and let’s build it big!

My next link is to a splendid article posted on which tallies very closely with my own views on autism.

Now to a link and an infographic. The link is to the website of the wonderful Anna Kennedy OBE (who will be at our Positive Autism Awareness Conference on April 15th) and the infographic is her Autism Awareness infographic:


Another link and infographic pairing, this time to the National Autistic Society’s TMI campaign, raising awareness of sensory issues:


The bright light at the south-eastern corner of The Wash is me putting myself on this map.

My remaining infographics come without links, and I present them in pairs, first these two general ones:

I finish this section with two warning infographics for our American friends about an organisation who are widely condemned in the autistic community:


In reverse alphabetical order, I start with some butterfly pictures…

Now we have the bee (yay!)…

Now for the rest of my pictures, which mainly feature the other B I mentioned, birds…


Gaywood & The Rookery

An account of a walk that took in Gaywood & The Rookery. Also some mentions of autism related matters to top and tail the post.


Those of you who read my post on Wednesday about preparing for the Positive Autism Awareness Conference that NAS West Norfolk are having on April 15th will recall that I noted the entrance sign to Gaywood & The Rookery. Today I got back there for a proper look…


I followed the same route as I had on Wednesday, but this time with no time constraints. I caught a glimpse of a Muntjac (thank you Helen for the ID) but this one proved too elusive for me to photograph, although I did see a few things worth photographing…


I ventured in, and was delighted by the place. I will let the photos tell the story of this amazing little piece of woodland that is within walking distance of the centre of Norfolk’s third largest town…



I had left Gaywood & The Rookery by a different path from the one I entered it by, and now headed home by a different route, save for a very short stretch of path to the bridge over the railway, and thence through the Hardwick Estate, and ultimately on this occasion back to the town centre by way of the river (I could also have gone by way of the cemetery and the parklands).


A bit disconnected from the rest of this post I know, but I have an infographic to share to remind everyone that April 2nd – 8th 2016 is World Autism Awareness Week (courtesy of


Preparations for the Positive Autism Awareness Conference

Preparations for the Positive Autism Awareness Conference and a post-lunch walk, therefore lots of photos.


Although the Positive Autism Awareness Conference that we at NAS West Norfolk are holding on April 16th at the Duke’s Head Hotel, King’s Lynn on April 15th is at the heart of this piece there are also lots of new photographs for me to share.


Today there was a meeting at the home of NAS West Norfolk branch chair Karan McKerrow to assemble ‘goodie bags’ for the event. As she lives out in the country and not on a regular bus route, this meant arranging a pick up for me, so my first task was to get to Churchill Park School to meet the person who would be giving me a lift. Thus before anything else I have to say a…


I was almost twenty minutes late at the meeting place because I walked and made the mistake of not sticking to a route that I knew, and lost my way at one point. I had left myself an hour in which to make the journey, which should have been ample but for the mishap. Also, although I can supposedly connect to facebook and my phone I tried twice and was unable to do so, so could not communicate my whereabouts (I had no contact numbers with me either). The confession out of the way I can now attend to the rest of…


I set off exactly when I had intended to, headed for the parkland, following roughly the line of St John’s Walk, taking these photos in the early stages…

At this point I was close to the Tennyson Road level crossing, which was in the process of closing, so I walked to the barrier and waited. The train was goods train, and worth a few more pics…

Immediately after this, at the point at which I made my first wrong move (the path forks, and one direction leads through to KES and the main road, which would have been safe but dull, the other heads in the direction of the hospital – closer to my goal, and a more interesting route) I saw something very unexpected given the proximity of a main road and the even closer proximity of the railway tracks – a brace of deer.

Both deer in one shot


The incipipent antlers possessed by this one combined the face confirm that it is a species of deer.


I have shown these as individual images rather than a tiled mosaic in the hope that someone can identify the species of deer (anyone there at whyevolutionistrue?).

Now we come to the point at which things went pear-shaped, near this sign…


I decided not to venture in to the woodland (ironically I would probably have saved time by doing so), but chose the wrong path, and it was in this section of the walk that I ran irretrievably late. By the time I located Gayton Road (by way of Gaywood Hall Drive) I was already ten minutes late, and as previously mentioned, could not log on to facebook. It was another ten minutes rapid walking before I arrived at the head of Winston Churchill Drive, and was spotted by the people picking me up.


We had 100 Autism Awareness event packs from NAS HQ, which was not sufficient as we had sold 120 tickets for the event (and had a significant waiting list) an also wanted the people who would be running stalls to have packs. In addition to these the bags (thick brown paper with comfortable but robust handles) were to contain a balloon, a pen, various stand alone leaflets and an NAS flag (placed flag end up so a wide flag rather than a narrow stick pointed out of the bag).

In addition to this activity various timings were confirmed (some setup will be done the night before the event, and everyone who has a stand and/or will be involved in running the event will be expected to arrive for doors opening at 8AM, so that there is no overlap between us setting up for the day and people arriving for the event from about 8:45AM onwards (starts at 9AM).

Before we got started on assembling the ‘goodie bags’ I spotted a couple of interesting cushions…


Very uneventful fortunately. One of the group planned to visit her mother-in-law who lives not that far from my place, so I got a lift as far as Loke Road and had a walk of under 15 minutes to get home. After lunch, the weather remaining bright and sunny I decided it  would be foolish to remain in the flat and took myself out for…


Since the river was one place I had not been in the morning I started by heading to the point at which the Purfleet meets the river.

From South Quay I headed past old Boal Quay to the Nar Outfall, and the structure I have dubbed Cormorant platform. Today there was only one cormorant about.

I made my way home by way of the parkland, enhancing my stock of moorhen pictures along the way.

About Autism

Various bits of autism related stuff, including an account of a talk by Mel Bruce for NAS West Norfolk, and some photographs.


Last night I attended a talk given by Dr Mel Bruce, a clinical psychologist at Starfish Plus. There are also a few other things I will be covering in this post.


The talk was scheduled to run from 7-9PM, and I was required to be there (the scout hut on Beulah Street, as so often for NAS West Norfolk events) early to help with the setup. Mel opened proceedings with a brief account of what she and her team do, and who they work with, before taking questions from the floor. One of the things Mel mentioned when talking about communication was the use of a system of communication cards, which would work rather as the coloured badges at AutismCon did – in that case red was for “don’t talk to me unless it is an emergency”, yellow for “don’t initiate conversations but you can respond if I talk to you” and green for “I am happy to talk”, with freedom to change according to how you are feeling at any given moment (I selected a green badge and stuck with it the whole day as it happens). A great quote which showed how involved she is with the autistic community “Don’t do anything about us without us”. Another excellent point she made was about referring to special interests rather than obsessions.

Although this talk did not deal with issues that relate directly to me, because it was aimed at parents of autistic children, and therefore I maintained a purely listening brief, I enjoyed the evening, and am looking forward to meeting Mel again at the Positive Autism Awareness Conference NAS West Norfolk are holding at the Duke’s Head Hotel, King’s Lynn on April 15th. Meantime, we have connected on twitter.

Clinical psychologist Mel Bruce introducing the session
A decent turnout for the event.
the first of four shots featuring posters.



Just a brief mention of the fact that following a very unsatisfactory response by Sir Henry Bellingham on the subject of the cut to ESA, in which he claimed to be talking to lots of local groups moves are afoot to organize a meeting between ourselves and him. Further information about his record as an MP can be found here (warning – it makes grim reading).


This section is here because it was recently brought to my attention that there are still problems with doctors being unwilling to diagnose autistic spectrum conditions (ASC for short) and in some cases unwilling to refer people for diagnosis. In the nine and a half years since I was diagnosed (25 years  later than I should have been but that is another story) my life has improved hugely in all sorts of ways.

My message to doctors faced with people seeking a diagnosis of an autistic spectrum is this: if you feel unable to do this yourself, then refer the patient to someone who can. To point blank refuse even to refer someone is unacceptable and indefensible.


The National Autistic Society are running a Public Awareness Campaign, to which I am pleased to say I have been able to contribute. In answering the questions I was sent as part of this I referred on many occasions to things that happened before I was diagnosed, precisely because (see above), things have been so much better since I was diagnosed.


Yes – a good news story to end the text section of this post. Kayleb Moon-Robinson, a 6th  grade student with autism, was facing life with a conviction for a felony offence. Following a prolonged campaign, all charges against him have been dismissed. More details are available as follows:

New build in keeping with its surroundings
I would have started work on this ghastly, out of place building with a wrecking ball, but I am glad to see that something is being done.




Change point – this is the last of the daytime photos – others were taken on the way to the Mel Bruce talk.


Book Review: The Burning Man

A review of a book in a new find of mine, the Bryant & May series, with a few other bits.


Although the book review is the principal focus of this piece there are a few other bits that I will be sharing afterwards.


Those of you who follow my London transport themed website may recall that I posted a review of a book called Off The Rails which featured a team of oddballs collectively known as the Peculiar Crimes Unit (officially the Peculiar part of the title referred to the crimes being investigated as opposed to the investigators but one might think otherwise).

Since reading that book I have taken every opportunity to deepen my acquaintance with Arthur Bryant, John May and their team of oddballs, and The Burning Man is just one of a number of their adventures that I have recently read.

The story in this book features riots provoked in part by misbehaving bankers being used as a cover for a series of murders all of which involve the use of fire. The story has many twists and turns. There are also various subplots, principally the antagonism between the PCU and Superintendent Darren “Missing” Link.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as I have every book I have encountered in this series, and heartily recommend it. It is in that spirit that the following is offered (and I hope will be accepted)…


To set the stage, here is a photograph of the paragraph on page 144 that gave rise to the quibble:


How many of you can guess without reading on where my quibble arises?

If you guessed that it was the sentence “He worked with some crazy people, borderline-autistic tech-heads who were likely to turn up at the front door, find no-one home and climb through a window.” score yourself 10 out of 10.

The phrase borderline-autistic is meaningless given that autism is a spectrum condition, and the usage of such a phrase is indicative of what Richard Dawkins terms “the tyranny of the discontinuous mind”. I also take umbrage at the notion of an autistic person responding to finding no one at home by climbing through a window. Finally, as an autistic person who is skilled in the use of computers I still object to the conflation of autism and tech-headedness – while the two traits can go together they do not always do so. Finally, I find the entire sentence lazily reinforces damaging stereotypes about autistic people. To finish this section, although in one sense every post on this blog has an automatic connection to autism, you can find more posts in which I specifically deal with autism here.

In spite of my quibble with a paragraph on page 144 I thoroughly recommend this book.


The new information office at King’s Lynn bus station is a treasure trove. My latest find focuses specifically on West Norfolk…


I make no comment as yet on this scheme, which is still at a preliminary stage, just reproducing it in full…


NAS West Norfolk are holding a Positive Autism Awareness Conference at the Duke’s Head Hotel on Friday 15th April. One feature of this conference will be a photographic display by yours truly. I have mentioned this in a number of previous posts.


AutismCon – A Festival of the Mind

This an account of my day at AutismCon. It also includes pictures of every page of the program for that event, and brief snippets about my journeys each way.


Yesterday  was the day of AutismCon, an event organised under the aegis of the National Autistic Society (NAS). The actual organizing of the event was done by a committee of five, The AutismCon Committee, while the NAS’s Senior Events Officer Elly sent out emails to everyone who booked in advance so we all knew what to expect.


With the registration desk opening at 10 o’clock, I decided to get the train that leaves King’s Lynn just before 8AM. Not knowing for sure how long the ticket purchase would take I left my flat at 7:15AM to eliminate any chance of mishap (therefore, in accordance with Sutcliffe’s First Law of Travelling by Public Transport, there were no problems and I was seated on the train nearly half an hour before it was due to depart), having had time to photograph a 2016 London Underground map on the platform.


Apart from the fact that a mob of Spurs fans chose to sit in the same area where I was already seated and maintained a constant racket all the way to Cambridge, where thankfully they changed trains in preference to travelling into London and out again (I should point out this train departed on schedule at 7:54AM and several of this group had already cracked open lagers by then), the journey was thankfully uneventful.

Even fairly early on a Saturday morning King’s Cross was quite busy, so I was thankful that with the event being at Friends House I had only to head for the Euston Road and walk straight along it. This sculpture just outside the station is a new addition since my last trip to London…


Having covered the journey down, it is now time for the main course…


Registration took a little time, after which I consulted my program. To set the scene for the rest of the day, here is a close up of the schedule…


As you will find out later, I made one change to the plan indicated here. Having shown a close-up of the schedule, here is the entire program for your attention…

I took my seat in Light (the big room, now somewhat smaller in terms of seating area than it once was, but still with a massive capacity) for the introductory session. The biggest change since I was last there however is to the ceiling/ roof structure, from which the name derives..


The whole event was shunted back fifteen minutes due to the failings of British public transport (not enough people had been able to get to the event for the scheduled start time). The main purpose of the introductory session was to provide a few explanations about where things were. Also, due to the severe sensory issues of some of those in attendance, applause was very firmly banned (the alternative, already standard in international sign langiuage, is ‘jazz hands’).


My first session was in the “Do” stream, taking place in the Bloomsbury Suite and was titled ‘Survey room’. There was one written and one pictorial survey per person and one could choose either or both (I chose both, and attached my details to the written survey to enable further contact to be made should the NAS wish to). Once we had had time to complete the survey there was a discussion session which was very constructive, and then the session ended.


For me, it was back to Light for sessions two, which featured Labour MP  for Bermondsey & Old Southwark Neil Coyle and Conservative Councillor Claire-Louise Leyland.

Neil Coyle MP introduces the “Quiz an MP” session, with Claire-Louise Leyland sat next to the podium.


This was a very lively session, with many people from the audience using the question and answer part of it to express their hostility to the Tories (though nothing personal was aimed at Councillor Leyland, who after all had had the decency to show up for what she must have known what would be a tough session). As for why there was so much hostility to the Tories in that room, one general and two specific points can sum it up:

  • As Neil Coyle pointed out, in 2010 the UK was the international leader on disability equality whereas in 2015 the UK became the first country to be investigated by the UN for its treatment of disabled people.
  • The Tories introduced the bedroom tax.
  • The Tories have also just passed a  cut to ESA for the third time, ignoring concerns from the Lords for a second time.

After the end of this session there was an hour’s break for lunch. I looked in at the Arts and Crafts session which I had initially intended going to but decided instead to head back to Light for the session on….


This session was opened with speeches from Keran Bunker (an autistic gay man) and Marilyn Misandry (an autistic femme queer person talking about autism and drag) before being opened up to the floor…


One point that came up several times from the floor was that autistic people who wish to transition find their autism used as an excuse to deny them this wish. This provoked an attempted response from someone who works in a gender reassignment clinic, but he was quite rightly shut down by the chair – this was a day for autistic people and he had no right to attempt to over-ride their lived experiences with his comments. At the end of this session I stayed seated because the next session I was attending was also in his room, being the one session that felt I absolutely could not miss…


This session featured John Wilson, a former solicitor diagnosed with autism at the age of 50 (I met someone during the first session who was undiagnosed until the age of 61) and Kerry Bover, who has worked part-time at Clarks for 14 years and who also runs AutismCo.


There were many stories both good and bad told during this session. It was here that I heard about the restaurant owner who when faced with a group of customers who asked not to be served by an autistic waiter not only upheld the law of the land (it was John, the trained lawyer, who brought up this story, and his opinion as regards the law the I am using) by refusing to accede to this request and supporting his employee (just substitute ‘black’ for ‘autistic’ in the request by these customers to make the appallingness of their behaviour unmissably obvious) but then subsequently put up a facebook post instructing anyone whose attitudes were like those of this group of customers not to book places at his restaurant as if they made that request he would kick them out.

For music lovers there was to be a live performance from autistic singer/ songwriter Lauren Lovejoy (apparently she was a massive hit on X-Factor in 2013) immediately after the end of this session, but for me the end of the session was also the end of the event.


I think that the boldness and organisational skills needed to get 600 autistic adults together in one place should be complimented. Overall, the late start not withstanding, the event was superbly run. I for one thoroughly enjoyed the day and look forward to next year’s event.


The train back to King’s Lynn left platform 1 of Kings Cross at 17:44 (not the lowest numbered – in true thermodynamic style Kings Cross has a platform 0, which I arrived at this morning). Platform 1 has a very fine clock…


Having walked the length of the platform (the train splits at Cambridge, most of it terminating there while the front four coaches go on to Lynn) I took my seat for what was thankfully both a quiet and an uneventful journey back to Lynn. It was some twelve-and a half hours after leaving the flat that I arrived home.


On April 15th NAS West Norfolk are holding a Positive Autism Awareness Conference at the Duke’s Head Hotel, King’s Lynn, for which we are sold out! After the experience of AutismCon in London I am even more enthused about this event at which I shall be displaying some of my photographs.