One of the recurring themes of my life, seems to be that I end up doing things I never dreamed I would. Becoming a mega New Zealand super star of the small screen is a classic example. Well, that’s possibly a little over the top, but fronting a programme on TV was never on my ‘to do’ list. Robyn Scott-Vincent wrote an article about me in the late eighties, we kept in touch and in early 2004 she contacted me about a programme she was looking to pitch for. She came for a visit and I asked me old Curtis to join us, as he’d said he wanted to be a travel journalist. We talked about what we thought would make a great show about people living with disabilities. We felt it should be a magazine style show, have presenters with disabilities who would front the show and above all be fun. For me, success for the show would be when an able bodied person, with no link to the disability community, would turn on the TV, see our programme, be fascinated in whatever story we were showing, and want to watch the next episode. Robyn listened to us ramble on and at the end, she said, “I reckon the word ‘Attitude’ sums up what you’re saying”. We looked at each other and agreed whole heartedly. Attitude was born.
Later that year I was in Athens, busy with a little thing called the Paralympics, when I received a text from Robyn announcing “our pitch was successful”, whatever that meant. Only when I got home, did we talk and she explained her pitch for the Attitude show was successful. But there was a small catch. I needed to be involved as a ‘consultant’. Anyone who knows me, knows my general disability knowledge is poor and the language I use is often very inappropriate and not too PC.
Attitude Pictures was formed in 1992 by Robyn Scott Vincent, and was originally called RSVP Productions (based on her own initials). Robyn changed the company name to Attitude Pictures Ltd, "because it’s not all about one person, it’s about presenting the lives of others... and Attitude perfectly sums us up as a company".
A common theme in the company's catalogue of work is life for those on the margins of society; people who are differently able, or facing a significant challenge. Robyn’s eldest son Harrison, was born with learning difficulties, a scenario that sensitized her to the issues and discrimination faced by people with disabilities in their everyday lives. Her goal was to create a programme that would showcase the possibilities of those living with a disability and grow a team of people with lived experience of disability to produce and run it.
In the first year the programme was fronted Curtis, Nikki Sturrock and me. Other presenters over the years have included fellow-Paralympian Dan Buckingham, former restaurateur and wine buyer Tanya Black, Kristy Green and youth advocate Mark Berry. Both Dan and Tanya now have significant roles within the company, Dan being the General Manager and another Paralympian, Jai Waite, is the senior editor. The Attitude Group now has a team of 20 people in its Auckland office, five of whom live with disability. Robyn’s vision of having talented people with disabilities running the programme has come to fruition.
The Attitude Awards are the only national televised event celebrating the achievements of New Zealanders living with disabilities. The annual black-tie gala ceremony, held at a major Auckland venue, recognizes artists, athletes, employers, young people, and game-changers. Every year, post the event, there is an hour-long special Attitude episode, where you can find out who the winners are. I had the privilege of being a judge in the first year and have had the same role for all but one of the following years. Last year the Awards celebrated their tenth birthday. In a world full of tragedy, despair and injustice, these Awards stand out as a beacon of hope and a statement of what’s possible. It’s a must watch event or better still, an evening to attend you’ll never forget!