Sally Phillips: “My son has Down’s syndrome – but I wouldn’t want to live in a world without it.” On her own documentary on the subject on BBC TWO on Wednesday night she told us why. It was compelling viewing.
It was funny, it was humane and one felt that if the whole question of the value of human lives in this world might be approached in this spirit we might all be in a much better place.
This report by Elizabeth Day, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the day of the screening, gives a flavour of the tone and character of the programme. Day told us:
The programme examines the issues around Down’s Syndrome with intellectual rigour but is also extremely moving, largely because of Phillips herself who made the decision to include Olly in the film. He emerges as a chatty, engaging and kind little boy who often has his younger siblings, Luke, nine, and Tom, four, in hysterics.
People aren’t fascinated by the things people with Down’s Syndrome can do better, which are: relate to people, be funny, be comfortable in their own bodies
When she told her younger children their older brother had Down’s Syndrome, Luke responded, ‘and have I got Up Syndrome?’, says Phillips.
‘And then to Tom, I said, “You have to understand, sometimes Olly doesn’t understand and he gets angry.” And Tom said, “What, like Dad?”’
After the initial teary conversation in the hospital, she was expecting tragedy. Instead, she got comedy.
‘I suppose I always like absurd scenarios,’ she acknowledges. ‘I just started noticing that it was funny… So, for example, when Olly ran away wearing a Leo Sayer wigand outsized sunglasses in the shape of stars and you’re chasing him down the road barefoot, it’s: “Ok, this isn’t that different from work.”…I mean, he’s got great comic timing. He’s naturally incredibly funny. Always has been.’
Of course, Phillips and her husband were often intenselystressed or in denial during those first five years. Of course, it took a period of adjustment.
Naturally, it wasn’texactly what they had expected parenthood to be, and sometimes it required help from live-in nannies and grandparents (something which Phillips admits she is lucky to be able to afford). But, in other ways, it was better.
This was the report on MercatorNet following the screening.
For the wider world to have access to this wonderful programme we will have to wait for boradcasting organisations around the globe to sort out the rights agreements which currently deprive us of so much valuable broadcast material – and there isn’t much that is more valuable than this. YouTube to the rescue?