My name is Alannah Murray, and I met Martin almost to this day (2 April 2017) a year ago.
While I’ve been disabled since I was 6 by an auto immune disease not uncommon to Lupus, I had no contact with the disabled community really. I went to a mainstream school, had a regular upbringing with minimal contact with the medical model of living that others have been faced with. I’ve been in and out of hospital for fifteen years or so but that was the main extent of it.
I decided to study film in college, mainly because I didn’t know what else to do and because I thought it would be easy (spoiler alert: it isn’t) and because I feel like film is a very powerful medium when it comes to telling stories and putting them out there to the wider community. They had great supports where I went to college, and any apprehension on whether I’d excel despite my disability were erased. I had an incredibly helpful PA, which wouldn’t have been afforded to me were it not the work of predecessors.
When I got to my second year of college, I had a documentary module where I had to make a documentary on a topic of my choice. Not one to let an excuse to use the hand I was dealt to my advantage, I pitched a documentary about how disability is represented in the media. The lecturer thought it was a great idea, so off I went to research. I looked at the usual media portrayals, and then I looked at an article about Inside I’m Dancing, and who it was based on: Martin Naughton. So I googled around, found an email address, and sent it off asking him for an interview for the doc. While I didn’t get the interview I was after, what I did get was an invitation to a gathering in Swords to watch a discussion about the UNCRPD (a collection of letters I had no clue about until that day).
What I got in Swords was an introduction, a breakneck one, into a world I knew nothing about but that I felt like an immediate part of. I got to watch Martin talk about disabled rights with such power, such conviction, I was happy to jump head first into the world of activism. Using the information I’d gathered that night and using the contacts I’d made, I went ahead with the documentary.
I was lucky enough to have country wide success with it. People engaged with the stories, and I had the joy of seeing people like myself on screen for the first time in a positive light. Where I wasn’t a disability, where I wasn’t a burden; where I was a film maker, and transcendent of my disability.
The week before our first festival premiere, I got the chance to go to the Disability Summer School in Galway to watch people from all over the world talk about their experiences. I had the chance to interview Judith Heumann, and once again listen to Martin Naughton talk so passionately about a topic he held so dear.
I’m forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me, and the briefest encounters I had with Martin over those two experiences. It changed me more than I got the chance to tell him.