Britain’s Paralympic Greats – Margaret Maughan

Labour Party

Margaret Maughan has the impressive distinction of winning Britain’s first Paralympic Gold medal at the inaugural Paralympic Games in Rome 1960 in Archery. She went on to compete in four further Paralympic Games, winning a number of further medals.

It was in Malawi that Margaret first encountered archery, watching ‘an eccentric Englishman’ firing arrows from a bow on a lush, green golf course in 1959.  She had no idea at this point that she would be creating British history doing something very similar 12 months later.

Margaret had been working as a teacher in Nyasaland, now Malawi, the landlocked country in south-east Africa, when she was involved in a very serious car crash.  The Foreign Office transported her back to the UK for further treatment, where she was admitted into the Stoke Mandeville hospital, the spiritual home of the Paralympic movement, specialising in spinal injuries for injured soldiers from the Second World War.

Margaret started archery as part of a gym session with her physiotherapist.  She said that the “treatment was centred around being as active as you could possibly be.”

Speaking to Channel 4 in the build-up to this years Paralympic games in London, she discussed her journey to becoming Britain’s first gold medalists:

“When you first become paralysed you lose your balance, you can’t feel how you are sitting.  The archery was brilliant because it made you sit up straight in your wheelchair, you had to spread your arms out and strengthen your shoulders. I enjoyed it and I was quite good at it.  I started purely for rehabilitation. I was given a bow and arrows when I left hospital and returned to my family in Lancashire. I found an archery club in Preston and they were very kind to me, they never had a member in a wheelchair before. I did it more as a social thing to get to know people.”

“I didn’t realise I was going to Rome, but I got this letter inviting me to compete in archery and swimming, for which I was very bad at. But we had a go at everything in those days.  In the space of 12 months, I was doing archery in the hospital to winning gold in Rome. I didn’t think I had made history, I knew I had won the first British medal for the team. We won 25 golds in total that year with 70 participants.” 

Margaret won a further two Paralympic gold medals, along with two silvers, at the Tel Aviv (68), Heidelberg(72), Toronto (76) and Arnhem (80) Games in dartchery (a combination of darts and archery) as well as lawn bowls.

Margaret will be attending this summer’s games and will be an inspirational figure for all the young athletes competing for Team GB.

Channel 4 Unveils Coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games

Labour Party


When Channel 4 won the bid to host the London 2012 Paralympic Games I’m sure there were some who thought it a curious decision.

But yesterday I was invited to a briefing in which the channel outlined ambitious and exciting plans which boast the most extensive coverage of the Paralympic Games which has ever been broadcast in the UK.

The channel will have more than 150 hours of all day coverage and is investing significant resources into its coverage.

The sporting event is to be hosted by a team of experienced sports journalists including former Olympian Jonathan Edwards and broadcaster Kelly Cates.

In addition, half the presenters and reporters in the Channel 4 line-up will be disabled; this includes eight new faces that were drawn from a nationwide talent search. The team were discovered in 2010 when Channel 4 began its search for disabled talent. It committed £500,000 to the search with the aim to bring experienced coverage to a mainstream audience.

We were introduced to the new line up yesterday, and they were bursting with enthusiasm. But what also struck me was that they seemed to already have the experience and knowledge of many seasoned reporters who have been doing this for many many years. The new reporters and presenters are: Daraine Mulvihill, Arthur Williams, Martin Dougan, Liam Holt, Rachel Latham, Jordan Jarrett-Bryan, Alex Brooker and Diana Man.

I’m excited about and looking forward to the Paralympic Games. Channel 4’s investment is so important because finally we will have proper, mainstream reporting of a massive sporting event which has been lacking in quality coverage for far too long.

The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Traffickers

Labour Party

Having blogged yesterday about the Coalition government’s appalling decision not to endorse a draft EU directive on human trafficking, I was interested to hear about the Channel 4 documentary which also went out yesterday at nine o’clock in the evening.

The first of three episodes The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Traffickers tells the story of the largest-ever police investigation into sex trafficking in Britain following officers from four counties as they go undercover.  I have no doubt the documentaries will offer an insight into the experiences of women duped or coerced into entering the sex trade and being profoundly exploited.

 Although I am in Brussels this week, and am therefore unable to watch the programme, I will certainly be catching up later in the week when I’m back in London. (British TV over the internet is not available outside the UK).

 The channel’s own description of show is promising, suggesting that attention has been given to the ‘demand side’ of sex trafficking. This is important, since it is all too easy to focus on the obviously culpable criminals orchestrating the trade, whilst neglecting to explore the role played by men in Britain seeking cheap sex.

 I would also hope that The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Traffickers challenges some of the misleading stereotypes that distort understanding, by highlighting the various forms of exploitation that arise from the cross-national sex trade. It is crucial that we recognise that not all victims of trafficking conform to the sometimes sensationalised image of the ‘sex slave’, permanently confined and subject to systematic physical abuse. Many women are constrained and debased in more insidious ways, for example locked into long hours of sex work by the obligations of hefty “debts” to those who control them or deterred from speaking out by the threat of arrest and deportation.

 I think it’s important that the public is exposed to a more nuanced and thorough account of sex trafficking than that frequently splashed across the tabloid press, and I’m interested to see for myself whether C4 has managed to deliver this.

 In any event, I hope the Coalition ministers responsible for fighting the trafficking of human beings watched the Channel 4 programme and that it will inform them sufficiently to persuade the government to support the EU directive.

Sign the Petition for Equal Representation of Women in TV drama

Labour Party

Following on from the recent event in the European Parliament on the representation of women in TV and film, the Vice-President of Equity UK, Jean Rogers, has sent me an online petition which I would urge all of you to sign.  You will be in good company as it has already been signed by Julie Walters, Phil Davis, David Soul, and Helen Mirren, amongst others, and  has around 7,000 signatories in total. 

The petition is addressed to the major UK television channels, including the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, and calls on them to take measures to redress the gender imbalance on UK screens.  Currently, although half the TV-watching public is female, only 36.5% of characters in TV drama are female.  What’s more, while men over the age of 45 are frequently seen in leading roles, women of a similar age often seem to disappear off the screen.

Please would you follow the link here and let the TV companies know that very many of us want  equal representation of women on TV.