The Way We Roll

Are you sure they've got the right Tanni Grey-Thompson?

June 24, 2020 Phil Friend and Simon Minty Season 2 Episode 1
The Way We Roll
Are you sure they've got the right Tanni Grey-Thompson?
Chapters
The Way We Roll
Are you sure they've got the right Tanni Grey-Thompson?
Jun 24, 2020 Season 2 Episode 1
Phil Friend and Simon Minty

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is a national figure, a person who has moved from a highly successful athletics career to being a prominent political figure in Westminster, as if this was always the plan. How did she manage that? 

Born in Cardiff, she picked up the ‘Tanni’ name from her sister’s mispronunciation. She also picked up a strong work ethic from her parents, especially her dad. This meant she would be out training on Christmas Day or now, asks her team of helpers to brief her as thoroughly as is humanly possible so she can win her arguments. 

Professionally how do we see her now, and how does she see herself? Is it about her genre-defining career on the track, or wearing the robes of the establishment, or is she now the ‘woman who Tweets’ about rail journeys?

We got to spend time with Tanni over a Zoom call to ask her this and lots of other questions including, does she still speak to Alan Shearer after that moment? Who has helped her the most? What exactly is ‘Snog Marry or Kill’? The biggest issue she’s dealing with related to disability right now? Do Paralympians get short thrift compared to Olympians? Are disabled women included in new current women’s political movements? What’s the significance of her necklace when she’s in the House of Lords?

Links:-
Twitter:   @Tanni_GT
Website:  www.tanni.co.uk

Show Notes Transcript

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is a national figure, a person who has moved from a highly successful athletics career to being a prominent political figure in Westminster, as if this was always the plan. How did she manage that? 

Born in Cardiff, she picked up the ‘Tanni’ name from her sister’s mispronunciation. She also picked up a strong work ethic from her parents, especially her dad. This meant she would be out training on Christmas Day or now, asks her team of helpers to brief her as thoroughly as is humanly possible so she can win her arguments. 

Professionally how do we see her now, and how does she see herself? Is it about her genre-defining career on the track, or wearing the robes of the establishment, or is she now the ‘woman who Tweets’ about rail journeys?

We got to spend time with Tanni over a Zoom call to ask her this and lots of other questions including, does she still speak to Alan Shearer after that moment? Who has helped her the most? What exactly is ‘Snog Marry or Kill’? The biggest issue she’s dealing with related to disability right now? Do Paralympians get short thrift compared to Olympians? Are disabled women included in new current women’s political movements? What’s the significance of her necklace when she’s in the House of Lords?

Links:-
Twitter:   @Tanni_GT
Website:  www.tanni.co.uk

Tricia Voice over:

Welcome to the way we roll with Simon Minty and Phil Friend.

MUSIC:

Smooth guitar music

Simon:

This is The Way We Roll with me Simon Minty.

Phil:

And me Phil Friend. Now this is a brand new name, rebranded, but we've kept the familiar bits you love, like great guests. And now we have the time to speak with them.

Simon:

And Phil and my relationship will be the same. We make each other laugh and occasionally we will react when we don't always agree

Phil:

That'll never happened. First guest is only Baroness, Tanni Grey-Thompson. We spoke with her about her life and her achievements. Let's delve in. [Interview Starts]

Phil:

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who I feel like I've known forever, even though I haven't, because I knew of her like so many others when she was an athlete and doing all those wonderful things. But I've always wanted to ask her this question. So I'm going to ask it now, before we get into the formal bit, which is, how do you move around when you're in your full Lord's regalia?

Tanni:

Laughs, Okay.

Phil:

I cannot get it as a wheelchair user myself. I cannot understand how you do that.

Tanni:

Well, well, the good thing is that we don't have to wear the robes very often. And, um, the only time you actually have to move in them is when you do your official swearing of your allegiance to her majesty, the Queen and they are quite happy. And they're quite difficult. They're basically meant for blokes standing up, not for short un's and wheelchairs. And, um, yeah, I did get it slightly tangled in my front wheel. So if you've watched the video closely, if you've got nothing better to do, I do have that moment where it slightly gets tangled around my frame, you know, where you sort of jerk forward. Luckily we only wear them about once every 18 months, but you have to hire them. So, um, it costs about 110 quid a time to hire for state opening. So, uh, yeah.

Phil:

And is there one for wheelchair users or is it just not at all?

Tanni:

I think they do one for short people, but I don't think they do. They need to do one cause there's quite a few of us. Well, we'll tell you this now.

Simon:

No, quite as grand, but I remember graduation university and you had to fill in the form to hire the gown. And I wrote back I'm three foot 11, and they wrote back and said, you made a mistake on the form. I said, no, I haven't. But they chopped it. They chopped it and made it to measure me. It does sound like, so you hire it for the time.

Tanni:

You're wearing Ermin robes for the State Opening. And you have to hire them or you need to find an hereditary pier who has one who doesn't need to use it. And, and they'll lend it to you for the day. But I think they cost, somebody said to me, they costs about 18 to 20,000 pounds to buy because of how much stuff's on them. So I think I figured I'm not going to live that long to warrant buying one versus renting them for state opening. So I don't know if that makes me a cheapskate or what, but anyway,

Phil:

Have you got better at it over the time you've been there? So you get hooked, you've got right. Well, my first question, so thank you for that. That's great. But I mean, let's, let's just do, let's just tell our listeners a little bit about this extraordinary life you've had and kick off by saying that, um, obviously you were born in, in Cardiff in Wales, a very proud Welsh woman in the 19 late 1960s. And you were christened Carys avina, but when your two year old sister, Sian first saw you, she nicked named you tiny and very shortly afterwards, it became Tanny, which is how we now know you. Isn't, it

Simon:

Didn't know that, um, you were born with spinal bifida. You use a wheelchair we've established that, uh, and you're educated in Cardiff and Penarth. Uh, and this was after you finally insisted that you should, uh, attend mainstream school. My parents went through that same argument as well. You graduated from Loughborough University in '91 with an honors degree in politics and social administration. Good forethought.

Phil:

But Tanny discovered wheelchair racing at a very early age and became part of the British wheelchair racing squad at the age of 17. She went on to win total of 16 Paralympic medals, including 11 golds. She held over 30 world records and won the London, the London marathon six times between 1992 and 2002.

Simon:

So Tanni is sitting very awkwardly, we're nearly done. And this is just highlights. Uh, you've develop your career now in media and broadcasting and you've served on countless boards and committees. After you retired as a wheelchair athlete, you were made Baroness Grey Thompson of Eaglescliffe in the County of Durham. That was 2010. And your autobiography Seize the Day was published in 2001. You're married and you have a daughter that we've mentioned who was born in 2002. Phew!

Phil:

So there you are. That's that's uh, and that, and I have to say for those of you that don't know much about Tanni, if you look at her Wikipedia entries and various other things, it is extraordinary, the things that you have and she has done. So, but I suppose we need to start back at the beginning really don't we, we just, I mean, thinking about the education bit, Simon referred to it, when he mentioned your, you know, your schooling is quite clear that your parents fought very hard for you to go to mainstream education. Well, I mean, what was their thinking back then? If you've done, don't know if you've ever talked to them about it, but what was there because so many youngsters were going off to special schools and stuff.

Tanni:

Because I could walk a little bit when I started primary school, that's just where I went. And we had an amazing head teacher called Mr Thomas, who, you know, basically just let me go to the school, but I mean, I can never walk more than you. I probably struggled to walk across the classroom. I fell down a lot. Um, and then I was like growth, my spinal. Um, my vertebra severed my spinal cord where I'm missing a number of bones at the back of my spinal cord with the spinal bifida. So I don't really remember the point I got paralyzed, but, um, I still remember kind of wetting myself alot. My, my bladder went first and then my legs went. Um, so I remember being more embarrassed about that, than not being able to walk. Uh, but the kids in school were really good, so they never sort of really tease me or took the mick of me for it.

Tanni:

So, um, it was just like, Oh yeah, that's just what Tanni does, okay. My parents were really keen liked education and just, my dad always used to say, education gives you choices. So it was only when I went to, um, high school, I guess we had any kind of discussion that at the time I should have been in a special school. And Mr. Thomas had basically said to my parents, I meant to write to the local education authority, but I'm too busy. And actually this is a better place for Tanni to be. So there was lots and lots of discussion negotiation arguments where they, the education authority tried to send me to a special school, but then we had really good people around who said, actually you just need a decent education. And at the time you wouldn't, I wouldn't get that in the special school that was offered to me.

Tanni:

So my dad used, um, Mary Warnock's, um, work on education, you know, and basically threatened to sue the state for Wales of my right to go to a mainstream school. And in a bizarre twist of fate, you know, 30 years later I'm sitting in house Lord's. One of the first debates I was in was a celebration of 30 years since Mary Warnock's work. And I got to sit there and say, because of you I'm here. And she sort of looked at me at askance. We slightly lost the bonding moment! That I kind of, I've been waiting 30 years to say, thank you. But yeah, my parents just like education gives you choices. I think there was lots of it. Apparently I was quite an annoying child. Yeah. And, um, they didn't want me to live at home forever, you see. My dad told me that.

Tanni:

Um, and so part of it was I need to get a job and I need to leave home. At school wasn't accessible. No, it wasn't my genius school wasn't particularly accessible, but you could sort of get round and, you know, split level. But it was like, and the kids used to just pick my chair up and walk meup and down steps. Then the school I ended up going to in Penarth was there was a single school in South Morgan at the time we took wheelchair users and they had about 30 people there. And it was on the same site as, um, uh, two other special schools, one for deaf children and then one for, uh, physical impairments. So they were all together. So we did have a few pupils who went between the different schools. But I, I was in since I was all the time and no, these two employed, um, actually women to carry the wheelchair users up and down the stairs. These before women carrying us up and down, I just think it, I mean, just, it was way, way after I left that they put a lift in. You know, they thought that was fine in your family.

Simon:

You were the only disabled person, which is going to be a long way of me asking if your parents, did they just say you've got to get on with it. And If we bring that forward to today, do you think that parents should maybe allow their disabled kid just to get on?

Tanni:

I think my parents' attitude was, get on with it. They'd both been, there were only children and they'd both had sort of slightly restricted upbringing in different ways. And then my mom's parents were in their late forties when they had her and my dad had been ill as a child. So he was wrapped in cotton wool. What also, I think affected a lot of them. Dad was an architect and he knew how inaccessible the world was because of, you know, back then there were no dropped curbs, you know, accessible toilets, any of that kind of stuff. That's a little bit better these days, but I think it did me good because they also refused to make the house wheelchair accessible for a long time, because he was like, Well get on with it, we're not going to make this the only place you can live. So I learned to get out of my chair. I used to pull myself along the stairs at night and I think there needs to be a balance. I think there's a little bit where I do see some disabled children wrapped in cotton wool. I just see some children wrapped in cotton wool. And I think that all children need to be sort of pushed and encouraged a bit and, you know, have a parachute around as support. But actually it was really good for me too, to have my dad not, not wrap me more in that way.

Simon:

You remind me of the phrase which we've spoken about before, where it's sort of surmountable challenges. So not something that's going to devastate you, but enough to, to toughen you up and go, all right, sometimes they're going to have to do this myself.

Tanni:

Yeah. And, and actually I think, you know, that's really important. Cause I was talking to a young wheelchair user recently. She was saying she doesn't know how to jump up a two inch curb. How can you not know how to do that? I've never had to learn. Wow. So I think there's some of those things. I mean, I think just fortunately where she lives is unbelievably accessible and that's not the reality, but I think we've sort of been through all these sort of hoops and how people are treated. You know, my parents would clearly tell me when I was born, if I'd been born a couple of years early, I'd been taken away, not fed and allowed to die. And then it kind of felt that we're making great strides in terms of how to say, well, people cheat it, but it feels like we're going backwards a bit. Now there's a lot more inspiration porn, oh your brave and marvelous and lovely and like, Oh stop it. I don't know whether that's an age thing for me. I just sit differently or I'm getting more frustrated. But I think we go in circles a bit.

Phil:

It does. It does remind me of you actually, when I first became aware of you as a, as a world class athlete and I watched an interview of you by a Welsh, I'm trying to remember his name. Was it Cliff Morgan or Gareth Morgan Cliff Morgan! And he covered the, the Paralympic games was covered in a night in an hour on BBC Two. And there was interviews with individual athletes. And the first thing he asked you, I recall was, I bet your mother's proud of you. And when they interviewed the non-Paralympic athletes, it was things like what's your training regime? And all that I wanted to know it was, well, what chair is she in? What chair is that? Can you talk back then thinking how you as an athlete were treated compared to say this as you call it inspiration porn and stuff like that, where you were brave Sort of was that how you were portrayed? I mean, what do you think?

Tanni:

There was. Yeah, there was lots of, and then also as a female athlete as well, you know, it was very much described as how you look. So I remember in one early interview, somebody called me an Elfin faced and I managed to go, you don't call Colin Jackson Elfin face and to be frank, he is way prettier than I am, you know? And it's funny. So, so there was sort of different layers of challenges. But I remember talking to my dad about this and he was just saying, you know, every time you get asked, stuff like that, talk about being an athlete, talk about sports. Um, the chair is just a piece of equipment. Like Chris Boardman had his bike or what, you know, any bit of equipment. And for me that was really keen to split my life as a disabled person of which, you know, there's challenges and discrimination and stuff. And then my life was an athlete and they did sort of crossover a bit like a Venn diagram. And also, cause I think I just grew up in quite a, I say political world, but we talked about politics and access and rights and those things, you know, I remember just thinking a lot of the time as a teenager, is this just me. Is it just you made that hates this sort of pat on the head stuff? I remember I was into my twenties when I first read the social model of disability. And there was this light bulb moment, which is like...it's not me! There was an element always really, really interested in that and understanding how to effect change, but also conscious as an athlete, it's really hard to have a political view. And so for me, it was again talking to my parents, my dad was like, yeah, go, okay, you can do that stuff once you finished competing, but get ready for a soon as you've finished competing, you need to switch over into what your life is next. I think that that was quite useful because I wasn't there. So certainly when I was a young athlete, there were lots of disability rights activists that didn't particularly like me or what I was trying to do. And that's okay because, you know, I get that. But you know, for me it was, I needed the platform to then use to, to do the next thing that I wanted to do. And sport was part of that platform.

Simon:

So I've got like four supplementary questions, but I'm going to whittle it down to one. I'm want to bring the Paralympics whizzing forward. Now I like to think that the, the coverage, the, the talking about it, it's so much more intelligent and sport like. But I also get the sense that you think the Olympics and the Paralympics, are they seen as equivalent within the Olympic movement? Paralympics get the same kudos?

Tanni:

No, it's only after we won the 2012 games did anyone hosting the games have to bid for both. So even for us, we were actually bidding for the Olympics and then the Paralympics was a separate negotiation, but you know, Seb Coe, he was always, you know, and we did two big books where the countries who bid said, Oh, well, if we did the Olympics, we'll do the Paralympics and that's not right. Cause they're all different, you know, different access needs and things that you need to think about. It's getting better, but there's also a time around 2012, where if you are a Paralympian, it was sometimes not quite enough, you know. With Oscar Pistorius who wants to compete in both games. And, you know, I, I personally, if I was him, I would have wanted to do both because the Olympics does bring you more fame money profile, but there was also a, there was sort of an element that if you're a Paralympian, you weren't trying to be an Olympian as well, there was something that was wrong with, you know, something wrong with you. And that was fascinating. I mean, there's also some fascinating stuff and I'm going to go here, see before Reeva Steenkamp, it was the reverse, before that he was called an Olympian. And after he was called a Paralympian, you know, and, and there was also some really interesting stuff. There was a hashtag, which is the name was Reeva. Well, it just was constant called Oscar's. So there's some really deep stuff in there that you got really someone like Dave Weir, there isn't an equivalent event for him. He was constantly asked, well, what'd you think about the Olympics? And he's like, well, well, but it's a different sports and event. So I think it's hard. Um, it is hard to get some of that. No, right. It's moving on, but we're not where we want some of my aspirations and it was never going to be me. And we're still nowhere near it yet. In, in athletics, you kind of, it's a mark of achievement. When you get a million dollar a year shoe contract, you've got us, you've got sponsorship contracts. That is when we've made it. We will have a Paralympian on a million dollar a year contract.

Phil:

And is, is there a difference Tanni? I'm guessing I know the answer. I'm going to ask it anyway between the male athletes and male Paralympians and females. Cause I mean, you've shared with me once or twice in our own conversations about how sometimes Paralympians are shortchanged in terms of the kit, they get all the accommodation, they stay in those kinds of things. What's it like to be a competing female in that, in that, with all that other political stuff going on that you've outlined?

Tanni:

Bizarrely, I think there's more, more equity and equality in Paralympian sport cause we're all treated a bit the same. So you don't have that split. Um, so in, in mainstream sport, you know, men still and a lot more than women, there's more male coaches, more male agents. I'm in the top 10 list of, highest earners from the Olympics eight or 10 of the list were man. So, but I don't think there's that split in terms of payments. If anything, probably female athletes, you know, because we've always had quite a strong tradition of female Paralympians doing well. They've, they've probably done. Okay. But the sponsorship and media coverage is still, you know, not anywhere near the same, but you know, there's lots of sports. Swimming doesn't get a lot of time on TV these days. And there's lots of Olympic sports that don't, you know, Curlign, you know, in the UK and it gets on TV sort of once every four years, you know, every time winter Olympics and Paralympics. So there's lots of things that aren't quite silent, but I don't, I don't think we're still at a point where there is any kind of parity in terms of sponsorship with female.

Simon:

But taking it outside, I've got one or two disabled women friends who say, getting into of new wave feminism is quite difficult. And sometimes we get forgotten. We were going straight in the deep stuff with Tanni. There's no faffing around here. Do you, have you found as a disabled woman, that being part of other women's movements is easy. Are you automatically included or is it seen as a difference sometimes as well?

Tanni:

Hey, generally we're forgotten as a group. We always seem to be lost on the list. I think just as disabled people, I think within the feminist movement, it can be a struggle. I think it just depends on individuals. And, but see, I, I don't think I've, I've rarely experienced discrimination as a woman because it's easier to discriminate against me as a disabled person and it's not top trumps but it kind of feels like, you know, it's like I've had it where, you know, going to a meeting, the person organizing the meeting has fairly deliberately booked it in an inaccessible venue. And you're really just, you know, a wheelchair user, you know, booked a restaurant where it's like, Oh, it's all right. We carry you down the stairs. No, it's not. Lots of different levels of discrimination. And it's like, you know, one of the things that irritates me more than anything else now is when people say to me, Oh, I forgot you're a wheelchair user. No, that's not all right, because it's such a big part of me. And I don't know what they're saying when they say that

Simon:

The last one, that's why they book it in an accessible venue!

Phil:

I mean the classic, the classic, one of the most famous examples has to be sports personality. You know, what really saddens me about that, that event. I've watched that. And I know, and I know Simon knows this too, because we did a lot of work with the BBC on equality and stuff in our business career. And the BBC were right up there. They did their absolute best most of the time to get access right. I mean, I really believe that. And there you were sitting in the audience when it was announced. And, and then that was the moment where I think hundreds of BBC officials, there's no ramp, I mean, brilliantly, but do you think that could happen now? Is that still going? It sounds like it is what you just said.

Tanni:

No, something like ramps missing now? I don't think, um, I, I think the, the low level stuff that's hard to complain about happens. And some of it's somewhere between people being malicious and incompetent where they book a venue, that's not well too accessible. I think at the time with the ramp, it was, I was on the list, the sort of six contenders had David Beckham on the list, you know, and I shouldn't have won. And like, you know, I didn't think I would come anywhere. I was just quite excited, you know, to be, you know, in the last six. And then remember when it was announced in third place, Tanni Grey-Thompson. It was just a lot of chairs, all the same, Alan Shearer, and I just remember thinking, looking, you could see him go, but it was one of those things that they had a lot of complaints over it at the time, you know, someone fairly senior in came, run over to me. Uh, it was kind of sorry, how do we fix it and move on? You know, just because yeah, I could have stopped them off, but that wasn't about changing it for the better. And actually what you want is to change it for the better.

Simon:

I think it was a seismic moment when I think back. I remember hearing on the radio the next day, listening to all the coverage and everyone was going absolutely crazy in anger. And you were fairly low key and quiet at that point. And I remember when I was driving, where I was when I was listening to it thinking, Oh, this is fantastic. I didn't want it to happen to you, but I was glad it happened. Then you did come out and say, look, this isn't, well, I'm putting words in your mouth from them, but it was this isn't the first time this does happen.

Tanni:

Yeah. And I think what was lovely was that I didn't have to come out that night or the next day and moan big cause lots of other people were doing that and it was lovely how much support I had. And actually a lot of the conversations I was having was about finding solutions because you can say, sorry, and not mean it. Um, but it's OK. What, what are you going to do next time to make it better? And for me, that was sort of quite important. And then this is the bits of me, the genuine on the night I came 3rd in SPOTY (sports personality of the year) you know, as an athlete, I've watched it since I was like a baby, you know, earliest memories of watching it and you know, to get invited and then to actually get one of the trophies it's like, for me, it was like huge moment as an athlete that because it was public vote. And then it was really funny cause I rang my mum later that night and she was like, well done, but I voted for Steve Redgrave.

Simon:

Briliant. I think on many levels it was a seismic moment. Are you still friends with Alan (Shearer)? Do you laugh and chat about it from time to time?

Tanni:

That's enough about,, but I, I did it. I, I still feel very sorry for him that he was kind of left. Cause it's like, you know, that moment I'm not great at picking up faces and you know, there must've been about 45 wheelchair users there. So it was kind of funny.

Phil:

When I think about that moment, which in some ways came at the end of an extraordinary career. I suppose the question you must have been asked this before, and I'm wondering how much informs what you now do. I can't imagine what it must be like to get up five or six o'clock in the morning, every morning, year in, year out, which you must have done and traveled 20, 30 miles, you know, just in the rain to get as fit as you possibly can for one race or two races. I mean, how the hell did you do that? What is it about you that makes that possible?

Tanni:

Uh, well we only used to train at 9.30 in the morning, so it wasn't um, yeah, sorry, again, it comes back to my parents. Like, you know, there's no overnight success, you get stuff by working really hard and you know, success and failure and learning and having another go. Um, you know, it's, you don't just train once and then you go to the Paralympics for the first five years. I competed, I win a race because the best girl in Britain went to my school and was in my year. So I think that taught me focus. Yeah. There's no shortcuts to any of this. You know, I was relatively obsessive about it. I'd say, and I'm wanting to be good and wanting to be the best I could be. And I had an element, you know, I had an of natural talent, but I also had to work hard.

Tanni:

It's just easier just to get on and do it. And I think so my second Paralympics after Barcelona, I counted how long, how long I'd been on the track to compete at two games. My whole career. It was 19 and a half minutes at the Paralympics. So that's the thing that made me go out and train loads was because there's no shortcut. So the other one is I remember watching Daley Thompson and he used to train Christmas day because none of his rivals trained Christmas day. So it was like, I'm going to train. My mum hates, well, I loved and hated him, which was like, You tell that Daley! So, you know, I just go and try and Christmas morning, um, you know, that's just sort of what, what you did. So I think for me, yeah, it was just from really young age learning that you've just got to train and just suck it up. And training is really boring and repetitive and dull. But if you want to compete in front of a massive stadium of people at the other thing, I think Dad's taught me aswell, don't have, don't get to the end of your career and have regrets about what you did today. And you can't go back and do extra training. You know, if you, if you didn't train properly last week, you can't do it all this week. So

Simon:

I can see if you suddenly did lose the race. And you're like, well, actually part of that was because of me. Then you've got nowhere to hide. If you're beaten by someone better you, the marginal gains makes sense. You mentioned your dad a few times. Did you have other siblings and how were they sort of treated, were you your dad's favorite or would he be a bit more tougher?

Tanni:

[Laughs] Oh, I've got an older sister, Sian. So she was born with a heart condition, which got operated on when she was little and then they discovered she had dislocated hips. So, uh, and then I was born and my parents used to joke that they weren't very good at having kids. Cause you know, with both of us having had [Laughing, inaudible] Neither of us were ill children. I remember somebody saying to my mum, Oh, did you ever just sit down and cry? My mum said, I didn't have time to cry. Why, why would I cry? Like I've got two daughters who are beautiful and then I, and, and lovely. Yeah. They probably did treat us differently in different ways. So I do remember I had a stint in hospital which was like fairly full on for the whole family. My dad took my sister away to Holland, um, for like five days. And I remember thinking, I think I'd rather have gone to Holland than been in hospital.

Tanni:

So they, I think they did try to find balance and stuff. But I do remember being away at a training camp, I've been in Australia three months and had comeback home, straight into a family dinner. I was [excited] it was amazing, i did this training, and my dad is like, yeah, you trained alot, it rained once, you went out on New Year's Eve, marvellous. Sian, what did you do today? So he was very good at, I think sort of balancing, you know, he always said, don't believe your own publicity, which I think is important. So, so he was like, well, that's lovely, but you know, just what, what, what else do you do? Well? So massively into my sports career but he'd be like, what have you read this week? Right? What, what else are you doing? So, you know, from quite young, I would be organising races and, um, organizing my road racing Grand Prix that we used to have and stuff like that. And he was probably as interested in that, as what I was doing on the track. Which was good.

Simon:

But I've got a feeling when we make the film of your life, there will be one moment in the film where he suddenly bursts into tears and he becomes this real soft mulch. Cause you've, you've impressed him beyond anything.

Tanni:

[Laughing] No...

Simon:

Oh No?

Tanni:

I mean, I absolutely knew, um, he loved me and it was amazing, but he wasn't a terribly emotional person. And, um, sadly, both my parents passed away, but they were both amazing. When I got into the House of Lords, I remember thinking this is it, right this. 'Cause apparently he told me when I was 21, that I was going to be in the Lords, and I was like, yeah right. And then I said to him, like I've got through the process. And he went, oh, hum, lovely. But before you get too excited, make sure they've got the right Tanni Gray-Thompson.

Simon:

[Laughs loudly]

Phil:

As if there's more than one?

:

Yeah. There's not, there's not two of us. And he's lovely, oh, lovely. Have you rung your sister? Yer, I'll ring her now dad. I suppose of his age he was born in the thirties, so, you know, just quite sort of stoic and you know, what would absolutely protect me, fight for me, tell, probably one of the only people, you know, there's many, but you know, we would say, what'd you do that for, that was stupid. You know? So he didn't sort of hold back in terms of what he thought about things, which is good. We all need critical friends in our lives.

Phil:

Something you said earlier, when you were talking about the training and all the work you put in and all that, and how your parents kept you very firmly grounded in, you know, this is the world we live in a new, all leading an extraordinary life. But in this house you are just Tanni kind of thing. How much of what you went through, both as a child and, and as an, as a top class athlete, do you now, I, I just get this sense. You must be a formidable opponent in debates or in arguments in the house about legislation or the rights of people. Do you feel you transfer some of that grit that you had as an athlete into, into this new, it's not so new now, of course it isn't, but the role you play now,

Tanni:

I think so there's a lot of things that crossover, you know, that there's, there's no shortcut to writing speeches. You know, you just have to sit down and do it and you can't do it three minutes before you go into the chamber. Cause otherwise that's what it'll sound like. Mmm. And you know, you have to plan them prepare and just go do stuff. That's boring. You have to answer your emails. You have to just get on with the stuff. That's not because if you're in the chamber and you're taking something to a vote, exciting is the wrong word. That's not, and it's not the same as being on a track. But you know, you've got 20 seconds to make a decision, whether to take something to a vote or not, that will change people's lives. Some people from the better and hopefully not for the worst, but you also know people love you or hate you for what you do. And that's a di... That's a whole different level of responsibility, but basically you just gotta do the boring stuff, which is like read all the briefing papers because the, the, the stuff where you can change it when you've got that two minutes in the chamber to try and try and sway somebody, you can only do that really well if you've done all the other stuff behind. So, um, and I'd be lying if I said, you know, every day I opened my inbox and did all emails as I got them and always do the emails. I didn't want to answer. Could you go, ooh, but you know, you've got to do them at some point. And so a lot of it has transferred over to be honest.

Simon:

You sit, as we said, on so many boards and committees or whatever it may be. Rather than get you to identify the most important, currently, what is the most significant thing that you're doing in terms of disability rights campaigning? What's the thing that's occupying your time,

Tanni:

The coronavirus implications for Easements on Care act are quite depressing, really. You know, when, when we saw sort of the Coronavirus bill come into us and we had a couple of days, you know, normally on a bill, that's 392 pages, you'd have months to work on it. And we had a couple of days and I'm very conscious, you know, I don't speak for all disabled people. I've got an amazing group of different disabled people on campaigners and people who are all experts in lots of different areas that I can call on when I need some, cause I'm not an expert in everything that I do. And, you know, before the Corona Virius legislation, there was something I needed to check. So it was like, I found barrister, who'd been tweeting quite a lot. And just sent him two lines and said, can you just double check this is right. I always look back to welfare reform in 2012, which, you know, 2012 was the biggest year of my life as a athlete. Exactly. And then we're doing well for a form of legal aid legislation, which were both miserable. There were a group of disability rights, campaigners who took it in turns. They watched every single minute of the debate, even when we were going late at night. Um, and they would sort of send me direct messages and links and things, and, you know, follow up on this incredible group of people who, who were just there on the outside. And that, that makes it okay. Cause you don't feel alone. You don't feel it's just me. There's this, all these other people. And then there was one point quite late at night, I think it's like half 11, quarter to 12 where they got a bit bored and they started playing Snog, Marry Kill with members of the government front bench (laughs) which was really funny. But it's like, right, I can't join in this one. But, um, you know, I, I'll always be grateful for the people who kind of step in and help and offer their advice because you can't do it, Like an athlete, you can't do it on your own. You can't do the stuff we do on our own. You have to have people who, who are experts.

Simon:

I thought it was Snog, Marry, Avoid? That's gone up a level if it's kill.

Tanni:

I might have misquoted. I think it's Snog Marry Kill

Phil:

What is it, for the listener that doesn't like me know what it is?

Tanni:

You pick three people. So someone picks three people give them to someone else. And then you have to say, who you'd kill, who you'd snog and who you'd marry.

Simon:

Phil constantly plays this with me, saying he has never heard of it!

Phil:

It's not, it's not something I've not come across. I've heard it, but I didn't quite know what it meant.

Tanni:

We play it with Tanni, Jane Campbell and Baroness Warnock [all laugh over each other]

Phil:

I suppose when we think about your time on the planet, it's kind of, you have seen some extraordinary things happen, haven't you? I mean, I think you're blessed in the sense that you had that extraordinary career as an athlete. So you saw all sorts of stuff now and there you are now, right in the thick of it when it comes to helping the next generation, I guess, of disabled people to have a better time of it than you did, we did. And so on. I mean that's what it's all about isn't it?

Tanni:

Yeah, I, that we're, we're not making as big a strides as I'd ever hoped. And you know, trains were meant to be accessible by 1st of January this year. And, um, actually I was in a really funny meeting where somebody said to me 'Tanni, you just need to be patient'. And it's like, yeah, I was patient in '96, not anymore. So yeah, it's about trying to make it better. You know, some of the fights, some of the fights have been fun and interesting and you learn a lot and I've met amazing people because of it and some really amazing friends. Um, and it's been hard. And then you feel like you're hitting a brick wall and not getting anywhere, but we need to keep going. And, um, the one thing you just said, the one thing I regret is I've never been on a political protest. I've never chained myself to anything.

Phil:

We can invite you.

Tanni:

Jane Campbell said to me a little while ago, she said, Oh, well, we should find us some, something to chain ourselves to say that, you know, I think, um, you know, we're talking about it in a time of political protest on the streets, in the States and over here, and I'm not saying that's right for every disabled person to do it, but it's how we help disabled people find their voices. And technology should make some of that easier because it's easier to get together and talk and communicate and learn from each other. Cause sometimes I think there's some things which are a bit harder now, because as much as I talk to some young women who say, well, the fight for feminism is done. And then it's like, well, it's not, I do speak to some disabled people who say, well, we're all right. I don't think we are right. You know, if I can actually spend a whole day without thinking, when we're going to go to the toilet, can I get in, can I get on the train? Can I do then we're all right. I never have a day where not thinking about those things.

Phil:

I would say this to you though, that I think your, your reference to trains. I mean, you are a total legend on social media, on trains. Aren't you? I mean, I can't turn my Twitter feed on without seeing you either being unloaded, loaded or complaining. You've been left on a train, something, you are a one woman. So when you say campaigning, there's campaigning and campaigning, isn't there.

Tanni:

I think social media has been mostly, it's helpful. Sometimes it's a bit rabbit hole, sometimes it's viral. But, um, I take a lot of train journeys because of where I live and where I work and I drive, but you know, it was probably seven hour drive for me to get to London. So, you know, I don't know. I just started tweeting about my train journeys and then I found more people joining in and more people. Actually before lockdown, I was at Euston and there were two members of staff and I overheard one of them say, 'she's the one who tweets'. Um, so I kind of apologise, but you know what I think again, this is like, I know I get treated way better than for most. I know I do. If a train company can get me on, they can get anyone else on as well. So I'm very much up for kind of joining in anyone else's tweets about their lack of ability to get on the train. All I want, it's really simple. I want disabled people to have the same miserable experience of commuting as everyone else. And we don't yet have that.

Simon:

Something I wanted to ask you, that sort of handing on the baton. It's almost a bit like the Olympics, the Paralympics, where you pass the flame. I interviewed five, um, youngsters about a year ago, and three of them chose you as their sort of idol. And I liked that because, and they're not all Paralympians, or they weren't all athletes, they were a mixed group of people. Of sort of the next generation coming up. Um, I don't know what my question is here. What do you think about is the next thing that the next generation have got to think about, or how can we help them?

Tanni:

Well, some of the things, some of the things they think are important will be different from what we think is important. So, you know, I think it's important to recognize...there might be some shared views a lot, but they don't want to do things something different. I try and spend time with, um, younger people. I do a lot with different women to try to sort of help them find their voice or what they want to do. Or, you know, it's a combination of team mentoring champion, just having someone that they can talk to as a critical friend, because yeah, I was just lucky. I had loads of different people who helped me in different ways, both in my sporting career and helped me find sort of politics. And, you know, I sat on the national disability council in my early twenties, but that was a baptism of fire. So there's lots of people who help. So I was just trying to make some time to talk to younger. People would go, well, why can't you do that well, or, or if that's what you want to do, have you thought about this? The thing is with age and experience, you just know more about how to get things done. So I just try and help. And if you don't want to be political, do you know what? But I try and just help people think about what they want to do.

Simon:

Is it all right? Being seen as the woman who tweets rather than the woman who's got all those gold medals.

Tanni:

Oh, I'm cool with that. Yeah, that's good. But I love my sporting career. Loved it. And I just spent a lot of time thinking about it. And it's funny, somebody came up to me in the supermarket the other week and said, um, Oh, you must be really devastated. Tokyo has been cancelled or postponed. And it's like, yeah. Yeah. Cause I was really looking forward to going, you know, I've never been to Japan. And she said, has your training been affected And I was like, I retired 15 years ago but thank you, thank you very much. So there's a bit where you want to embrace it. Cause I, I still get mostly what I get is, Oh, you're an athlete with a funny name. Aren't you? But you know now being the woman that tweets is good.

Phil:

I can't leave, leave this interview with you or this chat with you without asking you, um, on behalf of our listeners who can't see you, what's going on with the purple hair? What's this purple hair about?

Tanni:

Over the years, I have had many self-inflicted bad hair choices and colours. Um, and, but sort of over the last 10 years or so, I've been very sensible cause my job and you know, doing a bit of work in TV and politics and then with lockdown, my hairdesser is one of the most important people in my life. But I realized after trying to dye my own hair, that actually it's not as easy as it looks. And so it went a bit of a funny color and then it's, well, I need to do something else. So it's now bright purple. Um, and it does wash out hopefully, it washes out. Um, and it's basically, um, I was struggling to get my natural blonde highlights in. So it's facing these kind of recalled gray cause I'm never going to be gray. So it's, it's sort of Vera Lynch purple at the moment.

Simon:

This isn't solidarity? I think purple is one of the colours associated with disability now. Is this coincidence?

Tanni:

Um, purple's my favorite colour. So perfect. Yeah. So I'm glad that works out. And actually to be fair when I do welfare reform stuff in the chamber, I do tend to wear purple. The other thing you might not have ever noticed this, I've got a necklace which is, looks like teaspoons. So, um, with all the spoony stuff, so I wear that as well. So, um, it just sort of makes me [Simon asks 'spoons?'] Yeah, so it just it's, I dunno, it's something that, and what needs to be sort of a calming presence. And so, yeah, I think, uh, those two things, give me a bit of confidence. Actually. Some of the things I do sometimes it's slightly terrifying and go, Oh my God, I'm going to try and take on the government or this or that, or everyone's going to vote against me. So you will need these calming things. So for me, purple is a calming color

Phil:

And you've answered a lot of our questions, giving us plenty to think about. So Tanni, it's been an absolute joy, so thank you so much for joining us and spending the time with us and sharing some of the, the things that you have. Cause it's been brilliant. Thank you.

Tanni:

Thank you.

Simon:

Thank you.

Phil:

[Tanni has left. Phil and Simon just speaking] It was so good to have so much time to speak with Tanni.

Simon:

Yeah. And I like how she's moved from being this top athlete and now, well she is a top leader, she's in the House of Lords.

Phil:

Indeed and the differences of being seen as an athlete and not as a campaigner.

Simon:

Yeah. And there's that little reveal. She has not actually been on a demo. I think she wants to, we need to get her onto a demo.

Phil:

Well, of course when I was your age, Simon I was on nothing but demos, it was all the rage.

Simon:

I've accidentally joined a demo. I didn't actually realize what it was. I just saw some friends and suddenly ended up talking with them, but there you are. Okay, that is it for our first, The Way We Roll show. Thank you for sticking with us if you've come from the old style and, if you're new, well, we hope you enjoyed it.

Phil:

Yeah. And we look forward to having John Corcoran, our friend and design guru on the show soon so that he can explain what he did to revamp it all.

:

That's it. Thanks so much for listening. [Phil] Yeah. Thanks a lot. Bye. [Simon] Bye.

Tricia Voice Over:

This is The Way We Roll presented by Simon Minty and Phil Friend. You can email us at mintyandfriend@gmail.com or just search for 'Minty and Friend' on social media. We're on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.