Joanne Ashton (pictured right) and her eleven-year-old son Liam live in Liverpool. Liam has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Joanne campaigns with Muscular Dystrophy UK on issues that affect people living with muscle-wasting conditions. She has become a regular media volunteer for the charity and wants to encourage more people to brave media interviews.
My first interview was in 2011, when Muscular Dystrophy UK got in touch and asked if I would talk about financial pressures for families living with muscle-wasting conditions. I felt honoured to be asked, but at the same time, absolutely terrified. Speaking about something that is so personal to me with thousands listening was really petrifying. But if you have got something to say, something that needs to be heard, then I feel a duty to say it.
I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights on the day, but the radio station team at BBC Radio Merseyside were very professional. I had prepared carefully, writing out my notes and highlighting the most important things. The tough bit is not working out what you want to say, it’s working out exactly how you get it across with maximum impact, so it’s good to stick to just a few key points. The interviews always surprise me with how short they are.
When I was asked if I would be interviewed by BBC Breakfast, that was a whole different thing. I felt real fear. But now, it’s something I feel hugely proud of. Liam came with me, first in 2013 and then when I was interviewed in 2014. Both times we were asked about the need for funding for and fast access to drugs for rare diseases. It was a strange experience going into the studio and speaking live on camera with the presenters. Again, I just focused on what I wanted to get across and on being really well prepared, thinking through any difficult questions they might ask. The press team were there to help me to, and we talked everything through beforehand.
I think it’s fantastic when people speak up. The more different people living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who make themselves heard, from different walks of life, different parts of the country, the better. It’s been great to see children doing an amazing job recently too, particularly the kids who went to Downing Street, with letters for the Prime Minister.
My own advice to anyone before giving their first media interview is to stay calm. Prepare. Have a conversation with the interviewer and don’t think about all the people listening in. Remember, you are doing something really positive, contributing to the fight. Be proud of yourself.
Media volunteers are always needed to raise awareness of Duchenne and all other muscle-wasting conditions. If you think you can help, get in touch with Claire Lane on 020 7803 4832 or at email@example.com.