Wednesday, 4 September 2013

10,000 Cuts and Counting

The Atos Stories Collective is delighted to support 10,000 Cuts and Counting which will take place on 28th September, 12pm outside 10, Downing St.

Details of the event can be found on the organisers' facebook page, the salient points being as follows:

" the disabled and non-disabled community will gather to remember those who have died and those still suffering as a result of the Government's austerity assault, which particularly affects disabled people.

The memorial will remember those who have died and those living who are having their independence and dignity challenged as a result of austerity, led by disability activists, Occupy activists, David Ison - the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Michael Meacher MP and other representatives."

"The gathering will demand an immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions as outlined in the WOW petition."

"Clothing. Please wear white clothing as a symbol of remembrance. If this is not possible, a white scarf or other small item would be useful. Please also bring a white flower if you would like to lay one in remembrance"

We would urge all who are able to come to London on the 28th and to join in via facebook  or twitter using the hashtag #10KCuts

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A night to remember

There's nothing nicer for a writer than seeing their work in print or being performed. So it was an absolute treat to travel to London last night to watch the world premiere of Atos Stories as performed by Act Up! Newham.

When we first conceived the idea of a play about Atos, the intent was always to make the work public and encourage others to perform it in their own communities. We were a tad naive about how easy this might be. The professional theatre companies we approached were interested, but the piece was either not quite their thing, or they were struggling with resources and needed help with fundraising. Despite being a collective, we're not a proper organisation, we're writers with busy lives (one of us with health problems), so unfortunately we've not been able to help in this regard. We have managed to have some success with getting the Atos Monologues out there as they are relatively easy for anyone to use/read (they've been performed in Leeds, at Greenbelt, been used in a mass read that involved performances in Oxford, Cardiff, podcasts, livestreaming and tweeting, and podcast by My Life My Choice. But it's been much harder with Atos Stories which is a proper play that needs actors, props, a bit ot technology and a director. 

Fortunately, one of our early contacts was Act Up! Newham - a small inclusive theatre company based in East London. We were really excited when we met them last year, as a) they were enthusiastic about the script and b) they're based in Newham the site of the Olympics/Paralympics stadium. Since Atos' sponsorship of both events was one of the triggers for writing the play, we had high hopes that perhaps a performance might be linked with the opening ceremony. That too was naive - we really hadn't thought through how much work it takes to get a play like this ready for performance. Still as the year progressed, Act Up!Newham kept us posted about their rehearsals and we were thrilled when they were given an opportunity to perform at the Newham Council Christmas festival. Sadly Newham pulled the plug on this as they felt the play was too "unfestive" - we disagreed (& after last night even more so), and were glad that Act Up! Newham didn't let it put them off.

So last night, was special in several ways. The company were at last able to perform  the play after that setback. The performance was in Newham as part of an event looking at the legacy of the Paralympics AND it was the world premiere.

And it was terrific. Act Up! Newham is an inclusive company with members with and without disabilities. Some of the members have limited speech, so the company cleverly adapted the play so everyone could take part. They cut some scenes, adapted others, used the technique of someone with limited speech saying something and the actor they were playing the scene with repeating the line as a question. The physical aspects of the play worked beautifully and as an ensemble they performed with great gusto. The whole point of Atos Stories is that everyone who performs is part of the Collective and  everyone can make the play their own. I absolutely loved it. Stand out scenes were the menacing "We will shop you" opening as the cast threatened Ian Dury before he fought back with his rhythm stick; the  "Congratulations"  song when Atos found people fit to work; the three wise monkeys (See no Evil about Atos etc) which is a stunning visual, and the dramatic I'm Spasticus. We'd imagined people singing it, but reading the lines gives the song a whole a new energy. "Never underestimate the power of the Spasticus" indeed.

All in all it was a marvellous evening. The play was part of a series of events organised by E13 People United, looking at disability and community life in Newham. A second performer, Ju Gosling, treated us to a wonderful reflection on what it means to be normal. Afterwards we had round table discussions asking questions about "what is normal?", "what was good and bad about the Paralympics?",  "how can communities be more inclusive?" A stimulating conversation, that gives me great heart. Disabled people are facing SO much crap at the moment, it was great to see so much positive energy, ambition and desire to make change happen. I'd really like to thank everyone who attended for the warm welcome and for also letting me plug the WOW Petition.

And  a huge thank you to Act Up! Newham, for working so hard and giving us such a memorable performance, here's a clip from a rehearsal earlier this year

It was a great night and a real in your face to the DWP, Atos, IDS. The people united will never be defeated - and you can never, ever underestimate the power of the Spasticus!

The Atos Stories Collective is open to anyone who wants to join in. Anyone anywhere can use our material to act against Atos in a theatre, library, street corner, at a community event, festival, or protest. So please do feel free to download them here And get in touch so we can spread the word about your plans. BE part of the Collective!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Atos Stories premieres!!! (Finally)

Readers of this blog will know that at Christmas, our friends Act Up! Newham were all set to perform Atos Stories as part of the Council's Newham event. Unfortunately things didn't quite go to plan - at the last minute the Council stopped the performance as they deemed it unsuitable for a festive occasion.

Thankfully, Act Up! Newham haven't let this setback defeat them. This  week they will be performing their accessible version of Atos Stories at the E13 People United celebration of Disability and Community Life.

Judging from this sneak preview - it's going to be great.

So if you're in or around E13 on Wednesday, why not pop along...and spread the word!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

A doctor comes clean...

Today something very important happened. An ex-Atos Doctor came clean about the unethical practices we've all been talking about and the BBC have picked up the story. It's too early yet to say whether this is a turning point in the fight against ESA, but it's certainly an important step. We'd like to thank Dr Greg Wood for not only listening to his conscience and resigning from Atos Healthcare, but making sure his story is heard. And as a result, the BBC has been talking to disabled people all day. For once, the rhetoric of people on benefits = scroungers has been overturned. Hopefully, people will begin to see how disabled people are being victimised by Atos,the DWP and the government.

But of course, some of us have been telling Atos Stories for a while now. We're delighted to announce our play will be premiered on 19th June 2013 between 6 and 8.30pm as part of the Harold Road Disability and Community Life event . We're particularly pleased because this event concludes a season reflecting on the impact of the Paralympics. Since one of our motivations for writing Atos Stories was the scandal that Atos sponsored that event, we can't think of a more fitting place to premiere. If you're in London on the 19th please do try and get along. And if you're not please help us spread the word.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Atos Mass Read Round Up - Part 3

6.30pm After a slight panic about the livestream link for Joy and Cova's broadcast at 7pm, which Lisa, @living_as_if fielded, we had the link all ready for 7pm. In the meantime, while I'd been cooking tea Melanie, @intastellabella had concluded tweeting David's story. We were all set for the livestream at 7pm, but then we had another technical hitch. Somehow, I managed to miss the beginning, and got distracted by something at home, so missed what Joy and Cova said at the end. But after a few tweets and emails, we sorted it out and found the livestream they'd recorded could be retweeted. You can find their powerful, angry broadcast  here

7.15pm Whilst that was going on, we were able to retweet the story Melanie tweeted and catch up with Lisa @living_as_if 's own personal story. As a member of the collective collecting stories, this was the first time she'd shared her own. It has a trigger warning, but for once, it's an example of an Atos staff member showing a bit of compassion. It does happen, and we should celebrate those people who are able to be humane in the midst of all the brutality.

7.30pm We were able to put up our first podcast as Gram Davis, @Poplarpersona offers wise reflections about the whole WCA/ESA/Atos/DWP experience in between reading stories that speak particularly to him.  We hit another technical glitch as the first reading came across rather echoey. But by 8pm it was all sorted, and it's well worth a listen.

At 8.45pm we began to draw the day to a close. We decided to end, as the Atos Monologues does, by tweeting Karen Sherlock's story on our timeline. I've read this story before, and it always makes me cry. Karen contacted us last year to tell us what she'd experienced. We were so delighted when she'd won her appeal, that her death 9 days later was all the more shocking. As I tweeted, one line jumped out from all the others
" Want to know how they can consider someone who is in hospital on dialysis 3 times a week& recovering inbetween is able to work".

As someone tweeted back to us "Who on earth would do that?" Who indeed?

We finished at 9.30pm 12 hours after we started, remembering Karen, and all those who have suffered, and died under the WCA.

And then, just as we were heading for bed, Jane and Rick from the WOW petition, sent us this last powerful podcast - please be warned, the first story is extremely shocking. But it needs to be told.

All in all, Atos Mass Read has been an amazing experience. We got stories out in a multitude of ways, which we hope reached people who might not have heard of the issues before. We also noticed we'd picked up a couple of trolls last night, a sure sign that all the retweets yesterday had an impact. We'd like to thank all our contributors for their efforts, possibly a first in multi-media artistic protest!


The stories we've been telling are painful, difficult, shocking, horrifying, but we didn't put them out there for people to despair. All our contributors wanted us to share their stories so that others won't have to suffer like this.

So what can you do now?

WRITE to your MP, to Iain Duncan Smith, David Cameron, George Osborne, Esther McVey to tell them what you think about the WCA, and Atos. Tell them it's time to End ESA Now.

JOIN the ESA End Game Campaign

SIGN the WOW Petition and get involved in the battle to save welfare

FOLLOW Bedding Out this week and Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos

BE PART of the Resistance to the War on Welfare, counter every piece of propaganda you read. Challenge every lazy assertion you hear. Pass on these stories wherever you can. Read, blog, podcast, livestream, tweet, do a live event - download them here

Together we can END ESA NOW!

Atos Mass Read Round Up -Part 2

2.30pm I got back from town to catch up with @nellmk2  had tweeted Nelson, Tim and John's stories. Meanwhile @living_as_if had done an excellent job of curating in my absence, and it was pleasing to see so many retweets throughout the morning. 

I was very excited to discover the wonderful Act Up! Newham had sent us this video, of their rehearsal the previous night. Act Up! have been working on our play Atos Stories since last summer and readers of this blog will be aware their first performance was cancelled at Christmas. It's great to see this hasn't deterred them, and judging by this video we are in for a treat when they finally get to go on stage on the 19th June.

By 3.30pm we'd retweeted all the stories @nellmk2 tweeted earlier and it was time to release the poems that the very wonderful Fit to Work:Poets Against Atos had sent us. First up was Dan Holloway, who had joined us earlier in Oxford, perfoming his poem The Mentalist. It was then we hit our first technical glitch of the day, as when I tweeted the audiofiles I'd been sent I realised the links didn't work. Thankfully Mark Burnhope @mkburnhope was on the case, and by the evening we were able to post Nul Pwn by Kit Fryatt  and Tock by Sarah James.

At around 4.30pm  I was taking a breather when I realised that Melanie @intastellabella had begun to tweet Kate's story - as she said, "I can't wait till six some things need action now"
Again, reading this line by line was very moving, here's a snapshot:

  1. Unless you go through one yourself its hard to understand what they are like.
  2. The stress and upset these medicals cause are unbelievable
  3. It affected me so bad with how they do things and getting told in that I had not scored any points was outrageous.
  4. I was very depressed anyway the day I got my letter... But that tipped me over the edge and I took an over dos

Kate ends by asking "how much fighting can you do?" It's a question we can all often ask...

By now it was time for tea, so we took another break. The rest of the day will be told in Part 3.

Atos Mass Read - Round Up - Part 1

Ever since we collected people's stories last year and wrote the plays Atos Stories and The Atos Monologues, we've been keen to do a nationwide event. Health, work, family commitments means this has proved more difficult than we expected. It wasn't until the recent launch of the ESA End Game campaign that we thought it was worth giving it a go and using the occasion to promote both that and the WOW Petition Campaign. So a month ago, we put out this blogpost and started to drum up trade.

What seemed like a good idea on paper has actually been a bit more difficult in practice. People have been keen to get involved, but many began to find, understandably, that their health wasn't up to organising an outside event. (Indeed that right there demonstrates why the whole work capability assessment process is so unfit for purpose - most claimants would love to work but their health impedes them). A lot has been happening in other campaigns, which is brilliant, but it has limited people's energy to do something for this one. Finally, we are a tiny group, and only have limited time and energy ourselves to keep this up. Still it was with some frustration that with two weeks to go we still had very few readings planned. We were on the point of cancelling, when someone mentioned they might livestream. It was then that it dawned on us, there could be more than one way to get involved. So we invited people to join us in whatever way they could, live event, tweeting, podcasting, videoing and livestreaming. And suddenly the whole thing came alive with energy and promises of help in all areas. What had begun to feel like a weight on our shoulders was transformed into the exciting multimedia #atosmassread. Suddenly we couldn't wait.

The day before yesterday was a great warm up. We'd spotted a letter from Atos in last week's Guardian that incensed us so much we had to respond. The morning news was dominated by Spartaci with Sue Marsh, Kaliya Franklin, Stephen Sumpter, Jane Young and many more on radio and TV challenging DWP and Government lies on DLA and PIP again and again. Of course, the announcement of the death of a certain former Prime Minister slightly changed all that later in the day. So we spent the afternoon building for yesterday using the hashtag #thatcherslegacy  to show how ESA, WCA and Atos are all part of the world she left behind.

And so to the day itself.

We started quietly at 9.30, as Helen @nellmk2 began to tweet Aletheia's story line by line. We have read all the stories many times, but I, for one, found tweeting a powerful way to hear the words again, as you can see from this snapshot...

  1. "She had me bend over, I was clearly stiff and in discomfort"

  2. "and did not wait for answers before going on to the next one"

  3. "She raced through questions at the speed of light"

  4. "by telling me I had conditions which I do not have"

  5. " The pseudo HCP ruined my concentration

While Helen carried on tweeting, it was time for me to leave for Oxford for the outside event in Bonn Square. We'd managed to cobble this together over email. A small group of us gathered in the New Road Baptist Church to have a quick read through, and decide which parts to read. We emerged at 11.30 to discover that the diggers that had been quiet for half an hour had started again. Not only that but the buses were stopping right in front of us leaving their engines running loudly. We shouted above the noise, but it felt (as campaigning often does!) that we were shouting in vain. 

After about four monologues we had a quick discussion and moved up the road to the Cornmarket. We found a much quieter spot outside the bank and continued. As Owen handed out leaflets and talked to interested passers by, Miriam, myself, Dan and Jane took each voice in turn. Most people walked on, but by the end, one or two hung around to listen.  We ended with Karen Sherlock's emails to Kaliya Franklin (thanks to Kaliya and Nigel Sherlock for permission). Karen's story is a shockingly sad one, but a very real example that behind all those twisted DWP statistics lie real human beings and real damage. 

At 12pm  while we were in full flow in Oxford @Dr_Vole and @Bluehook  (Rachel Stelmach) began their event in Lampeter. Rachel writes:

"A tight circle of women, in a small hall, in a tiny town in West Wales, came together to, if nothing else, at least bear witness to those people who have been damaged by this horribly flawed system of assessment. We bore witness also to the farce of politicians pretending that forcing seriously ill and disabled people to undergo continual rounds of assessment, appeals and form filling, never allowing the time to recover from the last indignity, was somehow because they really care about them. We bore witness to the ridiculous platitudes ATOS throw out without ever really thinking about the individual human lives they are impacting on. Because that's what the end result is, individual human beings, most of whom have paid their way for many years but on becoming ill or disabled have then found themselves unable to work. Instead of being the safety net for them, ESA has become a bed of jagged rocks, waiting to shatter anyone that falls on it. And whilst we can rail against a French Software company that has set itself up as a medical assessment service, not really caring how much flak they get from disabled people in the UK because they have a big fat contract and are happy to take the money, let's not forget that really they are just doing the work of the UK government."

Indeed let's not forget how culpable the government is in the whole scandal of Work Capability Assessment. We need to hold them to account as much as Atos.

We took a break at lunch, so it seems a good place to stop, part 2 follows!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tell Me Lies About Welfare Reform

Inspired by this article by the wonderful Ricky Tomlinson, the fabulous Poets Against  Atos  and owing everything to this poem by Adrian Mitchell, couldn't resist doing this tonight...

Tell Me Lies About Welfare Reform
(after Adrian Mitchell)

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I've walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform.

Heard the radio screaming all the scroungers are to blame
Those lousy benefits claimants with their cheating screw-you games
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform

Every time I read the paper they tell me jobs are there to claim
But when I go down to the centre, there’s none there all the same
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reforme

You say it's for the future, that it will be worth the pain.
I smell something is fishy but I hope that’s just my brain.
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down in Annie’s Bar drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform.

You put your bedroom tax in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform

Tuesday, 19 March 2013



ESA has been going on long enough. Atos  has been torturing sick and disabled people for long enough. The government has been pretending it's enabling people for long enough. So we were delighted to see our friend Sue Marsh lay down the gauntlet and say enough IS enough. We need to end ESA once and for all and the ESA Endgame campaign might just do it.

We always wrote our plays as a way to educate people about Atos, the DWP and ESA. And we've had some success.  2,500 people have read the three versions of play on-line. The Monologues have been performed at Greenbelt, a Leeds Uncut demo and podcasted by My Life, My Choice . Despite  having Newham Council cancel their 1st performance, Act Up are still planning on putting on the Atos Stories

But now we want to try something new. Something you can ALL get involved in. We have three versions of the play, which you can download here:  Atos StoriesThe Atos Monologues and AtosStreet Theatre.* We want to organise a mass action against Atos.
On Tuesday 9thApril. We'd like to invite you to put one of these versions on in your community. You don't have to be an actor or an actress to take part, just someone who wants to be heard in your own words or the words of others in a similar situation. But if you do perform and you care about these issues, please do perform with us!

You don't have do the whole thing, you can do a scene from the play, sing one of the songs, read part of the Monologues. You can add your own stories or link with the stories published by Sue on her blog under the #esaendgame hashtag here and here. The idea is that everybody Acts Against Atos on the same day across the country. You can do this anywhere, at a library, community centre, shopping mall,  theatre, your local Atos office. Wherever the most people will be able to hear the message.

Alternatively if you'd like to take part and can't get out of the house, but have the technology, why not commit to reading a bit and livestreaming... or tweeting sections of it?

So if you are an actor, or if you are not, if you are disabled or sick or not., but you can read a part, sing a song, act a scene and you want to get involved. Let us know.

If you want to take part, email us at Tell us who is taking part, where and when and we'll put it on our blog. Please try and get a record of the event, and we'll post a link.

By Acting Together, we  CAN end ESA now!
* Please contact us if you need large print versions


We've been informed that Scribd has started charging for downloads. Wow Petition has kindly offered to host our plays, so you can download them here!


This is an inside and outside event...

From the inside:

Tweeting There will be several people tweeting from 9.30am. Follow the #atosmassread hashtag & our twitterstream @Atosstories

Podcasting You can tell your own story in your own words Feed your audiofile to
or send it to

Video Act Up! will be videoing a scene from their rehearsal of Atos Stories on Monday and we hope to have it up here on Tuesday.
We will also be linking to videos of Poets against Atos performing their poems

Livestreaming  the monologues in the evening. 
Joy Bahn and Cova at 7pm

Possibly Ravens of London


LAMPETER  12-2pm The Atos Stories at Victoria Hall. Contact:

OXFORD 11.30am Bonn Square