If you don’t get a thanks for opening the door for someone, don’t take offence!
Visually impaired comedian James Connell has countless stories of what it is like living in a sighted world and he uses it all as material for his stand-up comedy gigs.
The 55-year-old, who lives in Southport, reveals: “Comedy is a way of talking about sight loss in a lighter sense as I was pointing out the struggles you have as a visually impaired person in a sighted world. It opened up a different world for me.
“I have been travelling all over the North West, but mainly Southport. I did a comedy course where there was a chance to do a five-minute stand-up gig at the end which was terrifying. But once I did it, I was hooked. My friend and I started gigging all around Southport.
“Strange things happen when you are visually impaired as everyone experiences the same things, like someone may open a door for you and you don’t say thank you as you don’t know they have done it. There are lot of things that happen to everybody, so I take note of that.”
James was diagnosed with degenerative myopia 10 years ago, but his sight loss journey has been ongoing since he shattered his retina after falling from a slide when he was three.
He says: “I fractured my skull, broke my pelvis and ruptured my eye. I had a shattered retina, but no-one noticed until I was 11 and by then it was too late. I had always had bad eye sight and 10 years ago, when I was 45, I started having bad headaches. I woke up one morning and could not see and a few days later my sight had completely gone.
“I had nine months of coming to terms with it, just sat on my sofa as I was off work. I didn’t go out.”
James eventually came to terms with his eye condition and returned back to work as a part time offender support worker. He then found support through sight loss charity Galloway’s in Southport.
He adds: “It was Galloway’s who put me in touch with an eye clinic. When you lose your sight you don’t know where to turn to. The only blind person I knew was me. So I started going to Galloway’s in Southport after that and did the Braille classes and driving days. I volunteered there and found a good support community.”
The father-of-two began to regain his confidence and prompted by his wife Helen, he starting doing stand-up comedy.
After a 15-month break because of lockdowns, James has since restarted the comedy circuit, with his first gig being to blind and partially sighted people at Galloway’s over Zoom. His jokes went down so well, he has been invited back for the charity’s virtual Christmas party on Friday December 3.
James, who came second in the Southport New Comedian of the Year last month, adds: “It means a lot to be able to give something back. In the early days Galloway’s helped me and I got a lot of friends there. It was good to know they were on the other side of Zoom or the phone having a good time.”
If you are blind or partially sighted and would like to attend the Galloway’s Christmas party over Zoom, call 01772 744148 or visit https://www.galloways.org.uk/events-1/christmas-party-2
The event starts at 7pm. Tickets are £10 and include a hamper to be delivered beforehand.