By Simon Sansome
I am very fortunate to call disability campaigner Adam Pearson one of my closest friends and one of the strongest people I know. We have a fun rivalry each year about which one of us is going to be the most influential disability campaigner in the UK.
This year I hope that Adam becomes the top disability campaigner for the following reasons.
Most people will understand that Adam has a massive facial disfigurement and a genetic condition similar to Joseph Merrick, also known as The Elephant Man. The number of insults and diabolical messages he receives on social media on a daily basis is massively disturbing. Adam does his best to take it in his stride, however I do have serious concerns that a person can only put up with so many insults about their appearance for so long, which worries me every day.
Throughout history there have been many figures that have stood out over time because of their achievements or their disability. Examples of this would be Albert Einstein who was dyslexic, Stephen Hawking had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), TV regular Warwick Davis has dwarfism.
Adam Pearson has appeared in medical journals, presented a number of television TV shows, starred in many films and only a few years back made a film with Scarlett Johansson. So, in today’s society he is extremely successful, and yet there are still people who want to take him down to a disturbing level with insults for their own gratification, when he will be far more successful and remembered more then they ever will be.
For the past few months, Adam and I have been working together trying to stop something called Dinner and Dissection. We have talked about this issue a number of times on our podcast called The Grumpy Gits, which has had over 1 million views.
Here is Adam’s interview with the BBC please click here
In 2018 Sam Piri appeared on Dragons Den promoting his business ‘Dinner and Dissection, where they dissect a body over beers and burgers.
Today the Dragons who invested in his company, Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden have nothing to do with him whatsoever. This is probably because he has taken his Dinner and Dissection to the next level and it turned into an 18th-century freakshow.
Joseph Merrick also referred to as ‘The Elephant Man’ had a terrible life and a terrible disability. Today he is not alive to defend himself, so Sam Piri who is the CEO of Dinner and Dissection has decided to recreate his body and tear it apart for the sake of entertainment. This event was originally going to be over Halloween but due to the high amount of attention in the press he has decided to move it to January in an attempt to make it more dignified, and now calls it ‘Victorian Greats’, in which he classes ‘Jack the Ripper’ as a Victorian Great.
Gone are the days where dwarfs were thrown around, bears were paraded in the streets and people came to see the bearded lady. This is a disgusting and vile approach to entertainment that should be banned on all levels.
We have contacted Sam Piri, the company’s CEO, for comment however he said he is not giving any more media interviews. However, the following day he gave an interview to the BBC.
I contacted the Gosforth Rugby Club where the event was due to take place. The club’s chairman, Neil Jaimeson, explained that this event was not being held at the club as they cannot support an event like this.
We have also contacted Newcastle City Council and while we are still awaiting a formal press release, Dinner and Dissection does not have a permit for the event or a venue, but tickets are still being sold on their website.
Adam, as we know, has a similar condition to Joseph Merrick and is concerned that he might be Dinner and Dissection’s next victim where they could recreate his body and tear it apart for entertainment value. There is nothing in UK law to stop this, and there needs to be. There is no difference in taking Joseph Merrick’s body apart a hundred years ago and say Stephen Hawking’s body today and they most certainly deserve the same amount of dignity.
A petition was launched by a local campaigner whose daughter has Downs Syndrome and enlarged limbs and is close to 12,000 signatures to stop this event. To sign petition please click here.
Dinner and Dissection has also put out a number of claims which are completely unsubstantiated or been provided with any evidence backing them up. They say that 88% of people that attend the events are from medical backgrounds, without any proof of this. They have also made claims that they have worked with a number of universities and NHS trusts again without naming any of the universities or any other trusts to enable us to follow up their claims. It appears that Sam Piri is just trying to make profit from exploiting a disabled person who is not here to defend himself and call it entertainment.
Cllr John-Paul Stephenson, Newcastle City Council told ITV news, “I urge the organisers to meet with the relevant charities and those with lived experiences of the conditions to understand the impact of their grotesque event. There are plenty of alternative, more mature avenues to learn about the science of dissection without resorting to trivialising disability for entertainment and profit. I have directed senior licensing officers to take appropriate action.”
I have also established that that Newcastle City Council have written to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about this event as they do not believe it is scientifically proven that this is a medical event as advertised breaching the rules and regulations of advertising standards.
Dinner and Dissection is a vile, disgusting, disgraceful form of entertainment which is 200 years out of date. So much so, I have contacted my local MP, Dr Luke Evens and asked him if he will introduce a new Bill in parliament to protect people after they have passed.
There is little or no evidence to show that this is a medical experiment, which is being held over beers and burgers. This is nothing more than a glorified freak-show and a shameful form of entertainment and it needs to be made illegal to protect people’s dignity and reputation after death.