An update on the Joseph Merrick event and negative portrayals of visible difference

Our latest update on the ITAE Productions event Dinner & Dissection - The Elephant Man

We are pleased that ITAE Productions, are no longer holding its planned ‘Dinner and Dissection – The Elephant Man’ event in a “big top” style tent, which was due to take place over the Halloween weekend in Newcastle.

Working in collaboration with condition specific charities Proteus Syndrome Foundation UK and Genetic Overgrowth PI3K Support (GoPI3Ks) we had raised our concerns about the marketing and promotion of the event with MPs and local politicians, as well as regulatory bodies, including the Advertising Standards Authority.

We have since been made aware that ITAE Productions are planning to present a revised show and UK tour, from January 2022, with the content adapted and broadened to cover Victorian medicine and encompassing many characters of that era. We welcome the news that ITAE Productions have invited condition-specific charities to contribute content to the Joseph Merrick element of the event, which will still be part of the programme for 2022.

However, we still have concerns about the shows planned for next year. The event uses the term “The Victorian Greats” and still features Joseph Merrick, alongside infamous individuals such as ‘Jack the Ripper’.

Changing Faces CEO Heather Blake says:

“While we are glad to see that the ‘big top’-style tent has disappeared from the itinerary, we are not convinced that the sensationalistic nature of this event series has vanished entirely. The inclusion of Jack The Ripper in a line-up of supposed ‘greats’ is one such example of this.”

Medical professionals and others must be supported to learn about anatomy and complex conditions. However, the fact remains that sensationalising and dehumanising a historical figure with a disfigurement has a real-world impact on people living with visible difference in the here and now.

Changing Faces CEO Heather Blake

“Medical professionals and others must be supported to learn about anatomy and complex conditions. However, the fact remains that sensationalising and dehumanising a historical figure with a disfigurement has a real-world impact on people living with visible difference in the here and now.”

“We would once again call upon the event organisers to take their lead from those with lived experience and charities and campaigners in the visible difference community on what can be sensitive and appropriate.”

We will continue to pursue this matter constructively with ITAE Productions team.

In a press release on the Dinner and Dissection website, ITAE Productions reference “torment, abuse or trolling both in person and in the digital space” of their staff.

We would like to be clear that we condemn any abusive language or behaviour and encourage anyone with concerns to raise them in a reasoned way – focusing on the event rather than organisers and their staff as individuals.

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