Raising awareness of Tourette Syndrome while campaigning for more inclusive cultural spaces.
Jess Thom is a comedian, writer and disability rights campaigner. She founded Touretteshero.com alongside Matthew Pountney to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome, and has spent much of 2015 and 2016 touring her show, Backstage in Biscuitland (named because ‘biscuit’ is one of her most common vocal tics) around the UK and USA.
Her performances have made huge strides in increasing the visibility of the condition, being built around the idea that, as well as being challenging, Tourettes is also a catalyst for creativity. Her shows embrace the unpredictability and the comedy that being ‘neurologically incapable of sticking to a script’ can generate.
Jess and her colleagues also provide direct support for people with Tourettes, hold events for young people with the condition in order to increase their confidence, and continually work to help disabled people 'change things not working for them'.
Her own experiences of going to the theatre made it obvious there was a huge problem in making cultural spaces welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities, especially after being asked to sit in the sound booth during one performance. Her commitment to changing this has influenced a shift in the cultural world towards embracing the idea of ‘relaxed’ performances (in which audiences are allowed to move around and make noise).