Jane Hawking BBC Interview about The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

Released on 1st January The Theory of Everything has become a sensation, winning both the Best Actor and Best Original Score awards at the Golden Globes and the interest around the film is just growing and growing. Back on January 3rd Jane Hawking appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour discussing her life with Stephen, the time she spent as a carer, the aftermath of her marriage and even her thoughts on the film.

In previous posts since the film’s launch we’ve discussed the technical side of things, how Professor Hawking actually talks but here we’re looking at the more personal side of their lives, which has become critically acclaimed in cinemas around the country.

Life on a Precipice

In an interesting interview which gave Jane the chance to discuss her life with Stephen and her feelings about having her autobiography, Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything turned into a hugely important and hugely popular film.

Talking about the film Jane expressed how strange and mesmerising it was to see Felicity Jones playing her and even remarked how Stephen too was amazed by how fantastically Eddie Redmayne came across playing him, with some stills of the two next to each other almost identical.

The interview also delves more deeply into the life Jane had trying to cope with Stephen’s Motor Neuron Disease with very little knowledge of what the disease could do and a prognosis of two to three years before his final death. In reality things panned out very differently and Jane herself highlights how she wished she had asked more when she had the chance so she would have been able to ask for help, get the right provisions in place and start with the support needed from the beginning, with a better system in place for vetting the medical and health professionals who came into their lives.

Jane described her life, when things were deteriorating, as ‘on a precipice’ not knowing what would happen next or how they’d cope with it but it wasn’t without hope, and her strength of character comes through, despite the issues they faced as a family.

Moving Forward

Jane Hawking’s Autobiography

Both Stephen and Jane Hawking entered new relationships after theirs was over and Jane highlights how the film portrays her relationship with Jonathan Jones very well, showing respect for all parties involved and she talks eloquently about how they managed their feelings to ensure no one was initially hurt. The mentions of Stephen’s second wife Elaine are fleeting and it’s clear, Jane and Stephen have been able to maintain a more effective family relationship since his divorce from Elaine.

Their family connections ensure they are always tied together and this has allowed their relationship to remain strong even after all the tribulations, although it is now better described as a working or platonic relationship than what they had before.

The type surrounding the Hawking family at the moment is fascinating and gives us a closer look at one of the leading figures in modern physics and the more personal side of his life. Hearing things from Jane’s point of view is especially valuable as it gives another dimension to the story as a whole and lets us see how well the film has portrayed her autobiography in her opinion.

Transcript:

[Intro]

Interviewer:     But first, in 1963 two young undergraduates bumped into each other at a Cambridge party.

 

[Film Clip: 00:00:08 – 00:00:56]

[Start]

Stephen:          Hello.

Jane:               Hello

Stephen:          Science.

Jane:               Arts.

Stephen:          English.

Jane:               French and Spanish. What about you? What do you?

Stephen:          Cosmologist, I am a cosmologist.

Jane:               What’s that?

Stephen:          It’s a kind of religion for intelligent Atheists

Jane:               Intelligent atheists?

Stephen:          You are not religious are you?

Jane:               C of E. Church of England.

Stephen:          England. I suppose someone has to be.

Jane:               What do cosmologists worship them?

Stephen:          What do we worship?

Jane:               Mhm.

Stephen:          One single unifying equation that explains everything in the universe.

Jane:               Really?

Stephen:          Yes.

Jane:               What’s the equation?

Stephen:          That is the question. And a very good question. [Laugh] I am not quite sure yet, but I intend to find out.

 

[End]

 

Interviewer:     Well that was Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones imagining the first meeting of Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde in the new film, The Theory of Everything. It tells a story of how Jane went on to marry the brilliant young astrophysicist knowing that he had motor neurone disease and had been given only three years to live. Together Professor Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane confound all possible expectations as the years turned into decades. And they had three children together before separating in 1990. Both went on to remarry. Stephen to Elaine Mason from who he has since divorced and Jane to a long standing friend Jonathan Hellyer Jones.

Well the film is a fascinating glimpse into their lives before and after the diagnosis and it’s based on Jane’s Autobiography Travelling to Infinity. Jane Hawking told me what it was like seeing her life on screen.

Jane:                Felicity’s performance was phenomenal. She came to dinner several times when they were filming in Cambridge and I got to know her quite well, but she studied me obviously while we were talking and we talked a lot. And, when I saw her on the screen I was flabbergasted because she captured my mannerisms, my movements, my patterns of speech. Even—

Interviewer:     I know when I see a snap shot of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in the wedding when you got married and an actual black and white shot of you and Stephen you almost do a double take don’t you?

Jane:                Yes. Stephen says that he’s seen photos of himself as young man and Eddie side by side and he has difficulty knowing which is which.

Interviewer:     And the decision to get married which was in 1965 when you were both very young seems to have been an extraordinary thing to do of your life because at that point he’d had his diagnosis of motor neurone disease and you knew that a battle lay ahead. But, you thought it was going to be quite a short battle didn’t you?

Jane:                When Stephen’s father told me that Stephen had two or three more years to live at most and I felt I could devote myself to him for those two or three years. I loved him, I wanted to marry him and I wanted to do my best for him to give him every opportunity. Also though I have to tell people that we were living under the Nuclear Cloud and it only took what would take only one spark to ignite a conflagration or a Nuclear war which was going to be the end of civilisation; the end of all of us.

Interviewer:     You also gave up a lot when you got married which again wasn’t unusual for women of your generation, you know, you were educated, you studied languages, you hoped for a career in the diplomatic service. You then dedicated your life to your husband and family. But, do you feel like you gave up more than other women, other friends?

Jane:                Well to look at it from one perspective I think ours was the last generation for whom a home and a family were the great aims in life. On the other hand my father insisted that I finish my degree in London. So, I did finish my first degree and then I looked around for what could I do and I realised very quickly that being a wife and a mother in Cambridge was a passport to nowhere. There was no respect for wives and mothers in the academic–

Interviewer:     Did you resent that?

Jane:                I thought I needed to do something about it. So I started work on a Ph.D. on medieval Spanish poetry which was a lovely thing to do but it was quite difficult to manage first of all Stephen and a Ph.D. it wasn’t so difficult because we were both working together, but then when the children came along when I was looking after or playing with the children I felt I should be doing my Ph.D. and when I was doing my Ph.D. I thought I should be looking after or playing with the children. So there was a constant tension there and because of all the other things I had to do looking after Stephen of course, looking over the household. It took me a very, very long time to finish it. I finished it actually just before Tim, my youngest son, was born.

Interviewer:     I mean you talk of the years of child care but you also talk of the “Stephen Care”. Now as a carer you sacrifice your own needs much of the time and it was endless caring. Did that take its toll? You described how you became a drudge in the book.

Jane:                Eventually. At first we were trying to be a normal family living a normal life. I was very young. I had bags of energy and I managed, I coped. Stephen did have help from his friends and colleagues I mustn’t forget them because when he went to the department of applied math’s during the day they looked after him there and they brought him home for lunch and they brought him home in the evening. It was really after fame and fortune took hold that I began to find things very difficult. I was not as strong as I used to be. I was very tired; in fact eventually I was just worn out.

Interviewer:     Because there were a lot of occasions where someone had to be with Stephen 24 hours. You’d sit up all night and you would do shifts wouldn’t you because you were worried about him?

Jane:                My darling mum came over from St. Albans and she would sit up with Stephen all night when I was exhausted and then one of his very special students Bernard Carr also came and helped out in the same way. Stephen hated being in hospital he didn’t want to go into hospital and when he had to go into hospital he wanted to get out as quickly as he could. And we didn’t have a nursing team at home in those days and it meant that the family had to look after him at night with his dreadful, dreadful choking fits which was so, so scary.

Interviewer:     So you were living on a knife edge weren’t you between life and death?

Jane:                I described it as living on a precipice; the edge of a precipice. But, even so I said in the book that if you live on a precipice long enough you actually begin to put down roots and then a little tree grows up on the edge of the precipice.

Interviewer:     It sounds like Stephen is a sort of non-confrontational person because you never discussed his illness it was like a “no go” area wasn’t it?

Jane:                He would not talk about it. And I think that probably was my mistake because if when we were very young I’d insisted on talking about it, it might have been rather easier later.

Interviewer:     But going back to your relationship, your platonic relationship with this lovely widower Jonathan who comes into your life having cared for his terminally ill wife. And in fact slots in really well and he is quite happy to do all the caring duties for Stephen as well and in fact–

Jane:                He takes over and he helps with duties that when I was too exhausted to do myself.

Interviewer:     How did you manage with loving a man who you refused to have an affair with? In the film it comes across a profound sense of duty both of you.

Jane:                I felt I was committed to Stephen and Jonathan was committed as he says in the film not just to me but to the family as well. He was very lonely have been widowed so recently and he was not ready to have an affair. He was looking for some fulfilment in his life.

Interviewer:     Now your relationship with Stephen ended unhappily when he had a relationship with one of his nurses, Elaine Mason who he eventually married and has since now divorced. What was that period in your life like Jane? Did you feel utter betrayal?

Jane:                No, because I realised that Jonathan was in my life and I felt that Stephen had every right to have somebody in his life. But, I did want us to be able to continue as a family and I felt that Stephen needed me in his life because I knew all the routines. I cared for him.  I was committed to him. I felt that he needed my protection, but evidently that is not what he and his nurse wanted. So that was actually the end of the marriage.

Interviewer:     Has your relationship resolved since then?

Jane:                Between Stephen and me?

Interviewer:     Yes.

Jane:                Oh well we have three children and we have three grandchildren and I think that it’s very important for the family to have a sense of unity and to be able to do things together. To be able to go on holiday together, to be able to have meals on festive occasions together. And, to enjoy things like The Theory of Everything together.

Interviewer:     What was it like as the years kept passing by and not to put too fine of a point on it, Stephen was still alive?

Jane:                Life goes on doesn’t it? One year succeeds another and you concentrate on all the really wonderful things: your children, their success, the grandchildren and their success. And, in a sense Stephen and I had won the battle against motor neurone disease and that was a great success to.

Interviewer:     Would he ever have achieved what he did without you?

Jane:                Now that I cannot answer. Other people have suggested that, that might be the case, but who knows what could have happened.

Interviewer:     One point in the film Stephen says to you “you don’t know what’s coming.” If you had known would you have made the same decision to get married?

Jane:                I think if I had known I then would have known that I would be wanting to do things differently. I would want to be able to talk about the illness with him. I would want to be able to make better provisions. I would want to be much more careful about vetting people who came into the house as nurses and carers. So I would have wanted to have been in a strong position myself and I would have definitely wanted a lot more help.

 

[Outro]

Interviewer:     I  was talking to Jane Hawking and that film The Theory of Everything opened yesterday and it is very, very good indeed.

 

Stay Up Late: Enjoy Gig Life Independently

People with learning disabilities have the same interests, passions and hobbies as anybody else, accessing them however, is sometimes a lot harder than it should be. Music lovers may miss out on the opportunity to enjoy live music, simply due to their care plan or no one willing to go along to see their favourite band. Going out in the evening to listen to music, enjoy a show or a sports match should be accessible to everyone and the charity Stay Up Late promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities to enjoy a lifestyle of their choosing.

Stay Up Late Gig Buddies

Music with Stay Up Late

Enjoying Music with Stay Up Late

Stay Up Late relies on volunteers who want to enjoy live music and are happy to go along with someone with learning disabilities to ensure they get to enjoy the same experiences as everybody else.  Stay Up Late clients are matched with volunteer gig buddies with common interest so they can attend gigs together which might mean live music concerts but could also be football matches, church services and festivals.

Many people with learning disabilities live independently of their families but they are supported in their daily life by staff. This makes late night events difficult as many staff are tied down to rotas and therefore, if they finish their shift at 10pm, staying on at a gig until 11pm is very unlikely and the individual in question may need support in getting home and therefore would have to leave too.

Leaving events at around 9pm has become the norm for many people with learning disabilities according to Stay Up Late and this is clearly an example of the unfairness and inequality people are living with, simply due to their additional needs.

Live your Independent Life

Stay Up Late wants all its clients to know they can stay up late however they wish. Their Facebook page shows a wide range of events which have attracted people with learning disabilities across the country as well as those local to the charity’s base in Brighton.

Stay Up Late also assert that in addition to their voluntary scheme, support workers should be employed flexibly and be able to work different hours to allow late night events, going out in the evening and therefore ensuring people with learning disabilities can live the lifestyle they choose. Many support workers are happy to work different hours as long as they know in advance but red tape issues often stop companies from allowing this and this is something Stay Up Late want to change.

Share Passions and Interests

Music crowd at Stay Up Late

Music crowd with Stay Up Late

In a radio interview the man behind Stay Up Late, Paul Richards, explained the importance of the shared passions in the success of his charity. Discussing events he had attended purely because someone was needed to go, he realised just how important it was to attend events with likeminded individuals rather than just someone who’s available. Gig buddies are chosen because of their close matching interests to the clients and therefore long-term friendships are formed as well as simply someone to take along to events.

It’s also important to note that all individuals who are selected as volunteer buddies are fully checked and vetted to ensure they are safe to accompany with vulnerable adults and Stay Up Late ensure safeguarding practices are followed to the letter.

Stay Up Late and Do What You Want

Stay Up Late exists to further independence. In the interview again Paul explains how rarely you see a person with learning disabilities out at night and how Gig Buddies was setup to try and create a natural and organic process of forming friendships through shared interests and push forward the message that people with learning disabilities have every right to be out enjoying an active social life of their choosing, integrating into their chosen communities.

We think the work at Stay Up Late are doing is commendable and think their efforts should be spread nationwide to allow even more people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle they wish, unconfined by rotas and management.

All photographs courtesy of the Stay Up Late website.

Video Transcript

The video was created using the NZ Radio interview and the mp3 can be found here http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thiswayup/audio/20152929/stayuplate-org

A transcript of the video is available below but has also been added as captions to the you-tube video.

Simon:  Stay up late is a charity in the UK that promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle of their choice. They match clients and volunteers with common interests and then they attend gigs together everything from musical concerts to sporting events and church services.  Paul Richards is the man that set up Stay Up Late and Gig Buddies.

Paul:    I don’t know what the situation is like in New Zealand, but the UK there is lots of people with learning disabilities and autism who don’t get huge amount of funded support. So what happens is they end up spending a lot of time at home in social isolation. Loneness leads to all sorts of things around you know poor mental and physical health and it’s bad for communities to have people who are you know, lonely. And so, gig buddies is basically trying to deal with that problem by hooking social isolated people with learning disabilities up with a volunteer who loves the same music so they can go out to main stream gigs or whatever tickles their fancy together. For some people that is to go play sports, watch sport, somebody wants to go to church; doesn’t really matter. Say what your gig is and we’ll find someone later to go. But, generally it’s around about music.

Simon: And the critical bit here is having some sort of shared interest in that type of music because I guess you’ve got so many genres of live music happening that matching that up it would be problematic. There would be nothing worse than I guess one music fan having to go and sit for 2 hours through some other type of music performance that they actually hated and wouldn’t’ come back for more.

Paul:    Exactly! Last year some of our advisory group and they are made up of people with learning disabilities, they decided that they’d like to go see the dancing on ice extravaganza at the Brighton Center [00:02:01] and I said to our project manager ‘oh do I have to go? I absolutely hate that kind of thing”. Because, I know that if you love that kind of thing the energy rubs off and if you don’t you just sort of sit there zapping everyone else’s energy away from them. So I would go and I would try to be professional and I would try to be enthusiastic, but isn’t it better to go with somebody who truly shares you passion whatever that is? And your right, that’s the hook. It’s about a shared interest but also from that it’s also finding new experiences as well. So if you think about the sort of thing you sit in a pub and you are sort of chatting with a mate and you tell him to check out an artist I’ve never heard of, you know, and it’s that stuff that you go back and you buy the record and you listen to it and it expands your horizon and so that’s part of it as well, but within what people are comfortable with.

Simon: So how do you find the volunteers, the buddies that are taking people out to these gigs because as I mentioned you have to be I wouldn’t say careful, but there must be some sort of selection criteria?

Paul:    Yeah absolutely. We advertise in a variety of different places so, universities, venues themselves, a lot of word of mouth, we sort of go to events you know sort of around social care and things like that and put the word out, but also people like social workers sort of spread the word as well, but everybody gets interviewed and find out more about them. Then we do, well we are required by law to do criminal background checks on everyone, and we also give them some training. During that process some people do drop out and they realize it’s not for them or they come back with a colorful police record, and if you’ve got a police record it doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved; it does depend on what it was and when it was for to be honest.

Simon: I am sure, I am sure. Now the Gig buddies is part of a broader charity that you set up called Stay Up Late which is essentially about reclaiming the night isn’t it? For I guess as you say this community of people that are a large proportion of them don’t tend to get out at night.

Paul:    There is so much stuff going on you know but I sort of sit at the pub every evening, and still where we live very few people with learning disabilities out in the evening and you know the pub is where you, well I met my mates and watch music or chat the night away and those sort of things; those natural sort of things. So that’s what we through Gig Buddies are trying to create is natural friendships so they sort of go on in their informal and hopefully they last for a long time. But yeah, stay up late started because we were frustrated, I was in a band with 3 guys with learning disabilities in a punk band it’s called Heavy Load, and we were frustrated that people were leaving our gigs just as we got on stage and it was classic spinal tap because we never ever thought that was a reflection on the quality of our performances which were an acquired taste and quite chaotic and hilarious. It was because typically people do have support, have staff who are this ridged router systems that finish at 10 o’clock at night so everybody leaves at 9 so they can be home tucked up in bed with their cup of cocoa and the staff go home, and we started challenging that saying ‘look people with learning disabilities have every right to be active social lives that we all enjoy and the stuff that defines us and makes us part of a community and they are being denied it.’ So that’s why we started it and it sort of all grown from there.

Simon: So as a Gig buddy I would join the organization and I would go through the vetting process and then I fill out some form and say ‘hey look I am really into Reggae’ or I like a bit of this or that and you would then say ‘okay look we’ve got someone over here who is interested that.’ What do I then go and pick that person up and then I am responsible for them for the evening?

Paul:    Yes, well what we do is we have sort of a matching process. Our project manager she’ll be thinking when she meets people, she’ll be looking at their musical interests also where they live because a lot of the areas we work outside of Bright and it is quite rural and we pull public transport link. So it’s looking at do people live in the next village or town along and do they have a car and that sort of thing. And then, then it might sometimes be around sex or sexuality, age, it’s a whole range of things go into the mix in time which work out as well as their musical tastes which is quite a complicated thing. But then we’ll always go and support the first night out so that they get to meet at first. And then we’ll go support the first night out. So it’s sort of set up in that gentle way, and then they can go on and develop their friendship, but we sort of, we guide people through that because we are fully aware that people have anxiety around going out with somebody with a learning disability and most of our volunteers are new to supporting people with learning disabilities. So you know we talk through maybe a few of the potential support issues. There might be that someone is anxious in crowds and noisy situations and things like that and what you do in situations where somebody’s experiencing anxiety and different things like that. Yeah, so we don’t just leave them to it we sort of… – and then we offer them ongoing support as well so if they are having some doubts or problems we’ll meet with them and chat through things with them.

Simon: Paul Richards is the founder of Stay Up Late and there is more information on our website right now.

S’Up Spoon Kickstarter Campaign

S’Up Spoon Supporting Inclusive and Independent Dining

S’Up Spoon is a new and innovative assistive eating aid to help people with a movement disorder. Check out their Kickstarter campaign!

S'Up Spoon, Regular Spoon

Comparing S’Up Spoon to a regular spoon

Inclusive and design for all practices are at the heart of everything we do and we like to support products that offer the same. S’Up Spoon is an innovative new product which provides a safe and convenient utensil, specifically designed for people with cerebral palsy as well as anyone suffering from hand tremors, such as essential tremor. S’Up Spoon helps to ensure independence and dignity to many and their Kickstarter Campaign is currently gaining momentum and we want to help push them along their way!

Eat More, Chat More, Spill Less

With the above slogan opening the campaign, S’Up Spoon is introduced as a spoon for shaky hands and the campaign is looking to raise £33,000 and have provided the below valuable flowchart of exactly how their funding will be spent:

What is S’Up Spoon

S'up Spoon in Action

S’Up Spoon in Action

The video below explains S’up Spoon very well. The spoon was developed after the inventors met Grant who was frustrated by the limited nature of regular utensils as well as those specifically designed for assistive purposes. The spoon was designed to allow grant the freedom he needed to eat out with friends and from his fantastic feedback, the company went on to further hone the spoon for a wider user group.

The current S’Up Spoon has been developed to suit a wider audience including people with essential tremor as mentioned above as well as Parkinson’s disease. The spoon is on the verge of reaching market and there’s hope that the Kickstarter campaign will help launch them and ensure their product is available for a much wider audience. They’re currently about £20,000 away from their target and have 10 days to go. We’re hoping a final push can get them the funding they need and bring S’Up Spoon to market.

Assistive Utensils Market

The assistive utensils market is a growing area of interest for many inventors and designers. Products such as the Knork, Handsteady and other drinking and eating aids, provide assistance in some ways but not others and it’s clear S’Up Spoon feels a definite gap in the market and could even be used alongside other utensils and products.

We also reckon this is a good time to mention how valuable your Trabasack can be when out and about, providing a sturdy and stable surface to dine from, perhaps when you’re in a busy area or the table height isn’t quite right for dining comfortably.

S’Up Spoon Kickstarter

As with all Kickstarter campaigns, S’Up Spoon offer a range of incentives to their backers to get them on board and thank them for their kind pledges, the S’Up Spoon pledge incentives are as follows:

  • £2 or more: the feeling that you’ve supported a great cause
  • £15 or more: £3 off the estimate RRP for your S’Up Spoon and delivery by Christmas
  • £18 or more: A special S’Up Spoon supporters’ t-shirt (for those who don’t need the spoon but want to back the scheme)
  • £18 or more: A black/dark grey S’Up Spoon from the first production line for delivery in December 2014
  • £18 or more: A black/dark grey S’Up Spoon from the second production line for delivery in February 2015
  • £20 or more: A limited edition Kickstarter S’Up Spoon in green, never to be produced again.
  • £25 or more: Two black/dark grey S’Up Spoons for delivery between Jan-Feb 2015
  • £40 or more: Ultimate Package – both a black and special edition green spoon and a t-shirt for delivery in December 2014
  • £375 or more: A special edition silver anodised aluminium spoon, hand finished with a name etched onto the handle for delivery in February 2015
  • £2,500 or more: Lunch in Glasgow with a tour of the 4c Design office and a demonstration of the design processes used to develop the product. Whilst in Glasgow the backer will be able to get involved in ideas and planning for future developments of S’Up Spoon and will become a feature on the website alongside the rest of the team involves in the spoon’s design and development.

There are lots of fantastic incentives there to make that final push to back up S’Up Spoon and ensure it’s available to buy for anyone who wants it. Our main hope for the development of the product is that a stainless steel version is eventually created, allowing the S’Up Spoon to blend in more naturally in all dining environments.

Good luck to the 4c Design team and S’Up Spoon. We will keep this page updated with news as the project progresses.