Disability Campaigner visits Chester

By Jack Latham

People often give up their dreams when nobody gives them a chance, but for Dom Smith failure was never an option.

With Global Accessibility Awareness Day coming up on Thursday 16 May, Smith visited the University of Chester to discuss the problems that persist with accessibility in music venues and detail his experiences.

Smith has done everything from playing the drums in a grindcore band to creating a space for aspiring journalists to tone their skills. He has achieved more than he could have ever imagined.

Smith suffers from Cerebral Palsy and requires support in order to walk but has not let this affect his ambitions and career: “As someone with a disability in the industry you get pedestaled for it, but one of the biggest reasons we got funding in the first place was because i was a young adult with a disability.

“I’m supposed to be in a wheelchair now…. at 16 I left being in a wheelchair because I can manoeuvre and I’ve never looked back.”

Dom’s drive and perseverance led to him graduating from the University of Central Lancashire with a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism and also gave him the opportunity to win the National Diversity Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence in 2012.

Smith used his degree to set up the Soundsphere magazine which has had offices in Manchester, Chester and York, before settling down in Hull.

Smith described his aims surrounding Soundsphere: “We specifically focus on supporting young creators from the North of England. It’s funded by venues, clubs, bars, Universities and institutions, who we invest in, and they invest in us which allows us to work with students.”

Soundsphere started off as a print magazine before setting up as a website to offer news from the worlds of music, wrestling, video games and film.

Smith has worked with the likes of the WWE, TNA, the 1975, David Dastmalchian and McBusted, and puts this down to the success of Soundsphere: “We now have the opportunity to work in television, to work in video games and what started as a music platform as expanded beyond that.”

Few experience what Smith has been through and that is mainly down to his ability to counter rejections and press on with what he believes is possible.

“I have still done things that I only dreamed of,” he says. “Playing drums in a band is very painful but I still did it, and I always wanted to be in a position where I could talk to you guys.”

Asked about what legacy he wanted to leave behind, Smith delved into his past and talked about proving people wrong: “The other year someone said to me… Dom you have exceeded all of our expectations, and I will take that. I just want to show people that you can do things even if the deck is stacked against you, so to speak.”

Another achievement that Smith has collected was being acknowledged as one of the top 100 happiest people in the country in The Independent newspaper. This shines a light on the type of character Smith has and showcases the effect he has on other people.

“I always say it’s funny because I’m miserable now! But little things like that are nice.”

Talent must run in the Smith name as Dom’s brother, Guy Smith, is a British professional racing driver who has won the world renowned 24 hours of Le Mans in 2003 and the American Le Mans Series in 2011. “He has been doing it since he was like seven,” Dom explains, “and it has been his whole life. He drove for Bentley and has now set up a new business to mentor young drivers.”

Smith is also a huge fan of wrestling and set up a sister website called Wrestlesphere, to promote his love for the sport. As part of that he also set up a podcast which allows him to work for huge promotions such as WWE and NXT.

He refers to wrestling as his escape when he was going through procedures in hospital, but isn’t a huge fan of more wrestling events moving to Saudi Arabia: “I am not a huge fan of it, personally… the journalists who are telling me that progression is being made live in gated communities and are expats. If it continues to progress and we see more women’s wrestling and we see more opportunities I’ll give it a shot.”

Smith was dealt a challenging hand, but his support network and individual character has led him to where he is today. People have told him that he couldn’t do things due to his disability, but he has found inspiration from those around him: “There was a lot of people, and there still is today, that assume what I’m capable of, but family, friends and work colleagues lifted me up when others didn’t.

“As much as this job is very cool, drop someone you know an opportunity…. it’s pretty cool when someone comes back a decade later and says you’re the reason why I’m doing what I dreamed of.”

A positive outlook by an inspiring character, who has shown that anything is possible if you reject the idea of failure.

Photo Credit: Sam Owen

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