TV drama praised for its positive take on learning disabilities

A Bafta award-winning drama series has been credited with challenging misconceptions about people with learning disabilities.

BBC’s Marvellous told the real-life story of Neil Baldwin, a Staffordshire man who became a much-loved local celebrity after being appointed kit-man at his beloved Stoke City FC.

Neil, known affectionately as Nello, was played by Toby Jones in the biographical film, which aired to great acclaim last year.

On Sunday night, Neil was invited to the Bafta award ceremony and saw the drama about his life scoop two awards.

“Everybody says how great that film was and it is,” said the 70-year-old. “I’m very pleased about it.”

Jones felt that Neil’s “abiding optimism” was what made the drama so compelling and said he himself had learned so much from the role.

“When it was transmitted, Neil’s story had a great reaction, apparently trending on Twitter, and receiving unanimously positive reviews.

“All welcome praise, but most satisfying of all was the praise from outside the world of acting and television. The charity Mencap contacted us to say the team behind Marvellous had helped to challenge society’s perception of people with learning disabilities.

“Neil was diagnosed with a learning disability but refuses to be defined by this label.”

The actor hopes that the popularity of Marvellous will mark a sea change in the way the media portrays people like Neil.

“[The film] celebrates the achievements of a dynamic, resilient individual whose disability is rendered irrelevant by the communities in which he continues to thrive.”