Nora Logan on disability, creativity and being human
In her new podcast ‘So, Life Wants You Dead’, the Soho Chance winner celebrates the community of disabled creatives and opens up about her own journey
Tuesday 22 November 2022 By Anastasiia Fedorova
Nora Logan was 28 and working in TV production when she unexpectedly fell ill. She went into liver failure and received a transplant shortly after. The surgery and recovery have shaped her subsequent life: not only was she unable to work for a few years, but she also felt compelled to process the traumatic experience through a creative outlet. Seven years later, Logan is a writer, wellbeing advocate and the host of So, Life Wants You Dead – her new podcast exploring illness, trauma, creativity, and disability.
The podcast was made after Logan won the 2021 Soho Chance prize, a Soho House competition helping emerging creatives to get a project off the ground. Launching next month, So, Life Wants You Dead is ‘the space to have honest, funny and expansive conversations with people who have an illness, disability or chronic condition and who just so happen to be creatives, too’.
As we celebrate Disability History Month in the UK, which runs until Friday 16 December, we caught up with Logan about the challenges and joys of her journey and what we can expect from her conversations on So, Life Wants You Dead.
In what ways did your life and career journey get you to where you are today?
‘I started out in fashion editorial and then TV, where I worked as a production assistant for a few years. When I was working in late-night TV in New York I got very sick. They didn’t know what was wrong with me – I went into liver failure and ultimately had to have an emergency transplant. This was seven years ago, and I was 28.
‘I was pushed out of the workforce for three years at least. I tried to go back to doing production work, but my body just couldn’t really handle it. During my illness I began writing. I started and just couldn’t stop – I just had to get words down on paper in an effort to deal with the trauma of going through such an intense surgical experience and being close to death. I decided that I wanted to write a book, which I’m still working on. And then I had this idea to make a podcast and interview other people who live with a disability or have a chronic illness. I wanted to ask them about their creative practice, because it’s been such a big healing tool for me.’
When you had the idea for the podcast for the first time, what was the main aim? What did you want the listeners to take away from it?
‘My goal was twofold. One was a selfish endeavour: I really wanted to find a community of other people who live with disability and illness and connect to them. And then the other aim was telling stories of people who live with disability, because I don’t feel like I see much of that in the media or online – particularly in a way that feels very human. I wanted to add my voice to the conversation, and voices of other people talking about the full spectrum of their experiences and the richness of their life.’
When it comes to the conversation about disability in general, which key things do you think are missing?
‘There are so many things still to be addressed. Even if you look at spaces that you go into, they’re not always accessible for people in a way that feels kind of like it’s just a given. I recently went to a Lizzo concert, and she had someone signing for the audience – I’d never seen that before. That is not only a sign of inclusivity, but it also transforms the experience for someone.
‘When it comes to work, I think we really need to rethink the ways that we welcome disabled people. The five-day week, nine to five work structure is next to impossible for a lot of people to adhere to. There’s so much value that the disabled community can provide to a workplace, but very often we feel shut out because we don’t have the energy or ability to fully participate.
‘There needs to be some sort of bridge to allow disabled people to work and not necessarily lose their benefits, both in the UK and the US. For example, in the US you can lose your benefits and disability insurance if you get married. I think when it comes to policy and government, disabled people are seen as less than human – but actually it’s the complete opposite. Disabled people are so fully human and so in touch with their humanity – that's what I’ve seen being a part of this community.’
When we add creativity to the conversation about disability, what is the meaning of it for you and for people you interviewed?
‘For me, it’s been an absolute cornerstone of my own recovery from my transplant. Among the people I spoke to, everyone had a different approach to it. But for so many, it’s been a way to make sense of their own experience. It’s an opportunity to be seen in a different way, and to out our pain and suffering into the cauldron of creativity; to express and feel expansive and show up in their humanity and fullness, especially in the ableist society that doesn’t always look at us the way we deserve to be looked at.’
Soho Chance is one of our creative access programmes. As stated in our ESG report, by 2030 our goal is for 5% of our annual Soho House membership intake to be part of one of our creative access programmes. You can read more about all of our ESG goals and the progress we’re making towards them in our 2021 ESG report.