Penny’s Blog: CEO Mark retires from Equal Lives – Shoes, Sax and Sag Aloo

I have been asked to use my blog this week to say goodbye to our long standing CEO Mark Harrison.

So ‘Goodbye’ Mark!

There, that has dealt with that!

Oh no sorry, I think they meant I should write a bit more than that so here goes….

Photo of Mark speaking at our AGM

Mark was formerly a trustee (2005 -2009) of the Norfolk Coalition of disabled People (NCODP,) prior to becoming CEO when Bill Albert retired from the role in 2009.

Mark had previously said “As a founder of NCODP, Bill had ‘big shoes to fill’ and I hope I have done him and the other founders justice.  NCODP had unique qualities in the world of disabled people’s organisations (DPO), as it combined membership, voice and representation activities, with providing independent living and advocacy services to Norfolk and Suffolk’s disability communities.  It also became the largest user-led DPO in the country.”

Mark is also proud that “One of our biggest achievements is that we employ a majority of disabled people in our staff team, and act as an example to others to aspire to.“

As most of you know our star of Radio Show, Screen, Newspaper and various pavements, roads and roundabouts, (and tables at Westminster and beyond), Mark is a tireless campaigner for the Rights of disabled People and in viewing the last 5 years at Equal Lives mark says “The last 5 years have been tough, as the impact of austerity has bitten deep into our organisation. The fact that we are still here and thriving in spite of the cuts is testament to our resilience. Equal Lives has played a leading role in documenting the disproportionate effects of austerity on Norfolk’s disability community. Our work with other DPOs in preparing and presenting reports to the Government and UN disability committee has also had an impact globally.  I am proud that Equal Lives punches above our weight in this regard.”

Photo of Mark at a local demo








As well as his campaigning, Mark has always had time for the Members and member Groups of the Organisation; attending group meetings whenever possible, running the Independent Living groups, supporting and facilitating the Youth forum and much much more.

Photo of Mark at the launch of the Thetford ILG

I first met Mark in 2007, when I went along to a training workshop for researchers for the Social Action Research Project, and later worked on the Centre of Independent Living Project (where on occasions I could be a bit controversial or substitute ‘creative ideas’ for what was actually expected of the questions being asked!).

Unflappable Mark was always open to hear my ideas, if not always entirely sure exactly how and if they could be achieved (and probably even if they should!). I still think an event on a big boat on the Broads is an awesome idea, along with various other ideas like nightclubs and tactile magazine articles.

However, much to his probably regret this work led to me getting a full time job at NCODP and finally after all these years he obviously can’t bear it any longer and is now retiring from his CEO role!

Good for a bit of office banter, we have probably tested Mark’s sense of humour over the years  and he has had to take his fair share of office stick and antics.

However personally, Mark has always been someone I can talk to and he has seen me through many ups and downs over my time at Equal Lives, as well as being someone to share a curry, glass of vino, beer or the odd Saxophone performance with.

Now that was an experience learning the music for Saxophone Massive, when I couldn’t see the music and Mark couldn’t read it. But with the help of one of the performer’s mums, lovely Laurie Acourt and Musician maestro Mike cox, somehow we got to perform the record breaking sax massive in Norwich with about another 180 saxophonists.

Photo of Mark with the other sax members

To my knowledge Mark still has lessons, although a little dickie bird has told me these are subject to frequent breaks to take on refreshments.

I am leaving the last words to the most gorgeous lady you will ever meet Sandie:


I’m really mad at you for leaving E.L.; I can’t manage without you and the bald head!

Oh! Hang on – YES!!!!!!!!!!! I can!

Because of you, I’m stronger.

Because of you, I can say “NO”.

Because of you, I can say and do things I never thought I could do.

Because of you, I’m not overwhelmed by my condition.

Because of you, I’m less sad.

I’m still mad at you, though!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lots of love wrapped in chocolate!


Knowing Sandie and other Members, well I think this says all that needs to be said about ‘filling shoes’!






3 Responses to “Penny’s Blog: CEO Mark retires from Equal Lives – Shoes, Sax and Sag Aloo”

  1. Farewell then my very good friend, although I hope that won’t be a poimanent fing. Equal Lives is a huge loser in your retirement although I suspect there’ll be a stampede of corporate bods jockeying for a whoop whoop place. My very best wishes go with you for your future, whatever that may be – you’re not applying to be a soccer ref are you!

  2. Paul McCluskey

    I would like to wish Mark the very best in his retirement. I have memories of the “Values into Action” meetings, one in particular, when we were welcomes to a selection of breakfast goodies such as orange juice, croissants, brioche, biscuits, tea and coffee, as well as random topics such as sci-fi movies, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, the perfect ice-breaker and antidote for all those feeling the “Monday morning feeling.” It was a pleasure to be involved with attending a few Independent Living Groups in King’s Lynn and Diss back in 2009, and talking about music and familiarising myself to other parts of the County too. Happy Easter to you too!

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