Melanie Sykes

Posted on: 29 April 2022 by Ashleigh Higney in Liverpool Literary Festival 2023

Melanie Sykes

At the talk about her memoir, ‘Illuminations: Autism and all the Things I’ve Left Unsaid’, Melanie Sykes explained the reality of living with autism. Immediately, Sykes advocated for her sensory needs by requesting that the lights were dimmed, giving the Leggate Theatre a cosy and intimate atmosphere. There is always the worry when any discussion of neurodiversity occurs, that only the negative aspects of the condition will be acknowledged. With the self-proclaimed ‘northerner to the core’, these fears were quickly dispelled. The consistent thread running through Sykes’ hour-long discussion was not even her memoir, but actually autistic joy.

Sykes’ talk highlighted her love for self-understanding, and it was clear that her autism diagnosis has given her even more affirmation on who she is. It was evident that this curiosity extended to others, as she routinely paused her talk for impromptu Q&A sessions with the audience to discuss their experiences when navigating neurodiversity.

Not only an exposé on autistic life, Sykes divulged the struggles of being in the spotlight. Referring to her time as a TV presenter and radio host, Sykes revealed the lack of empathy and freedom in this line of work. Sykes heeded a stark warning for young people aspiring to work in these industries – the media, and lack of allies in the workplace, are the reasons why these jobs are more difficult that they look.

There was the overwhelming sense that Sykes aims to be good and do good, and with references to her documentary-in-progress which will raise awareness of autistic life, this doesn’t seem likely to change. Overall, the talk was enlightening and gave all attendees access to Sykes’ unique position; all of which would not have been possible without the Liverpool Literary Festival.