One big celebration of little people!
Once a year, a very special gathering takes place in the UK that leaves everyone who attends uplifted and inspired…
Despite wearing flats, 5ft 4in Heather Smith towers above her family. She walks across the crowded hotel reception area with her husband Paul, and their children, Jack, 13, and Erin, nine, following behind.
But, for once, no one stops to look or make rude comments. This is the one place the family can completely relax.
It’s the 6th annual Little People UK charity convention, held earlier this month in Leicester. For hundreds of people from the UK’s dwarf community and their families, this event is the highlight of the year. It’s a weekend of invaluable advice, friendship and fun.
Children and adults alike zoom around on trikes, mobility scooters and Segways – not just for fun, but because dwarfism causes painful back and hip problems – from one activity to the next.
The jam-packed itinerary includes a family game of rounders, a cooking demo, a panel of doctors to offer tailored medical advice and an 80s fancy-dress disco.
‘Here, there’s no reason to be self-conscious,’ says Heather, 34, from Nottingham. ‘No one stares at us or takes photos.’
For 3ft 11in Paul and his kids, it’s a rare chance to see others who look just like them.
‘I’d never even met another dwarf until I was 13!’ says Paul, 41. ‘My parents were of average height, as is my brother.
‘I wasn’t treated any differently. I just found ways to do things. My dad made me a wooden box to stand on and I’d use a stick or a brush to hit the light switch.’
With only 6,000 dwarves in the UK and over 200 types of dwarfism, finding someone exactly like them is a tall order for most little people. ‘That’s why this convention is so important,’ says Paul. ‘ You realise you’re not alone.’
The pair married 10 years ago after meeting in Majorca, where Heather was a holiday rep and Paul a DJ.
‘The height difference was never an issue for us,’ says Heather. ‘But other people are fascinated by it. It can be very upsetting, especially when drunk people ask how you do things in the bedroom.’
Little People UK (LPUK) was founded in 2012 by actor Warwick Davis, 47, and his wife Sam, 46. Their two children, Annabelle, 20, and Harrison, 14, have both inherited Warwick’s form of dwarfism, spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, while Sam has achondroplasia.
But it was losing their first son, Lloyd, in 1991 that cemented Sam’s determination to help other families.
Lloyd had ‘double dominance’, meaning he inherited the genes for both types of dwarfism from his parents. His lungs were very weak and, at just nine days old, he sadly passed away. Tragically, their second son George suffered the same fate.
‘ We were so scared to get pregnant again,’ says Sam tearfully. ‘Over the years, we’ve had so many families contact us looking for help and advice. I love being short, but being a dwarf isn’t easy. We face challenges daily and suffer health issues.
‘I wanted to offer people a place where they could get information and support.’
Today, the charity runs an equipment loan scheme and advice on everyday living. With more than 400 members, LPUK is inundated with requests.
‘It’s for everyone, not just people with dwarfism,’ says Sam. ‘Siblings, aunts, grandparents… ’
Warwick adds, ‘LPUK fosters a great sense of belonging. We provide an environment where little people can actually talk to one another eye-to-eye. That doesn’t happen often.’
He explains that the charity’s main aims
Heather and Paul with kids Erin and Jack LPUK enables people such as Jenny and Mark Corns to learn about dwarfism – invaluable in supporting twins Katie and Emilia (with sister Abigail, left) Actor Warwick Davis founded Little People UK in 2012
Tall order: Collette Haynes and Charlie Hayes Karina Warr with kids Lorelei, six and Freya, nine
Blues Brothers-inspired fun for this twosome at the 80s disco