My name is Ritchi Edwards and I’m an award-winning actor, runner, animal lover, movie lover, gamer and an official voice & advocate for the Born Free Foundation. I was born with one hand (Stumpy is his name) & ADHD. I find referring to him as ‘him’ and having a name has helped a lot! I’ve always approached having one hand with a sense of humour I find it helps others feel at ease knowing they can ask about my upper limb difference.
My mother told me a story recently of how she was invited to go to the local hospital when I was just 6 months old to speak to a young lady who had just had a child with one hand like myself & who wasn’t dealing with it very well. My mum told her not to focus on what she thought the child wouldn’t be able to do but instead focus on what they would be able to do and what they most definitely would be able to achieve, I think that is incredibly important and very wise words from my mum.
In the 90’s I attended Reach events as a child and I have some memories that have really stuck, like sitting around a table eating food with other children who looked just like myself. I was the only one hogging the wotsits though, singing songs and meeting Santa! My Nan and Grandad used to help hugely with the raffle prizes at the events, I’m so grateful to have a very supportive family, which has continued to this very day with everything that I do!
When I was younger I used to walk round with a hat on Stumpy or even pulling my sleeve over him hiding him because I was afraid of being looked at or stared at. Now I realise with more confidence that there was no need to hide something which is a part of me, I should never have been ashamed of him being seen, easy to say now though!
I knew I was a little different and as my confidence grew I started to embrace Stumpy a lot more and I think that’s incredibly important that we embrace our difference, not feel sad over it. Having an upper limb difference doesn’t define who we are and I think it’s incredibly important what my mum said… that we focus on what can be done instead of what can’t. I know so many thoughts will go through the parents head and I promise as a person with an upper limb difference that everything will be okay, and I hope through reading this, this will instill some hope in you, that okay there will be challenges, but we all face challenges in life, no matter who we are.
I was urged to go to Theatretrain, a weekend drama school by my Mum & Nan when I was young. At first I was hesitant because my self confidence was still pretty low, I came to tears often on how low my self confidence was, but I owe a lot to the acting world as it has set me free as a person, and a person with an upper limb difference. I have done shows on the Londons West End portraying the Beatles Manager Brian Epstein, local productions with the Braintree Dramatics Society and after doing stage work I moved on to film, gaining friends in the film world from Charles Venn (Casualty), Joe Altin (Game Of Thrones) and Leee John of Imagination.
I’m so grateful as a one handed actor to of had some great opportunities, and having a friend and agent Donna who believes in my vision as a one hand actor, and I hope I can continue to inspire as I go along my journey. One of the highlights for me within my life and career that I’ll always carry with me, is starring as British War Veteran AL in Homeless Ashes (available worldwide on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play) which had it’s world premiere at the prestigious BAFTA & The Academy qualifying Raindance Film Festival. filming Homeless Ashes gave me a great stage as an actor with an upper limb difference and gaining great friends for life will always be a highlight in my career.
I’ve just recently finished on Witch, playing Nicholas, working with some of the Homeless Ashes family! I’ve moved away from calling myself disabled as I feel the word can hold major limitations and I feel the word ‘difference’ has a much more positive feel to it, and instills more hope within the difference society. This is one of the many things that I love about Reach, they call it an upper limb difference, not an upper limb disability!
My vision as an actor is to play characters that aren’t just there because they are visually different, but a character like any other, while bringing awareness to the difference & upper limb difference society! We know differences are there it doesn’t have to be pointed out unless it’s truly vital to the story and character, that’s my mindset.
The best mindset is ‘to be the best we can be’ and that’s what I believe needs to be adopted! People will stare and people will be curious, but it’s my understanding that it’s just human nature to be curious, it is another thing when people mock. People tend to mock what they don’t understand, what they don’t realise is that we are stronger than they’ll ever be able able to comprehend!
I’m very excited to be attending and taking part in the Reach Annual Family Weekend on Saturday 22nd October, I can’t wait to meet others like myself in the upper limb difference society!
If you wish to find out more about me please do take a look in my Linktree