CHESTERFIELD: Different perspective for town mayor

Chesterfield Mayor Paul Stone
Chesterfield Mayor Paul Stone

Mingling with celebs, performing daredevil stunts and dressing as Mr Blobby might not be the usual pursuits of a town mayor.

But Paul Stone - who took on the civic role in May - admits he’s no ordinary mayor. Two years ago Paul was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Chesterfield Mayor Paul Stone at work in his office

Chesterfield Mayor Paul Stone at work in his office

The condition, a form of autism, causes difficulties in social relationships and in communicating but the 44-year-old is determined to show his disability has never held him back.

He said: “I was first offered the role of mayor a few years ago but at the time I didn’t think I could do it as it is a big commitment.

“When I was offered it this time I felt different. I wanted to do it to prove something - that someone with Asperger’s could do it.”

He added: “I can’t get away from the fact I’m different. I do come at things differently but at the end of the day I’m not that different from Joe Public in many ways.”

Paul who lives in Barrow Hill, said having Asperger’s was like “having a different culture, or different language.”

As a child he was not tested for the condition and faced many challenges, inspiring his mayoral theme for the year.

He said: “When I was little I was often the one excluded. I couldn’t work out how to make friends and came across differently from others.

“My natural instinct now is to support the underdog, try and include people and listen to people who wouldn’t normally have a voice.”

Paul was keen to stress Asperger’s affects people differently. In his case, what he often faces is an “overload” of information.

He said: “I pick up lots of different things when a lot of people are talking which can be difficult. It can lead to being overloaded with information.”

“Some think that people with Asperger’s don’t have feelings but that’s not true. I do have feelings, sometimes more than others,” he said.

But Paul said the condition would not impact on his ability to be Chesterfield’s figurehead and praised the support he has received from the council and leader John Burrows.

Paul, an independent councillor for 12 years represents the Barrow Hill and New Whittington ward. He has local politics in his blood as both his parents served as councillors - his father David Stone, was a previous mayor and his mother was the late councillor Freda Stone.

In his teens Paul decided to pursue an acting career and adopted the name Kris Kanapo to obtain his Equity card.

Some of his first introductions into the entertainment world included dressing as Mr Blobby at a gala and performing as a clown at children’s parties.

He said: “I wanted to get into movies and did some stunt training which included being set on fire.”

Wearing a protective suit Paul was doused in paraffin and his whole body set alight. His stunt training also saw him diving from a high platform, while on fire and being hit by a van and rolling over the front.

As a TV extra he has appeared in several BBC and independent productions such as Sodier Soldier, Boon and The Upper Hand, meeting a list of celebs including Neil Morrissey, Samantha Beckinsale and Blockbusters’ Bob Holness.

“They were all very friendly and Bob Holness was a really great down-to-earth man,” he said. “In the future I’d like to do some more TV extra work and work behind the camera.”

Paul’s childhood dream was to star in martial arts movies and he is highly qualified in many different combat sports, including a black belt in several types of martial art and free-style kick boxing. He is also a trained wrestling coach.

Paul, who is supported by his partner Sharon Buxton, hopes to bring something new to the role of town mayor and said he has been inundated with kindness from the people of Chesterfield.

He added: “I’m a bit younger than some previous mayors and my Asperger’s does mean I come at things with a different perspective.

“There is a lot of goodwill out there towards the mayor which has made it so easy when I’ve been out and about meeting people.

“A lot of things I try I’m not a natural at straight away but there are others out there that face challenges too. I hope I’m proof you can do what you want with support.

“You can overcome challenges and break down some of the myths around Asperger’s that’s why “facing challenges” is my theme for the year.”

Paul chose Barbara Wallace, of New Whittington, as his mayoress.

Barbara started the Nenna Kind Cancer Support Centre, in New Square, in memory of her daughter Helen, who died of cancer in 2011.

Barbara was also founder member of the Barrow Hill and Whittington Community Forum and chairman of Friends of Brearley Park. As part of the group she helped raise £250,000 to purchase new park equipment.

Paul’s mother died of cancer and he has been an active supporter of the charity.

He praised Barbara’s tireless charity work and dedication to the area.

To find out more about Asperger’s or to get support contact Renuka Russell of Derbyshire Autism Support Group on 07968749334.

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