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Daredevil student Sam falls for her date on TV show

Sussex doctoral student Samantha Culpeck features in a groundbreaking TV series that explores disability and romance. Photo: Ray Burmiston / Channel 4 Television.

University of Sussex doctoral student Samantha Culpeck is to feature in a groundbreaking television series that explores disability and romance.

Sam, who is finalising her corrections in her PhD in Psychology at Sussex and working as a Course Co-ordinator in the University’s School of Education and Social Work, has Achondroplasia – a form of dwarfism.

Sam took part in The Undateables (Channel 4, Tuesday 15 January at 9pm) because she believes the series challenges people’s perceptions about disability and associated taboos around dating, relationships and sex.

Sam, who lives in Brighton, was impressed with the first series. She spoke to one of the contributors and decided to volunteer herself for the second series.

Now Sam features in one of the hour-long programmes in the second series. She says: “I consider the programme to be a sensitive documentary about the challenges that people like me face.

“The Paralympics showed the world that disabled people are able to compete and that every one of us can live life to the best of our abilities. The Undateables focuses more on the emotional side of things, and shows that people should also be seen to be equal emotionally as well as physically.”

Sam, who is 3ft 10ins tall, has had to deal with repugnant and insensitive remarks and unwelcome attention at times, but at 34 she seems to have it all – a lovely home, great friends and an interesting career. She is adept at challenging preconceptions and has a taste for physical danger: she has worked as a ski instructor and enjoys horseriding and abseiling. All that’s missing, Sam reveals in the programme, is a partner who appreciates her and shares her love of adventure.

“As my PhD studies came to an end, my priorities changed and relationships began to come to the forefront of my mind again. I thought that I would never be brave enough to discuss those thoughts, but I knew that I wanted to represent my disability and confront taboos.

“It felt good to be part of a series that openly adds to the debate of disability – it felt very liberating. I feel that disabled people are not allowed to be seen as sexual beings or as desiring love and a sex life. It is still very much a taboo subject that courts controversy.”

In the show viewers will meet Sam, see her on the Sussex campus and in Brighton enjoying a hectic social life – and going on two dates, one to a Fifties diner in Brighton and another skydiving.

But does romance blossom? “The skydiving was obviously amazing,” says Sam, “but you’re going to have to watch the programme to find out what happens.”

She adds: “This documentary champions the disabled contributors throughout. Everything was handled with sensitivity and it has given me a great deal of confidence in my abilities and in living life to the full, in spite of the pain and rubbish that can come with being me.”

Despite her high-flying adventures, Sam says that she still has her feet on the ground: “I’ve had to give a lot of interviews for television, radio and the newspapers, but what I want to do now is get my head down and complete my PhD corrections.”

Notes for Editors

Sam appears in ‘The Undateables’, Channel, 4 on Tuesday 15 January at 9pm.

Read about the programme on the Channel 4 web site.

Watch the YouTube trailer – Sam appears about 20 seconds in.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Thursday, 10 January 2013