Actress and disability campaigner Samantha Renke ‘loves getting recognised in Shoreditch’

Samantha Renke

Samantha Renke - Credit: Archant

Campaigner and star actress Samantha Renke tells the Gazette what she loves about her home in Shoreditch – even if it is on the fifth floor.

Actress and disability campaigner Samantha Renke has called Shoreditch home for five years.

“When I first moved it was a shock,” she told the Gazette. “I realised that the budget wasn’t there for people with disabilities. It’s getting better, though; people are a lot more conscious of people’s needs now.”

Samantha was born with a genetic disorder that means her bones are extremely fragile. She believed she would struggle to get work but got her break three years ago in Little Devil – a film that went on to win Best Picture at the Los Angeles diversity film festival.

Now a star of both film and TV, she is perhaps best known for her part in a Malteasers advert in 2016.

“I’ve always had a passion for acting but given my disability I didn’t think it would happen for me,” she said. “I got knocked back as a teenager and thought it wouldn’t work.

“After the film I ended up with an agent and thought: ‘I’m going to pursue a career in acting.’

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“As far as I’m aware, I’m the first disabled actress to take a lead debut role and win an award for it.”

Samantha’s success has stopped her going unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of Hackney, but she’s still more than happy to share a moment with others.

“It’s lovely to be recognised,” she said. “People in this area are super friendly – all my neighbours and I look out for each other.

“You get out what you put in – if you smile at someone you get a smile back, and from that point of view I’ve never felt isolated in Hackney. It’s a friendly bunch here.”

Samantha, who lives in Old Street, is also a public face for Scope’s End the Awkward campaign. Through it, the charity educates able-bodied people about disability.

Life in Hackney isn’t always easy – the only supported housing she could find is on a fifth floor – but Samantha’s affection for it is evident.

“It’s a place to be creative – a real melting pot,” she said. “I’m exposed to a lot of different media through which I can express myself.

“But my favourite thing is the diversity.

“People don’t care that I’m in a wheelchair – everyone here is different in their own way.”