Robert thinking inside the box for charity challenge

Tipton man locked in for autism campaign.

A 50-year-old man from Wednesbury, West Midlands, is about to put his life on hold for 50 hours to live in a glass box, in order to raise awareness of autism and the support that Caudwell Children gives to local children with the condition.

Robert Hazel, Community Library Manager at Tipton Library, has agreed to take part in the Locked in for Autism campaign, which will see him living in full public view at the Tesco Extra store on Birmingham Road, Dudley, from noon on Wednesday 11th November until 2pm on Friday 13th November.

The former Wodensborough High School pupil is hoping that his efforts will raise more awareness, acceptance and understanding of autism. As he explained: “I know parents of autistic children have told the charity that the glass box is a really powerful metaphor for the condition. Being seen and stared at from all directions, whilst being isolated and finding it difficult to communicate, is often how those living with the condition feel.

“Whilst I realise it’s different for every family I do have a number of friends with autistic children who say that they recognise this description!”

Robert, who divides his spare time between his role of governor at St Pauls Academy in Tipton, with his hobbies of listening to music, local history and keep fit, is particularly well-connected locally, and is relying on support from his friends, family and associated community groups through Tipton Library to get him through the 50 hours.

Robert celebrated his 50th birthday in April and he says that this landmark has inspired him to undertake as many charity challenges as he can during the year. He said: “The fact that my 50 hours of isolation will take place in my fiftieth year is a fantastic coincidence. It’s a big year for me and I want to make the most of it!”

The University of Central England graduate says he has plenty of things to keep him occupied during his self-imposed incarceration. As he explained: “Being a librarian I will of course be taking books and other things to read as well as a collection of crosswords and puzzles. I also hope to have a go at making something for the poppy appeal whilst in the box.

“I will also be supporting local community groups by wearing a collection of T-shirts promoting each organisation. I already have shirts for William Perry Boxing Club, Tipton Town FC and the Tipton Community Association and I’ll also be wearing a couple of onesies.”

Robert has also organised a range of activities to entertain him and visiting shoppers to the store. “The local children’s centre will be doing face painting, a performance poet will be paying me a visit, there will be lots of music with great local musicians and a school choir and there will be the opportunity to play local draughts champion, Ken Lovell.”

Black Country author and poet Brendan Hawthorne, who has published books on Black Country Dialect and Black Country Ghosts, will also be popping into the store to support Robert. The Knitter Natter Group, an enthusiastic group of knitters, will be ‘casting on’ and displaying their ‘purl front and back’ skills to interested onlookers.

“I would urge everyone to come in and say hello,” said Robert. “I want people to support this great challenge and make sure they come and have a selfie with the man in the box!”

Andy Bailey, from Caudwell Children, is delighted that Robert has agreed to take on the challenge. He said: “Robert is a popular chap with a great sense of humour, which I think will prove vital once the challenge starts. The box measures three metres by two metres, so the space is tight.

“Mobile phones and gadgets are banned inside the box and Robert will be restricted to strict five minute refreshment breaks every two hours.”

Caudwell Children will be supporting Robert through his challenge, with staff and volunteers on hand to share with the public the support provided through our Autistic Children’s Therapies programme, which provides a series of therapies, education, dietary and nutritional interventions.

The proud Black Country man is hoping to raise £2,000 for Caudwell Children, and you can donate to his challenge at the store, via or by text: LIFA57 £amount 70070