The local music ensemble Bandwagon.
The local music ensemble Bandwagon.

Festival of love for every ability

RED Inc director Jenny London said there are certain moments in her job that make all the hard slog and reams of paperwork worthwhile.

Red Inc is one of many local disability support services busy getting ready for the veryAbility Festival, an ambitious six-day celebration showcasing the talents of people with a disability right across the Northern Rivers.

For the last few months, arts-based organisation RealArtWorks and RED Inc have been running workshops and skills labs where regional artists and people with a disability collaborate in performance, music, scripting, filmmaking, prop design, puppet making and many other artistic pursuits.

The result is a six-day festival of events that investigates the role love plays in all our lives and Jenny said the entire process has been one of “pure joy” for staff and clients.

“One young man, David, who has cerebral palsy and a severe physical disability, has been editing and making short films. He recently wrote on Facebook ‘I’ve found what I want to do with the rest of my life’,” Jenny said. “He’s superbly cared for by his family but because he’s from overseas he has no access to funding to pursue anything creative, because he does require support to do that. For him, the veryAbility Festival has given him a life; an avenue to express himself that he simply didn’t have before.

“The same can be said for so many clients – another young lady with Down syndrome who has no funding for support is doing art workshops and she is just bubbling. Nothing can compare to those moments when you see what this has brought into people’s lives.”

The centrepiece of the festival is a multimedia performance called Normal Television.

Jenny explained it’s a satirical TV variety show created for stage where the audience becomes the studio audience for the program while members of RED Inc, Multitask, the House With No Steps and other people with disabilities in the community present short films, songs and performance pieces. The audience enters the ‘studio’ via a multimedia maze, which is an interactive experience where people can express themselves through writing or drawing on the walls or being interviewed on camera.

The workshops have also fuelled the creation of a new band called Bandwagon, with members of popular local bands and people with disabilities rocking out together. The band will perform at various events during the festival and it has been such a successful collaboration, Jenny says they are now looking at touring.

“To see people with disabilities so empowered that they can showcase themselves is beautiful, and having those partnerships evolve just so enriches the fabric of our community,” Jenny said. “So many volunteer groups and organisations and parents have been involved to make this happen, and the love and enthusiasm from everyone is just wonderful. One of the disability workers said she couldn’t believe the amount of love she had felt in the creation of this; she could not believe this is what she got paid to do.

“We’re hoping this can be the start of an annual disability arts festival.”

Normal Television will be performed on International Day of People with a Disability next Thursday, December 3 at Lismore City Hall at 1pm and 7pm. People can also visit the maze and become involved on Tuesday, December 1, from lunch onwards and on Wednesday, December 2, all day.

The veryAbility Festival also includes many other activities including a masquerade Ball of Love this Saturday, November 28; a film festival on Sunday, November 29 from 2pm; and a cabaret show on Wednesday, December 2, at 6pm.

School groups are particularly encouraged to visit the maze and they will be given a DVD of their experience to take away. For bookings, phone RED Inc on 6622 3400.

All verAbility events are on at Lismore City Hall. For more information and a full program, see this week’s Scene.


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