Able2Do Anything: Music & Arts

London festival showcases talents of young disabled people

students holding a giant multi coloured balloon over their heads

An inclusive festival is underway in London this week celebrating talented blind, deaf and neurodivergent children and young people.

The I Am Festival is in its ninth year motivating the next generation to explore their creativity despite any disabilities they may have.

Programme manager, Beth Robertson, told BBC News: "A huge part of the festival is around inviting deaf, disabled or neurodivergent children and people into spaces which for a variety of reasons may not be accessible to them.

"It's all about equitable access.”

The event is run by London-based not-for-profit A New Direction organisation supported with an annual £1m grant donated by Arts Council England.

Abid Hussain, the council's director of diversity, said the event is the perfect opportunity for students to "showcase their creative talents and leadership skills".

"I'm delighted that some of our leading disability-led companies including Graeae, Blink Dance Theatre and Coney are working directly with schools and young disabled people to inspire the next generation of disabled artists and leaders to contribute to the creative life of England."

Keira Curry, 19, is neurodiverse and one of the festival’s cultural ambassadors.

She said: "Don't let stereotypes be a closed book, be open minded.

"Just because you're divergent doesn't mean you can't be smart. Sometimes I just want people to ask me questions rather than assume."

The festival is taking place at a number of London venues including Tate Modern, Sandler’s Wells and the National Theatre, there is also a “top-secret mission” being held at Kensington Palace.

Education leaders, charity and private sector representatives will all be involved as well as students from 25 special educational needs and disability (SEND) schools.

Curry told BBC London: "It encourages everyone to make a flower using the colours based on their personality. For example, green can mean you're happy, yellow can mean you're excited, red can mean you're upset and a rainbow can mean you're everything, you like everything."

This year’s theme for I Am Festival is “See Me, Hear Me”, all the tickets have now sold out but you can follow the fun on A New Direction socials.

[ I Am Festival runs across London from 11th - 15th March 2024. ]

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