Folk Weekend: Oxford announce 'Special Saturday' events in a bid to reach out to people with Special Needs and disabilities.
“This was the precise opposite of elitism: joyously and enthusiastically inclusive, throwing music and dance out across the city with as much energy as possible.”
- Music in Oxford review of Folk Weekend 2015
Folk Weekend: Oxford has been championing inclusivity in the arts for some time, and on Saturday 16th April will hold it's first 'Special Saturday' in a bid to encourage people with Special Needs and their families to attend the festival.
Festival Director Cat Kelly says: “We know that events like ours can feel quite overwhelming if a member of your family has Special Needs or a disability, so we are trying to make it as easy as possible for anyone to attend. The folk music scene is generally very inclusive, but it's really important that we reach out to people who can feel excluded and make sure that *they* know that! We hope that Special Saturday will help people to feel welcome at Folk Weekend, and give them the confidence to try something new.”
This community-based, volunteer-run festival has slowly but steadily been forging links with the local Special Educational Needs community; they held their first SEN Schools ceilidh in 2013, and it has fast become and annual – and vastly oversubscribed – event. In fact, there has been such demand that this year the team are running four ceilidhs over two days, and expecting to dance with around 200 children from Oxfordshire's Special Needs schools!
Special Saturday sits right in the centre of this year's Folk Weekend, which runs from 15th - 17th April. The organisers are keen to emphasise that everyone is welcome to any event during the festival, but with Special Saturday have highlighted three events in the programme which are particularly suited to anyone with Special Needs, and are ideal for those who might be coming to the festival for the first time.
If you like to get hands-on with your music-making, try Pete Ord's Inclusive music-making workshop in St Columba's Church Hall. Pete will be exploring some of the different ways that technology can be used to help people with Special Needs to enjoy making music, using equipment such as Soundbeam, SKOOG, iPads, and talking tiles. If dance is more your thing, head down to St Barnabas Church for the Family & SEN ceilidh where experienced caller Andy Rouse will guide you through a some simple dances, suitable for all abilities, and easily adapted for wheelchair users and people with other mobility issues. And if you'd rather just relax and listen to some music, then you might like Cat Kelly & Pete Ord's Makaton-signed folk songs in the Oxford Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre – which is followed by the fantastic Megson with their Family Folk Show.
Don't forget that there are lots of free events during the festival for all to enjoy – displays of Morris dancing will be rampant throughout the city centre all weekend; there are free concerts on Saturday and Sunday in Blackwell's bookshop; and the Pitt Rivers are hosting two days of free family events, including craft, music, and dance workshops.
Tickets are available now via the Folk Weekend website. Season tickets for Saturday 16th (access to all events on that day) are £38 for adults, £30 concessions, £25 for 12-18 years. Children under 12 are free of charge when accompanied by an adult season ticket holder. Tickets for individual events are also available.