Leftwing Idiot, Poppy, our friend Micky, and I met up with a big group of friends at Paddington station and set off for Change the Record, an inclusive festival organised by Access Events. Back in September I wrote about the amazing day they organised in Birmingham. This time Bristol was the host city.
I’ve known Micky – who has learning difficulties – for over a decade and she’s seen how much my tics have changed in that time. Today she was calling Tourettes ‘Tipp-Ex’ which I really liked. The train journey was quick and hassle free. Travelling is so much easier for me when I’m with other people.
The festival was absolutely brilliant. It ran throughout the day and into the evening. The atmosphere was friendly, creative, and relaxed and the drizzle that had been hanging around at the beginning cleared into gorgeous sunshine. There was an acoustic stage, an amazing sensory yurt, loads of workshops, a Mad Hatter’s tea party and great live music.
I’d been asked to photograph the day so I got to see loads of the activities and performances, but it did involve a lot of walking about. To start with Poppy and Leftwing Idiot helped me but as the day progressed I felt happy to lurch around unassisted. I realised that the main problem with dropping to the floor, apart from the obvious physical risks, is how vulnerable it makes me feel. In an environment that was totally accessible, and where everybody had a good understanding of disability, I felt very safe. So when I did drop to the floor it wasn’t a problem, and someone was always willing to give me a hand up.
The contrast became even clearer at the festival after party in a nearby bar. As I went in, supported by Leftwing Idiot, the bouncer came up and said, “No, no, no, she can’t come in, not tonight.” Leftwing Idiot began explaining I had Tourettes but to start with the bouncer wouldn’t listen. Eventually when he realised I wasn’t drunk but had a medical condition, he apologised and welcomed us in.
It’s was an amazing day, partly due to all the interesting performances, the glorious setting and great friends, but mostly because these things came together to create an environment where I felt freer, less constrained and more at ease moving about than I have done for months.
I don’t have too long to wait for the next Access Events festival because they’re helping us put on an event where I work in September.