Will and I spent this weekend in Cardiff with the wonderful Captain Hotknives at Unity Festival. It’s an inclusive and accessible arts festival, organised by Hijinx Theatre, that showcases a wide variety of work made by disabled and non-disabled artists from across the world.

We arrived on Saturday in blazing sunshine. Unsure of exactly where to go we found somewhere to have a drink and get our bearings. Just as our summery beverages arrived there was a sudden and very loud clattering nearby. My tics responded in their usual calm manner – I reached out with both hands for Will’s neck. Ninja-like, and laughing, he removed my hands and we both focused our attention on the source of the noise.

Two men were seesawing on a plank balanced on a gas cylinder, alternately shooting up into the air. And then, moments later, a wheelchair-user was balancing on a gas canister in mid air. We’d stumbled on the mesmerising Cirque Inextremiste – part of the Festival. We finished our drinks and went to watch the show.

It totally blew my mind (and I may have overreacted a bit due to the almost constant sense of danger).

Afterwards we met up with Captain Hotknives and made our way towards the Wales Millennium Centre where we’d be performing that evening. It was lovely to have the time to enjoy the sunshine and the sights of a new city. I don’t know if it was just because the Festival was on but Will and I both noticed loads of wheelchair-users, and our own experience was that the city is very accessible.

The Millennium Centre is massive – from a distance it looks like a mountain!

When we got there Captain Hotknives said, “You must stop booking us to play these tiny venues”.

It was fantastic inside too and the atmosphere was equally amazing and inclusive. The main doors had electronic push buttons – smaller and more sensitive than any I’d come across before – I could open them using just my little finger. I felt very pleased with myself and claimed to have supernatural powers in addition to excellent independent living skills. Will put me right, pointing out that it was just assistive technology at work. My tics quickly jumped on this with a new song:

“Crush my independence like a paper cup,
Crush my independence like a paper cup,
Crush my independence like a paper cup,
You crush my independence like a paper cup.”

This made Will laugh, although he was finding it less amusing several hours later when my tics were still singing it, and Captain Hotknives had locked down the melody.

Much later a second verse arrived, reflecting Will’s role in my life slightly better.

“You give me independence like an assistance cat.”

Captain Hotknives and I were playing at a party in the large open foyer space. We had a great time and the audience was fantastic, there were loads of enthusiastic sing-alongs including our ILF song, which first emerged at Glastonbury last weekend.

After our set we enjoyed the fantastic inclusive rock band Vaguely Artistic who got everyone dancing. Their show ended with confetti guns blasting out gold streamers into the audience – I stayed super calm and at no point was Will’s neck at risk.

We had a lovely evening and were made incredibly welcome. Events like this that celebrate disability culture are absolutely essential to widening everyone’s understanding of difference. First and foremost they’re essential in showcasing the thought-provoking and breath-taking work being made by disabled and non-disabled performers all round the world.

I loved Unity and I can’t wait for Liberty Festival in London later this month. Come and join the action in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 26th July.

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