The Joy of the Journey

I’m tired, in a deep kind of way. On its own this might not seem noteworthy because I experience fatigue and energy-related barriers every day. But this tiredness is different because although my body is physically drained, my mind, heart and spirit are energised in new and joyful ways. The source of both my tiredness and joy are the same: this weekend we landed a big two-day, inclusive event for children in Croydon.

Last year we made a new piece of work for a German theatre festival, Festival Theaterformen. The piece, Journey To A Better World, is a spaceship-themed installation and play space for disabled and non-disabled children and adults. It was inspired by our experiences of shielding during the early stages of the pandemic. We found ourselves on a long and uncertain journey, thrust into the unknown – just like travelling through space.

We started thinking about the Castle as being like a Spaceship – the Starship Biscuit to be precise! Talking about our experiences in this playful and imaginative way helped us navigate this tricky time. So, when we were commissioned to make a new piece of art, our first in-person work since the start of the pandemic, we decided to bring the Starship Biscuit to life.

The Starship Biscuit lands in different places and everyone’s invited aboard to play, explore, create, connect and imagine our Journey To A Better World.

Over the last couple of days our spaceship’s been in Croydon as part of the Disability Arts Festival, Liberty. This is the first time we’ve shared Journey To A Better World in the UK, I hadn’t realised quite how deeply I’d missed being in playful community spaces until this weekend, and I felt a huge sense of relief, as though I’d returned home.

There’s a lot to do aboard the Starship Biscuit: jumping into our bubble teleporter, recording a captain’s log, customising spacesuits, creating a planet, and adding it to our Solidarity Solar System. Everyone can take control of the spaceship in the Captain’s Chair, explore new worlds in the Zero G sensory play area, or rest in our Tranquillity Node. There’s also guest artist Tarik Elmoutawakil’s alien space rave, Galactic Get Down.

We’ve got loads of lovely photos from this weekend that help tell the story of how it went:

A photo with Jess Thom, a white wheelchair-using woman at the centre. She's dressed in a red and blue flight-suit and a face mask. Jess is joyfully encased inside a giant bubble. The word "TELEPORT" is prominently displayed in the background. The photo has a playful tone and is part of a space-themed installation titled "Journey To A Better World.

A photo of a group of people engaged in an interactive activity as part of "Journey To A Better World”, a space-themed installation. At the centre of the image, is a young child caught mid-action, as they drop a ball into a hole created by an arrangement of blue and orange cardboard boxes. In the background, Jess Thom, a wheelchair-using white woman wearing a facemask has her arms open in celebration. Next to her, a woman wearing a hijab holds a cell phone taking a photo of the child playing.

The photo is a close-up of a young child decorating their own planet, the planet is a round paper lantern and the child is concentrating on the their work. The child has added a sparkly purple pom-pom, a red star, and some letters. Arts materials of different shapes and colours are visible in the background.

In the photo, two children are playing on the floor. One, with braided hair and colourful beads, wears a blue dress. To their right and slightly behind them is a younger child, with short black hair, wearing a white shirt. They are both playing with cardboard control panels and are focussed on the activity.

The photo shows a dark room with UV lights and glowing decorations. At the centre is artist Tarik Elmoutawakil painting with neon colours using his hands and fingers. Tarik wears an outfit with a lot of fringing. This photo was taken in Tarik’s Galactic Get Down part of the Journey To A Better World installation.

In the photo, an adult and a young child are engaging in messy play. The adult is on the right wearing an orange t-shirt, a black head scarf, and mirrored sunglasses. The child, dressed in a pink shirt and purple shorts with braided hair is on the left. Both are gathered around a blue plastic table filled with a gloopy, cornflour mixture which drips from their hands.

Photos by: Rosin Murphy

My personal highlights include seeing children and adults exploring the spaceship and finding new ways to play inside it. One child made a ‘black hole’ using some carefully positioned seating, which sucked in planet shaped balls (as well as other children and adults!) I also loved both of our ‘Captain of the Hour’ conversations when we hand over the spaceship to another disabled artist to learn about their journey so far and their vision for a better world.

It felt exciting to be in an intergenerational and disabled-centred space – the conversations were beautiful, surreal, important, and silly all at the same time.

We hope there will be more landings of Journey To A Better World in future. Space to play, connect, reflect, and imagine together are vital for us all. Sadly, for many disabled people these opportunities are in short supply, particularly for those of us who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to COVID-19. If you can’t wait for our next landing, you can find our Journey to a Better World – Captain’s Log Activity Booklet here.

To everyone who joined us in Croydon, thank you for contributing your ideas, energy, and experiences, and for bringing our Spaceship to life.

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