On Wednesday, a friend and I went to London to visit Unlimited Festival at The Southbank Centre. Unlimited is a festival of disability arts.
We saw a variety of different art exhibits. One was a messy house, meant to represent how the artist’s disability means she struggles with cleaning. The different fabrics and wallpapers had bright patterns, inspired by the dirt in her own home.
Another was pictures by two people with learning disabilities who had spent a year exploring London and based the pictures on that. One, Ian Wornast, had drawn map like layouts in what appeared to be felt tip. I think they were my favourite.
The big thing we went for was The British Paraorchestra’s The Nature of Why show. This was a music/dance show. I will try to do it justice but a big part of it’s power is in how it made you feel. I am tired today and struggling to put it into words but I suspect I would even if I was more awake.
We knew when we booked that there would be limited seating available. It was actually a promenade show which I’m glad we didn’t know in advance as I think we might not have gone if we had. Promenade is when the audience are on the stage and turn/move/walk around as they choose while the show goes on around them.
The Nature of Why was a really immersive show. The skill shown by the dancers and musicians made for a spectacle more that worth the trip. It was on twice yesterday and if we could have got home after the evening one we’d have stayed.
But the creativity in taking the disabilities and support needs of performers and including those was what I loved. A blind musician was guided by someone dancing at floor level using her hands on his feet to tell him when/where to move or stop. The wheelchair user playing the French Horn was wheeling himself when not playing. One of the times he was playing a dancer crouched back to back with him, supported him in a tipped back position and turned him slowly as she moved.
That inclusion applied to the audience as well. There was a child watching it with what appeared to be a learning disability. He was loving it but couldn’t stay still. That was captured by the cast and included. When they were doing a stamping move and took his hand and encouraged him to stamp too. Later in the show all the performers were dancing in a line. I was in the area they wanted to dance so they broke the line so some dance in front of me and others behind. I didn’t know what to do with myself!
At the end, one of the dancers came and took my hand, danced with me. I thanked her once the show ended and she said “no, thank you for dancing with me.” The fact audience and performers were so mixed meant we could talk together afterwards which was nice.
I could say so much more about The Nature of Why. I think I’ll be talking about it for a long time. It was mind blowing, amazing and just lovely.