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The Manchester festival that’s aiming to inspire others to be more inclusive


Freelance photographer Carla Speight has been working at festivals all over the country for years.

But with her youngest son having sensory processing disorder, a condition that causes distress in noisy, busy environments, Carla has found herself struggling to find a festival she can attend with her children.

“There was no chill out place for him at all. As a mum I’d be really stressed out about that because I know there will only be a matter of time until he’ll become overwhelmed which then puts pressure on me with my eldest son who wants to stay because he can cope with it better.”

Thinking of all the families that might be going through the same thing, Carla is bringing all her experience – and the facilities she has been hoping to find at other festivals – to her home town of Urmston with Festival 41.

The festival’s ethos is inclusion, Carla explains, as she wants it to be available for everyone. Wheelchair access will not be a challenge.

“I’ve seen it so many times at festivals where people in a wheelchair just become stuck on the grass. At ours, we have the luxury of a giant concrete path that takes you straight down the middle so that people in a wheelchair can get to the areas of the festival without fear.”

Having solid ground beneath their feet will make visually impaired people feel more secure as well.

“Unstable ground like grass is quite traumatic to be on when you can’t see what you’re stood on,” says Carla.

Another thing Carla wanted to bring to her festival is an improved kids’ playing area, as she’s had enough of bouncy castles.

“As a mum myself, I just never understood them. They only lead to exhaustion and a fortune spent on drinks and ice cream to cool the kids down.”

To make sure children enjoy the festival just as much as their parents, Festival 41 won’t just have music, but magic and even a comedy club.

“My 10 year-old son thinks he’s a comedian but it would be great if he’d learn how to actually be funny. So we’re going to bring actual comedians to teach kids how to do stand up.”

Festival 41 will also have an area for assistance dogs on site, another way of making sure everyone feels included: “We want to show people that this whole festival is about community – and community goes beyond able-bodied people.

“It’s something I’m very passionate about because in this day and age when we have awareness of so many different disabilities, why on earth is inclusion still a problem?” says Carla.

To support local businesses, Festival 41 is collaborating with independent food vendors who will be selling their products in the festival’s VIP area.

“That’s because I know full well from festivals that if they run out of food, the public’s reaction online with social media can be absolutely damaging beyond belief for local businesses.

“So rather than putting them in front of a crowd of almost 5000 hungry people, we wanted to restrict their services to the VIP area.

“This way they have less pressure in terms of demand and gives them the opportunity to restock if they sell out. We just want to see the local economy grow.”

Carla is hoping to send a message and inspire bigger festivals to follow.

“Although it might only be an individual having a disability, it’s always friends and family who are restricted. What we’re trying to say is that we have a very limited budget and we can create a festival for everyone, so if we can do it why can’t the big festivals?

“Our line is if we can do it, so can you. So we’re trying to make a change with our little festival.”

Festival 41 is at Abbotsfield Park, Urmston on 30th June and 1st July.


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