Claire Campbell: Exploring inclusivity with Folk Week, Upton pool and Inspiration Creative

Fun at Folk Week

Claire Campbell is a Thanet mum-of-three and SEN teacher working in a specialist school in Broadstairs where all children are autistic with complex learning needs.

She teaches in KS1, lead on sensory integration, and is also PA for Beau, a child in the class, taking him out at weekends or in school holidays to support his mum getting respite and the youngster accessing activities.

Her monthly column aims to raise awareness and cultivate change:

As August draws to an end so do the summer holidays, and we all experience those mixed emotions that will undoubtedly be accompanied by a huge sigh of relief.

As I reflect upon our experiences of August and particularly consider community access for families with children with SEND, music is at the forefront of my mind. As a music graduate, who married a musician, and worked as a music teacher for many years, music is a huge part of my life. And in my role as an SEN teacher and working with children like Beau, I see the benefits of music for these children every day.

I use music to calm, music to energise, music to signal routines, music to support transition, music for memory, music for language acquisition. The benefits are limitless. But what opportunities are there for these benefits to be accessed by SEN children in their local communities?

One of the biggest community events that we accessed this summer was Broadstairs Folk Week. And I must preface this discussion by saying that we (my family) love Folk Week. I know there are people that don’t, maybe due to the sheer crowded and busyness of the week. I can see how if you live somewhere that you are usually able to find on-road parking and for that week you can no longer park anywhere near your home, it must be frustrating. But for us, living within walking distance of all the events, we love folk week. We are a musical family and Folk Week has been a really key cog in the clockwork of exploring our local community and our aspirations to support better community access for families with children with SEND.

We have been working hard to be more involved in our local community and to be active members. These efforts have taken the form of joining some of the local litter picks arranged by Broadstairs Town Team, using our local amenities as much as possible, encouraging our children to be involved in their school community, and joining local clubs/groups. Beau is often involved in these actions and we are often exploring with SEND access in mind.

When we use a local park, we can’t help but see what accessibility there is and what accessibility is lacking. When we go swimming at Upton Swimming Pool (a business that we feel it is important for us to support especially with rising costs to run such a business) we are very aware of how it caters to Beau’s needs. But when it comes to our own personal hobbies and the groups we have joined in our local community, this hasn’t really been something where Beau’s needs have seemed relevant. But it was Folk Week that allowed these elements to begin to overlap.

 

Last year at Folk Week we attended one of the hobby horse clubs with our children and saw a group of Morris dancers perform. They announced that they were looking for new members and to come and chat to them if interested. This was where my new hobby began. For my husband, all the music of folk week had been a reminder of a group that he had been interested in being a part of for a while. We both felt that our children were at a point where each of us could take that time one evening a week and it would be possible for the other to manage solo bedtime. So my husband started attending the folk music sessions in the Tartar Frigate on Wednesday evenings and I began dancing with the Wantsum Women Morris side.

Folk week marks one year of being members of these groups and for me was what it was all about. I had danced out at other events with this wonderful group of women but Folk Week was the biggest event of the year and it was the opportunity for me to not just attend Folk Week but to perform at Folk Week. So here our involvement in our hobbies and considerations of community access for families with children with SEND overlapped.

We took Beau along to the hobby horse club at folk week, we met friends with autism there, we watched autistic performers, and due to a deeper and more sustained involvement in the event, I was able to see families experience their own struggles in this setting.

I was really inspired by a young autistic performer who was welcomed to the stage by Festival Patron Tim Edey during his incredible concert. This young man listed his many diagnoses and spoke about how he took up the melodian as a way to help him to cope during lockdowns. He had a focus, an outlet for his energy and it was his way of dealing with the horrors that existed in the world at that time. He had melodeons in his house due to them being left to him by his grandfather and so it was this connection that also strengthened the appeal in this hobby. That is another wonder of music, it can really connect you to people and places and is an excellent way to explore your culture and your roots.

Our experience at the hobby horse club with Beau and other friends was positive and enjoyable and I noticed there were also many wheelchair users within the child group who were included with ease. The hobby horse club has accessibility considered expertly of course by Zoe and Pete of Inspiration Creative who run the children’s club. Both confident BSL signers with experience of working with children with a variety of needs, the open and inclusive nature of the activities they provide is clear and strong.

Their offer in our local community is something I haven’t had the opportunity to explore with Beau yet but it is something that I know is a valuable and much needed resource. Inspiration Creative offers many inclusive creative arts workshops and projects across Thanet from signing choirs to theatre groups.  You can find out more by visiting their website https://inspirationcreative.co.uk/ or emailing [email protected]

Do you make music with your family? Do you know of any community groups that offer music making opportunities that would be inclusive for SEN families? Did you access Folk Week with your family this year? If so, as always, it would be great to hear about it. See you in the comments!

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