Disability access under the spotlight at St Ives Festival
THE FINAL week of the St Ives September Festival brought together a range of great performances to cap what has now become nationally recognized event.
Aside from performances by Johnny Cowling and The Manfreds, Chastity Brown, Show of Hands, Jamie Smith’s Mabon and Fairport Convention, the festival included book signings and plays, readings and craft workshops.
But one of the most talked about moves this year was a play by the inclusive dance group Shallal Dance Theatre.
In it, group member Kerry Jackson, who usually uses a wheelchair, was ‘Queen for a Day’ and was carried around St Ives in a handmade sedan chair followed by a noisy, colourful procession.
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The performance was devised as part of the Remapping St Ives Project, in order to highlight the problems that many people have in getting around towns like St Ives.
It began with ‘Queen’ Kerry testing a harbour slipway for wheelchair access with the support of stunt and rigging specialist David Greeves.
Kerry performed the nail-biting stunt, pulling herself up the slipway, using climbing equipment, with the support of colourful Shallal performers and cheering on lookers.
Shallal performers then transported Kerry around the town, stopping to make small dance and theatre performances on the way to St Ives town hall to celebrate the opening of the new disabled access ramp to the Visitor Information Centre.
Andy Shepherd, chair of the St Ives September Festival, said: “The Remapping St Ives Project has been fantastic. It has brought life and music and laughter and colour to the streets of St Ives. We love this in the festival. We have been amazed how people’s eyes have been opened to everyday things that we more or less able-bodied people take for granted. It’s been fantastic.”
The Remapping Project will feed ideas and suggestions from the public about access issues into St Ives new town plan.
Its inclusion in the St Ives Festival was another first for a gathering that has been innovating for nearly 35 years.
The first Festival, which ran from September 14-24 in 1978 covered folk music, dance, fine arts, chamber music, poetry, arts and crafts and theatre, and even featured a very young Nigel Kennedy.
The Festival has continued over the past thirty-five years, with a few short breaks, and with different organisations responsible for arranging the programme.
It has always been a very important part of the town’s cultural life but has also taken on a national significance with people from all over the UK planning their holidays around it.
For more information on the Remapping Project got to www.remappingstives.org.uk