I started up the 1st sensory legion, which is an open costume group
as a part of Extreme Clowning.
http://www.extremeclowning.co.uk/ is a volunteer service that I run which enables people with a dual sensory loss (Deafblind) to access the world of entertainment and popular culture.
The aim was to hold meet and greet days specifically for visually impaired,disabled and people with learning difficulties.
Many conventions are either to busy, or have a queue ticket system, or for whatever reason are not always accessible to disabled guests.
There is always a lot of waiting around involved, and then there is no time to say hello properly, depending on your disability you cannot always be quick,so rushing is not an option.
I want to make these sort of days more accessible to all
and create a relaxed, fun environment where you can take photos and spend time with the various characters, without the constant need to rush or move along.
And also to be around people in the same position as others, and to be among friends and people who understand the situation.
I have recently been to a large film and TV convention in Milton Keynes and it was a nightmare, there were far too many people the traveling means more expense, as you can add 2 hours on to your support costs, where as if this happens in Peterborough they would have more time at the event.
It is estimated that there are 339 people in the Peterborough resident population aged 15 to 64 with profound learning disability, and a further 3,803 with mild to moderate learning disability
Costumes will be able to be touched and explored, there will be a touch table with objects of reference that can be handled,we have Braille posters, and B.S.L interpreters attending on the day all of these different elements will open up whole new worlds to these people who may have only experienced the tip of the iceberg.
Days like this are so important, they create memory's and discovery, stimulate interest and ideas, and even motivate.
One blind man who inspired this quest has been blind since birth and loves star wars and despite the fact he has listened to the film almost everyday for the last 15 years - he has no idea of the appearance of the characters,and the variations of species, etc.
Not every blind person gets a lot from feeling toys, for some they are to small, so a full size costumes are ideal.
My main mission will be to bring the world of star wars/ tv / film culture to those who ordinarily may not be able to access it as easily as we can.This event will be the first ever meet and greet convention - specifically aimed at disabled people.
This will include star wars actors plus costume characters.
The project has been thoroughly supported by costume groups all over the world.
Warwick Davis has been with us since the start and supports the project 100% As do Pam rose and Alan Flyng and Peter Burroughs
It originally started off as a small affair but has attracted disability groups from across the region,There has never been anything like this before especially for people with disability's , sadly the response has been SO overwhelming we have had to limit tickets - but next year, now we know there is a niche for this we will come back bigger and better.
We are based in Peterborough , Cambridgeshire and so is Deafblind U.K, Shine, Mencap and Sense and many other disability charities so its a good place to hold an event - all we had to do was find a venue, and next time it will have to be a lot bigger
I have spoken to a mix of friends who have various disabilities, and the news of having a stay wars event which they can access has been welcomed with open arms, not just things like the costumes and braille, but many of these events are in london, which takes time, and money.and is never practical when your disabled - it makes everything such a mission!
i have even got disabled volunteers wishing to help and steward the event, which is brilliant, everyone is pulling together to make it happen
The event has been built with love time and devotion, a lot of people have given there time to help make this happen, the money that we are asking for will be used to look after the many people who have looked after us, it will help with the venue, plus feed and water the many qualified helpers that will be there assisting on the day, it will also feed and water the costume characters that are donating there time and petrol! it will also fund t shirts and stewards jackets, that will be used for future events, posters to be printed and braille'd, and some people may need assistance with transport
we have volunteer photographers, and a film crew, security, door staff bar staff, interpreters, 60 costume characters, 10 stewards, car park attendants, star wars actors, 3 ewoks and a droid!
we even have event sponsorship from Revell
we have got almost 100 helpers for the day and without them the event wouldn't happen - so they need to be looked after
you can help - however big or small
every little bit will make a difference
"I'm proud to be an honorary member of the 1st sensory legion new group dedicated to providing star wars experiences for the visually impaired, the different able'd and fans with learning difficulties
- Stephen J. Sansweet
the chairman and president of Rancho Obi-Wan, a nonprofit museum that houses the world's largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia
Risks and challenges
The only obstacle that we have discovered so far is that the demand for such an event is far greater than I anticipated.
When the event was initially announced it spread across Peterborough in a matter of days, the interest reached well over 500, and it was then I had to limit the tickets.
This has been done by a website that does it all for you
I have 160 tickets being released on July the 1st - these will only be available from the internet via http://feeltheforceday.eventbrite.co.uk/#
i have a V.I.P list of 40 for people with severe disabilities - to make sure that they don't miss out, places can be booked on this through contacting me
plus i have a nursery group for disabled toddlers based in the Cambridge area
who are coming especially at 2pm - there is approx 160 of them!
they was all told about the event before it got so popular so rather than turn them all away, they will come later in the day.
The hall holds 250 - but if the weather is good on the day there is a lot of land we can use outside which is fully accessible,which will mean the the amount of people that turn up will not be a problem, but knowing what the British weather is like, I'm playing it safe.
We have enough help and established contacts to keep us a float, the help and support has been overwhelming.
There is enough of us to keep things running smoothly - and next year we hope to aim bigger and better.
- (60 days)