Does inclusion have to cost the earth? No.
We recently visited Feel the Force Day in Peterborough. Feel the Force Day is the world’s only Film and TV Convention for people with disabilities and visual impairment. It should be noted that Feel the Force Day is for all, however it is marketed as such as a number of the larger comic con style events are understood to be not accessible to disabled audiences.
Feel the Force Day is now in its third year, with a second ‘sister’ Feel the Force Day to be launched in Plymouth. The organisation is run by two people and a team of volunteers. They are an incredible group of people whose enthusiasm for sci-fi, film and TV is evident when you visit. But their commitment to access to all to engagement in public spaces is evident by the sheer numbers in attendance (5,000 people visited this year for the 1 day event) and the charged positive atmosphere on the site.
The day itself is accessible on a number of levels. Firstly, cost is incredibly low in comparison to a similar event. Each ticket costs £3.30 per person. We spent almost 5 hours at the event, which for £3.30 a ticket is an absolute treat itself.
Secondly, there is lots to do and all manners of engagement. Such items on offer were touch tables for people who were visually impaired. These tables had masks, toys, tactile shapes of transport vehicles and fighter ships. Also toys to touch for the concept of what is on screen, such as lightsabres and Doctor Who daleks. There is the fantastic concept project of ‘Think Stink’ which is a selection of bottles and jars with various concoctions of herbs, spices and other things to create what a place smells like. So, the Forest of Endor has smells of herbs, trees and plants in a small smoothie bottle.
There were over 1000 costumers, who enabled people to touch their costumes so to interpret what C-3PO looked like, what shape R2 was. But also to interact with the audience, including young children, family groups and adults. The costumers really ‘gelled’ with the audience by little quips and comments and engaged into conversation.
Thirdly, the audience meet actors and actresses. During the day we met actors and celebrities from TV and film. These included Ian McNeice who was recently ‘Winston Churchill’ in Doctor Who, Jeremy Bulloch who was ‘Boba Fett’ in the original Star Wars trilogy, and Trevor and Simon from Going Live. We also had
illustrators, the Department of Ability and a Paralympian.
During the day, there were projects highlighted on the main stage including local schools and groups, with a number of organisations and local support groups available.
The key is this, often inclusion is mistakenly seen as a costly venture. Here it is difficult to see why. Feel the Force Day does not have a high budget. Instead it is based on building partnerships and with careful planning and evaluation.
The organisation has the confidence to talk to people, to network and generate new partnerships with local and national organisations. Inside the large reception area are pitches by local charities and organisations to inspire and support families and individuals.
Feel the Force Day is now raising their profile via fundraising and appeals for Feel the Force Day IV which will be held on 1st October 2016. More details to be found on there website: http://www.feeltheforceday.com/