FestivALL: Fun, Fresh and Forward-Thinking

How Guideposts Trust opened Witney’s first inclusive festival area.

From 11-12th June, local charity Guideposts teamed up with Witney Music Festival to create the first ever inclusive area to welcome people with additional needs. People experiencing anxiety, autism, learning difficulties and disability came from Witney and much further afield, and we were delighted to become part of their journey to enjoying the wonderful world of festivals.

Our FestivALL VIP Area provided a fun and supportive environment to empower people with additional needs to enjoy the festival, a brand-new experience for many of our attendees. A sensory chill-out area, craft activities, giant games, relaxing seating, fully accessible toilet, special bar access, and dedicated Guideposts staff and volunteers were all on hand to ensure the fun of festivals was available to those with additional needs.

The chill-out sensory area.

Our Attendees Stories

We were overjoyed to hear from Gemma, who attended FestivALL with her daughter, Sophie. Sophie has additional needs, and had not been able to enjoy a festival before. She and Gemma unfortunately felt that festivals would not meet Sophie’s additional needs. However, FestivALL marked a turning point for the pair.

Sophie and Mum Gemma.

Gemma told us ‘In 16 years, Sophie had never hugged me. In 16 years, we had never danced together. In 16 years, I’d never heard her sing. She has autism and anxiety but is starting to want to be independent. We came across Guideposts post and booked tickets. We didn’t know what to expect but my goodness we could not have been more excited and relieved to have the experience we had. Sophie immediately felt safe and secure. The friendliness of the team and volunteers was beautiful, the time, thought and effort that went into the festival packs also was amazing. On the day Sophie was beaming. As a mum, I am forever thankful for the experience and the memories it has made for us. Now my daughter feels like a proper teenager, and next year she may go with a friend instead of me. I cannot tell you how good that feels. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.’

Flower garlands were a hit with our attendees!

West Oxfordshire District Councillor, Luci Ashbourne, attended FestivALL, and said ‘I was impressed upon by the carers attending how beneficial the FestivALL area was for their loved ones, and also about the good work Guideposts do in the wider community’. 

Guideposts Senior Fundraiser, Tania Kirby, said ‘FestivALL by Guideposts has been a wonderful event to work on, and it was joyous to be able to provide so many smiles for people who had never been to a festival before because of their personal circumstances. My own Mum was severely disabled and there were often events that she simply could not attend due to the lack of suitable facilities. Being able to be a part of a great team working to ensure all people regardless of their additional needs could enjoy the festival was amazing. To see all the smiles from the people attending was an experience that will stay with me forever.’

Tania hopes the success of FestivALL will highlight the importance of making festivals inclusive and welcoming to those with additional needs.

Our viewing platform allowed wheelchair users to see over the crowds.

So many amazing businesses and individuals helped make FestivALL a success.

We could not have made FestivALL happen without the help and support of so many amazing people. From our sponsors and donors, our amazing volunteers, and the many businesses that support us, brilliant things can happen when we work together to help improve lives, and FestivALL certainly proved this! On behalf of all at Guideposts and all the families who had the chance to enjoy a truly welcoming event, thank you.

How to help us in the future

Around 30 percent of our funding from individual donors, and we are so grateful to all those who help us. Text ‘Festival’ to 70560 to donate £5, or visit https://guideposts.org.uk/donate-to-guideposts-trust/. Your donation will help fund future FestivALLs, as well as community care for people with additional needs.

If you would like to get stuck into our events or services in the community, we welcome volunteers. From gardening to minibus driving and helping with craft sessions, there is something for everyone. Visit https://guideposts.org.uk/volunteer/ to learn about our opportunities. By partnering with Guideposts, you can help us make amazing differences to the lives of vulnerable people. To all who have helped us, and everyone we look forward to welcoming, thank you.

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