Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Parallel London

On Sunday 3rd September, Hannah and I were lucky enough to be invited to Parallel London to be a part of Jo Grace's sensory tent.

Parallel London is an inclusive sporting event held at the Olympic park. The aim of the event is to provide an opportunity for disabled people to participate alongside able bodied people in a fully inclusive, positive and inspiring environment. Their slogan is everybody running #sidebyside. Everyone starts together but finishes whenever. There was no pressure or competitiveness other than the enormous amount of self determination that was felt across the whole park and support sent from the crowd.

There were runs of different distances as well as the sensory 1K devised by Jo Grace. The sensory 1k is a fun run. The participants make their way through many different sensory zones at their own pace. We intended on joining them in this race, however I was forgot to register until after it closed the day before the event. (We did find out you could register on the day but we were busy in the tent by that point).

When it was time for the race to begin we made our way to the start line. It was truly heart warming to see the diversity of the people ready to begin. People with profound and multiple learning difficulties, physical disabilities, autism, sensory impairment and so many more alongside able bodied people. All #sidebyside and included TOGETHER. The compare was highlighting some of the participants, why they were doing it and their personal goals and also helping the participants to get warmed up.

Once the race was underway, Hannah and I rushed around the outside of the course to find as many sensory stations as we could from the sidelines. The first station we saw was the parachute area. The fabulous participants journeyed through a visual and proprioceptive experience as they watched the colourful parachutes float up and down sending gusts of wind around their bodies. We then got to the smell tunnel decorated with plants. We could not tell what the smell was from the outside, but there were lots of happy faces venturing through. Jo added a vestibular section this year, creatively using the markings on the ground to encourage people to weave and spin around. We also saw bubbles floating through the sky from the other side of the event. Other stations we could not get to included wind chimes, a light tunnel, and a ribbon canopy.

The biggest highlight of the day for us was standing at the finishing line. We were so touched to see the proud faces passing over the finishing line and the amount of empty wheelchairs as lots of determined people battled against their barriers to step over the finishing line. We were quite emotional watching these special people with their families and friends achieving something so great and amongst one of the most supportive crowds we have ever been a part of. 

After the race, we had half an hour to wander around the free festival. The festival featured many information tents about clubs, equipment, holidays, inclusive events, charities and much more. There were also many workshop and activity stands including inclusive technology, sensory spectacle, yoga, music, story telling, burlexercise, sport, bikes and Jo's The Sensory Project tent.

The main stage was busy throughout the day offering entertainment and celebrating the talents of many people with disabilities. There were many highlights including Wildcats theatre school from Stamford, Lincolnshire who are actually quite local to us, which is lovely. DM collaborate, a group of professional classically trained musicians. Include choir, whose performance of let's go fly a kite really touched us and electric umbrella

Sadly, after Parallel, electric umbrella, a fantastic inclusive theatre company had a road accident. They have set up a Just Giving page to help them re-build their little yellow theatre and get their show back on the road. If you can help them, please do.

We were trilled to be part of The Sensory Project's tent with so many other wonderful people. Jo had planned for visitors to experience seven different sensory experiences with an additional challenge. Hannah and I rocked up with our brand new business cards, t-shirts and bunting, we have now decided we also need a pull up banner stand thing too! Our experience involved a piece of stretchy lyrca. Visitors stretched against or through the material, or even felt the wind as we waved it over them. We were overwhelmed when we were visited by a visually impaired gentleman and his carer. He got so much from the proprioceptive experience, he laughed at the feeling against his hands. His carer was patient and an incredible communicator signing on the gentleman's hand. They had the most incredible relationship to witness, full of trust, respect and laughter. It was definitely a highlight of our day. We met lots of other wonderful sensory beings too!

The inspirational gentleman with a visual impairment enjoying sound experiences with the Sound Tracks ladies.

The other activities in the tent included lots of great sensory items from nature brought to the tent by Dr Nina Ockendon-Powell. Nina runs a blog, Wild Happy Well about the science behind why nature is good for us and how we can all benefit from nature.

Sound Tracks filled the tent with sound from their array of instruments and other inclusive sound making devices and their fabulous sensory song!

Katie from The Best Medicine was also there letting everyone know about the benefits of laughter therapy.

Holly Easton was also in the tent with 3 different playdoughs for us all to explore. Hannah and I of course couldn't resist. Holly has written a book with Becky Lyddon from Sensory Spectacle full of sensory play ideas you can fine it here.

In the tent, there was also a great dark den featuring many visual experiences which was brought along by a sensory designer from Falmouth University.

Hannah and I have made activity cards designed for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties. They could also be used with people with ASD, dementia, sensory processing disorder, toddlers. We have 2 packs filled with simple ideas to develop sensory awareness and communication. The packs come with an accompanying booklet to explain how the cards can be used to support development in a number of ways. They are available to order by messaging us on Facebook. £5 for 1 pack, £9 for 2 packs and £1 for postage. We were thrilled they were so popular at Parallel. There is limited availability as all packs are hand made when we get a chance between teaching and blogging!

We had the most amazing day and met some truly wonderful people and was topped off by finding ourselves at the Krisy Kreme stand in Westfields! We hope to be there again next year!

Some of the photos featured in this blog post were taken by Jo Grace. You can view her full album and many others on her Facebook page

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