Carrick’s first Learning Disability Pride (LDP) has inspired other parts of the UK to hold similar events.
Details emerged as the town prepares for the return on Saturday, June 22, of the carnival to celebrate and raise awareness of learning disability.
Thomas Haighton, leader of Carrickfergus and District Senior Gateway Club who came up with LDP idea, said people from other areas have contacted the organisers for advice and guidance on holding their own programmes.
He said: “We only expected around 1,000 people to attend our first event, and we were blown away by the crowds which exceeded 5,000. This was a mixture of people with a learning disability, their families and supporters as well as many people without a connection to learning disability who just wanted to enjoy the day and show their support.
“We are hoping even more people will come along this year to celebrate with us, and we are aware of other Learning Disability Pride events taking place across England and Wales, which is a fantastic result from what started as a small idea.”
This free event will start with a parade from Taylor’s Avenue at 12pm, travelling via Marine Highway to Carrickfergus Castle. From 1pm until 5pm there will be family fun activities in the castle car park, including live entertainment hosted by Q Radio DJ Stephen Clements. The line-up includes dance and drama performances from learning disability organisations and music from local band This Way Up. There will be arts and crafts, face painting, bouncy castles and an animal petting farm. In keeping with the event’s theme, ‘Do Your Thing’, there will also be information and market stalls, food vendors, and workshops such as drumming and drama to ‘give it a go’
Karl Wilson, a member of Carrickfergus and District Senior Gateway Club, said: “I love this year’s theme. It means everyone can do their own thing, the things they’re good at or enjoy. Some people might think their thing is painting, and someone else’s might be singing, but there’s freedom to be yourself. We can all come together and feel proud of who we are, whether we have a learning disability or not.”
Learning Disability Pride is organised by the Carrickfergus and District Senior Gateway Club in partnership with Mencap and supported by other organisations including Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Kilcreggan Homes, AEL, Sense and Caring Breaks. It is taking place during Learning Disability Week (June 17 to 23). This year’s theme is ‘Inclusion is Sport’, and there will be an arena at Marine Gardens for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy games and sports together. This element of LDP is facilitated by organisations including Ulster Rugby, Forest Fitness NI and Mid and East Antrim Council.
The Mayor, Cllr Maureen Morrow, said: “We are delighted that the team behind Learning Disability Pride are bringing their event back to Carrickfergus for a second time. There will be people attending from across the country and possibly further afield and it is a great opportunity for all to showcase Carrickfergus as a friendly and inclusive town for all to live, shop, enjoy leisure activities and work.”
There can be many barriers for people with a learning disability and their families to attend events and be included in society. This includes a lack of accessible toileting facilities, and so Mobiloo Ireland will be present on the day. With an electric hoist and changing table, as well as a toilet and washbasin, the Mobiloo enables wheelchair users with the most complex requirements to get out and about to enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else at public events.
“There will also be various sensory zones and performances that include use of Makaton to ensure those with non-verbal communication can get involved.
Margaret Kelly, director of Mencap Northern Ireland, said: “Mencap are very proud to be partnering with Carrickfergus Senior Gateway Club in planning this fantastic family event. People with a learning disability in Northern Ireland need to be listened to, valued equally and fully included in society. Raising awareness and changing attitudes with events like Learning Disability Pride is a fun way to do it.“
Funded and supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and MEA Council, LDP is for everyone. Further details on how you can get involved can be found on Facebook, twitter or at www.learningdisabilitypride.org