The second of our Inspired by Elderflower stories from Jo, who was inspired to start her own festival!
“Hello! My name is Jo and I am part of a small team that organises a festival called The Be Free Festival based on the edge of Epping Forest in Essex. I am going to tell you how Elderflower Fields Festival 2012 inspired our festival….
In 2014 we ran the first Be Free Festival. It is a beautiful space for people with learning disabilities, their family, friends and supporter workers to explore, be adventurous, be still, be brave and to face fears, to be free and equal, be creative, laugh and make connections with people.
It was the idea of Sally, the Managing Director of Paradigm (an organisation that campaigns for equality for people with learning disabilities and the right to an ‘ordinary life’) as a way to challenge how people with learning disabilities too often get ‘wrapped in cotton wool’ and just don’t get the freedom to experience ordinary moments or make basic choices that many others can. It challenges people to look at what good support is and it gives people a chance to experience going to a festival and try new things from lighting their first camp fire to staying in a tent for the first time.
At Be Free people get a chance to chill by open fires roasting marshmallows, take moonlit walks, watch a late night movie, camp in bell tents (often for the first time) or try all sorts of adventure challenges like zip wires and 3G swings. There is graffiti in the woods and we have a Big Picnic where people have to make a group of ten, are given their picnic bag to go off to eat together, people can try their hand at DJing with Nick Carling’s ‘Kiss My Disco’, they can try the silent disco and listen to bands. Can you spot the connection now? Yep! Many elements inspired by the lovely Elderflower Fields Festival!
You see Elderflower Festival 2012 was the first festival I ever went to (with my family) and we just loved it. We loved the warm welcome, the woodland paths lit with fairy-lights, the random sofa and room in the middle of the woods, gathering people together in groups of ten to have a gorgeous picnic of local food, the skate park in the woods for kids, the fun silent disco, the yummy food stalls and the chance my kids had to light camp fires…it was quite magical.
It is this experience that I draw on when I help to shape The Be Free Festival 2015 with my lovely colleagues (I’m on the right, with Lore and Sally to my left).
Everyone has a right to these magical experiences. So thank you Elderflower Fields for inspiring me, for inspiring my children and for inspiring so many elements of The Be Free Festival. Here’s to Being Free in 2015 and Elderflower Fields Festival 2015. Here’s to the beautiful moments in life that we are lucky to have!”
If you or your kids have a story you’d like to share about what has inspired you at Elderflower Fields in the past, please get in touch here.