Unlimited-supported VIVA Carnival Club’s Catherine Coeshott travelled to Murcia, Spain to attend the “IX Jornadas sobre la Inclusión Social y la Educación en las Artes Escénicas” conference on inclusion in the arts – here’s her feedback…
A little bit about me
I first started in carnival parades with the Rainbows (Beatrix Potter) when I was 7 and Frogs and Liquorice Allsorts with the Brownies in Ryde when I was about 9. When I was a student at the Isle of Wight College I did carnival activities leading to involvement in more carnivals and the biggest one was the welcome to the athletes at the 2011 Island Games.
Since then as part of the New Carnival Company, I’ve done mainly summer parades but also a firework related one in Sandown. There have been mainland visits to Horsham and Southsea, but the major memory is of the Olympic torch arriving in Hackney and a few weeks later performing in the Olympic Park during Paralympics. The costume was designed by Paul and Lulu from Rio (Embaixadores disabled samba group). I’ve enjoyed often wearing one of the major costumes and helping to design them.
The recent ‘L-Paths’ Erasmus project was a great opportunity to travel and make friends in Croatia and Italy. I also enjoyed taking part with other carnival performers at Bestival in 2015 and 2016. I am currently working with VIVA on studying Indian culture to inspire costumes for Mardi Gras this year.
Travelling to the Conference
It took us 8 hours to get there – by taxi, boat and plane. Apart from ear-popping on plane, it was well worth going. I didn’t mind the long trip. I had additional assistance (lift to plane, buggy in terminal building etc) which worked well on the return journey.
Seeing a Performance
On the first evening we went to see a circus performed in a theatre – it was a really superb showing. Very good choreography with the bricks (really wow), with disabled people – they are amazing. Their circus skills were great. It was different to circus shows I’ve seen before. In the UK we get professional acts from various countries – aimed at a family (children) audience. I haven’t seen disabled performers take part before.
The day of our presentation at the Conference
I found the first presentation (one hour) – rather boring and nearly went to sleep. There was little use of visuals. Simultaneous translation through earphone worked well, although it was difficult to keep the earpiece on. I was happy sitting on stage listening to the other short presentations, but I felt the puppet act should have been a ventriloquist. Interesting when they mentioned learning disabled people.
When it was our turn it was good to do a double act with Chris. I had a really clear voice and also I used sign language and I spoke in Spanish (although I forgot some phrases) representing carnival to Spain. Good to talk about professional artists. I wanted to make it fun. One difference was that our presentation demonstrated involvement of learning disabled people in decision making and active participation; whereas the others tended to focus on learning disabled people receiving the work and ideas of others (i.e. we’re more inclusive – like to work as a team and help each other).
It was a shame that the theatre closed immediately after the presentation, in fact staff were keen to close the doors ASAP – preventing any chances for networking. But, I had really touching feedback from two lovely guys – one of them called me beautiful. The other guy gave me his card so we could get in touch and they asked for a photograph.
I feel very happy and proud to be representing our project in Europe. I have good support from friends and family at home, who like hearing all about it. Thanks to Chris and Unlimited for setting up the opportunity.