Blog: Bethany and The Point

darts first met Bethany (not her real name) at one of Doncaster’s Special Schools, where our artists have been delivering a wide variety of creative projects for a number of years. Bethany has attended the school, which is for children and young people with severe and profound disabilities, since she was three and is now ten years old.

In the time we had been working with Bethany at school, she has never been to The Point. Speaking to Bethany’s parents, it’s clear that there are so many barriers to accessing opportunities, even when they are on offer. They say: “It is a daily fight for everything. Everything you need, everything you want, you’ve got to fight for.” Taking Bethany into public spaces can cause people to stare or make comments. Sometimes her mood swings and behaviour cause a scene and everybody stares. They say: “Other places aren’t geared up to accept a child with disabilities.”

We wanted the children and young people we know from Doncaster’s Special Schools to come to #PointFEST, our family-friendly music festival. Our Programmes Manager Hayley went to the schools and met parents to tell them about the event and encourage them to come along.

Bethany’s dad was initially insure. He says that he did not know if she was going to enjoy the event: “I didn’t realise what it actually involved and what she would be doing. But then I saw that music was involved… music excites her and stimulates her. The reason I brought Bethany was because of the contact – going to school, seeing the [darts] session at school, talking to you. I wanted to see how it would work, how Bethany got involved with things out of school.”

Bethany came to #PointFEST 2018 with her mum and dad and they stayed all day. Seeing Bethany out of her wheelchair, dancing, singing and smiling was wonderful. Her dad says: “They played the album at the event that Bethany and the group had made with Moony [musician] and you could hear Bethany singing. She loved it.”

Bethany knew many of the artists and staff at the event already. Her mum says: “There were certain people she knew from working with them at school. It was not strange for her with strange people. It was good how different staff all knew Bethany and came and spoke to her. You used your name and introduced yourself, so she knew she was going to be OK.”

Bethany’s parents can both see a real difference in her – especially since coming to #PointFEST. Attending the event has led to them attending other workshops at The Point. “We came back to the holiday sessions because she enjoyed it and it is something different. When she gets into it, she realises it’s good and gets stuck in. She asked last night, ‘When are we going to The Point?’ This morning over breakfast she said, ‘Going to The Point.’ I think it’s the attention she gets here. It’s all to do with being in an environment where she knows she is going to be OK, safe, and can do something. And she is happy.”

It’s clear that The Point offers something for Bethany that can’t be found elsewhere. “We have wanted to find other things and find out what there is locally or in town, but there is not anything else like this. Other places ask you to leave your child. They expect us to drop her off and leave her and we do not want to.”

Bethany’s mum notes that they “think about [Bethany’s behaviour and people’s reaction] before we go anywhere, and it makes us not want to take her. Comparing that to how she is here [at The Point], it’s totally different.”

Getting involved in activity at The Point has also had a wider impact on the family. Bethany’s dad says: “I’m back doing acoustic guitar. I’ve always wanted to play guitar since school, I’ve had a guitar for a while but would get fed up with it – but I always go back to one. This is the longest I have stuck at it since being involved with the music sessions up at school with Bethany and coming here to The Point. It has got me back into it! I am being creative. My other interest is photography. I now want to do more with a computer and photography – I am getting into new things.”