In June 2019, my dad, my 6 year old autistic son Samuel and I went to The Great Exhibition Road Festival without knowing what to expect. Now for the first time since Covid, the festival is back on this coming weekend. I have been asked to write this blog to show how inclusive this festival actually is for SEN families.
This fantastic science and arts festival stretched the entire length of Exhibition Road. The Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum were open as usual but with additional special exhibitions such as “Plant Orbiter”, an automated rotating system for food production created by the artist Nick Laessing, as seen in the photograph. The scientists and artists proudly displayed their exhibits and were happy to explain and answer any questions about their displays.
Booths were set up along the pedestrianised road, each one with a different theme around science. Kids were encouraged to partake in experiments and stimulating creativity. Samuel was inspired to build rockets, encouraged to handle artificial wings, skulls and different bones. We listened to Jazz bands and watched entertaining science shows. Entertainers in colourful costumes were scattered along the street and were more than happy to pose for photographs and entertain the kids. There was even one of the first fire engines that kids were encouraged to sit on and explore.
Various shows were performed at different times posted clearly at various sites and hosted by different entertaining scientists who included the audience in their acts to our delight.
The Imperial College opened its Campus to the public and students and staff demonstrated the experiments and displays they were working on. This included various alternatives for producing energy, such as wind or touch. Samuel was fascinated as a scientist gently explained and demonstrated their hydrogen powered car.
Usually Samuel’s attention span is limited to 45 minutes but because of the incredible variety of entertainment and fascinating demonstrations, which encouraged children and families to partake, he was not bored for a moment. I would encourage families to bring snacks or a small picnic so that autistic kids can have their special foods. Everything was extremely organised which is ideal for SEN kids.
We not only took away incredible memories of a fantastic event but my son took home a rocket he made.
I am displaying a selection of photographs so that you see what a truly living magical day you can have over the weekend of the 18th and 19th of June 2022. Having looked at their website, this year promises to be the best festival ever with brand new performances, talks, exhibits and experiments. Do go. This is not an event to be missed. I just hope the weather is as fine as this weekend was.
Mother of a 9 year old autistic son
Student in MA Special and Inclusive Education (Autism) at UCL
For more information about the Great Exhibition Road Festival please see the website https://www.greatexhibitionroadfestival.co.uk/
This year they also have a ‘Quiet Zone’ on Sunday 18th June and a visual story more details here – https://www.greatexhibitionroadfestival.co.uk/event/hands-family-zone-quiet-session/