SnapNews – Guest Blogger Ruth Sturdy

FestABLE 2018, The National Star College, Cheltenham

FestABLE 2018 was held on 2nd June at The National Star College, Cheltenham.

It was the brain- child of Barney Angliss (@AspieDeLaZouch) who was the festival programme manager and Elaine Gisby – festival director with the aim of running a festival which reached young people, parents and carers as well as professionals, bringing them together to genuinely share understanding, knowledge and their perspectives in a truly inclusive way.  To say the day was a success would not be a true reflection of just how inspiring, interesting and great fun it was.

The range of speakers was amazing – from well- known educational professionals to parents and carers and their children speaking with passion about their experiences, everyone equally brought something to the event which made it an exceptional place to be. Not only were the presentations thought provoking – they certainly challenged some of my thinking – they were inspirational. The interactive nature of each session on the packed programme meant that the voices heard were from a wide range of people -without a doubt parent and carer voices speaking for themselves and advocating for their children were right at the forefront of contributions during the day.

The National Star College is a fantastic venue. Totally accessible it was a wonderful place to wander between sessions or to sit and consider what had just been said. As well as formal events throughout the day, there were a variety of entertainments available including music, dancing and even a wheel- chair accessible hot air balloon!

The day ended with a conversation hosted by Barney Angliss with Sally Phillips who you will recognise from her roles in Smack the Pony, Miranda & the Bridget Jones trilogy. She also fronted a BBC documentary titled “A World without Downs Syndrome” Sally spoke with humour and passion about life with her son, Ollie, who has Downs Syndrome. When asked whether Ollie had changed her identity she replied “Now I see a world of difference between cleverness and wisdom…He’s forced me to live the life I intended as an idealistic 18-year-old”

Described as an “extraordinary event” where “professionals saw us an equal, valid and necessary part of the whole” and as an “amazing day” when the next one happens in 2020 (and I’ve already told Barney that Essex would be the perfect place to host it! - he made no promises but did say that parents from our area had told him Cheltenham was too far for them to travel) then I would say without a doubt – if you can, get there. You will not be disappointed and will leave inspired and hopeful for the future.

For a look at the programme for the day go to – it’s worth a look!

Ruth Sturdy, August 2018