I used to love camping and going to outdoor festivals but since getting ill with CFS/ME, stopping work and feeling physically and mentally shaky, I sort of gave up on the idea. But how I missed it and felt left out!
Recently, however, I moved to a new flat, and I started to feel that perhaps other good things were possible. I said to a friend who’s a regular festival-goer ‘I wish you could take me with you sometime’. And straightaway she said ‘Come to Sunrise! It’s quite small, got a lovely atmosphere – and I’ll do the driving!’. I was unsure but then I checked the festival website. Music, yoga, organic food, wood-carving, dancing… and then I saw that organisers had set aside a section of the site for disabled people and were offering free places for carers and help with shifting gear. I suddenly felt inspired and confident. I said ‘YES let’s do it.’I had some secret cold feet over the next couple of weeks, but we set off on a hot, sunny Friday morning and headed for the rolling green hills of Somerset. It took about 4 hours to get there and I was very shaky on arrival, worried about getting my tent up and how to get some supper. Unexpectedly, the disability area was labelled GAMA. Puzzled, we drove in. Then a beautiful, tall blonde-dreadlocked woman came forward to meet us. She helped us find a good spot to set up camp, helped me put up my tent and explained all. She was Emma from Norfolk, a GAMA volunteer. They were there specifically to create a supportive ‘neighbourhood’ for disabled people and their friends/families/carers. They had a marquee full of dressing-up clothes, art materials and tea-making facilities. And their sole mission was to make it possible for people like me to go to cope with festival life. Over the next few days I met Penny (who hails from Peckham!), Marcus, Jerry and others. They made me cups of tea when I returned from my ‘revelling’ (lying on cushions listening to music!), dressed me up in wild outfits, involved me in making costumes for the children, and chatted at length and in depth about their hopes to expand GAMA, attend more festivals and revolutionise the festival scene to make it totally accessible. I urge everyone to visit their website (www.gama-uk.com), seek their help, and if possible, make a donation. I love GAMA!
This article was originally written by Nicola Field for her local ME support group – many thanks to Nicola for letting us reproduce it here!