We had two main sources of funding this year:
The Big Green Gathering itself; and a grant from Awards for All towards our facilities, access and events. We used this money to improve opportunities for people with disabilities and special needs to come and camp in the GAMA field and enjoy all that the BGG has to offer – environmental education, green discussions and forums, socially aware artists and performers, and our own team of accredited healers. This year the grant enabled us to not only focus on support within the GAMA field, but also to extend to a site-wide remit of provision and support.
What did we provide?
All our crew are volunteers. We camped in the GAMA field so could offer a lot of informal support to welcome visitors and run the coffee bar, children’s activities and entertainments.
Signs and maps:
Members of a Bristol youth group made signs and a tactile map for the GAMA field. They visited us to see them in use and to enjoy the BGG. EDAS Designs, which organises paid work for people with learning disabilities, made laminated A4 maps and signs.
The designer of the BGG programme made sure that the layout and lettering was as clear as possible. Two A3 large print copies were made, one for us and one for the Information Tent. We were also gaven laminated large print copies of the daily programme. Green Radio persuaded most of the co-ordinators to record their sessions on the programme on CD.
Helpline for individuals:
Our co-ordinator ran a telephone helpline for people considering coming to the Big Green Gathering. He made advance arrangements for oxygen delivery and storage and arranged early arrival for four people with visual impairments to give them time for orientation before other visitors arrived.
We briefed all the area co-ordinators and directors and sent out our own leaflets on access to many of the cafes, stalls and campaigns.
The Croissant Neuf Team created a wonderful “Royal Box” viewing platform two feet above floor level with a 24 ft ramp from outside. Whenever possible we sent one of our crew to work alongside the entertainments crew to make sure people who needed the viewing platform were aware of it and that people with disabilities were given a choice over whether to use the platform or be in the crowd. Our visitors were pleased with both the platform and the stewarding – the only suggested improvement was to make it bigger next year!
We had two BSL signers based in GAMA who were also available if needed in the Green Forum, welfare and the Red Cross.
50ft diameter striped “big top” style. Inside we had a coffee bar, information table, plastic garden chairs, a table for children to sit and draw and a table for the large print programme. There was also a fenced-off area for charging electric wheelchairs.
Tipi for healers:
For people who have difficulty getting to the healing field.
to provide space and privacy.
one with a sink
behind the marquee and near the healers’ tipi which were cleaned twice a day.
We had a communal fire on a square raised iron fire stand with benches built by the GAMA crew.
Events In The GAMA Field
Morning activities for children:
This is an important part of GAMA. Parents with disabilities need extra time in the morning to get ready to go out. Children with disabilities are welcome as well as their siblings. The GAMA Kids used materials from a Bristol Scrap store to make costumes, windmills and miniature gardens. Calvin, a story-teller, came to entertain children and parents one lunchtime.
Unity and Devision – We invited this South London band to camp with us and to play in our marquee. They also played in the Green Forum and several other venues, attracting enthusiastic new audiences.
Other bands playing in the GAMA Marquee were the Mad Cows, Don Bradmans, Chickenshed Zeppelin and Lazy.
Whaledreamers: the AMARE co-ordinator arranged for the preview of Whaledreamers to be shown in the GAMA marquee and advertised on the BGG website. Before the film started an Aborigine didgeridoo player opened the event, the first time many people had heard it played properly.
brought us an evening of subversive cartoons and films including “Cows with Guns” and The Simpsons reminiscing about Woodstock.
The Mendip All Drummers ran workshops on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons and led a parade of children in costume from GAMA to the Village Green for the Children’s Party.
Attitude is Everything:
We arranged for Suzanne Bull from Attitude is Everything and her personal assistant to visit the GAMA field as well as speaking in the Green Forum. She met some of our crew and visitors and had lunch in Food and Farming. The horse-drawn cart for wheelchair users took her to the Campaigns field.
BOMA off-road wheelchair:
Chris Swift, the designer, and two of his crew from Molten Rock brought a BOMA off-road electric wheelchair for people to try in festival conditions. It has space at the back to carry a conventional wheelchair or other luggage. We have already had an offer of support with fundraising for a BOMA as travel around the BGG is difficult for many of our visitors.
Sue Brumpton, Director of MERU, brought an exhibition about organisations which design and make specialised equipment for children and young people with severe disabilities. Another of our visitors shared his technical expertise and tools when people had problems with wheelchairs. Our marquee and campfire provided many opportunities for people to support and learn from each other.
Some Comments & Suggestion from Visitors:
“I thought the Kids’ space and activities were good. Costumes great. The fire and marquee chilled and friendly. Drumming successful and well-attended and used by all abilities. The site on edge of camping field quite integrated and the activities and entertainment similar to/some as good as stuff elsewhere on site. Great fun – attitude is everything! Thanks lovely people”
“Amazing to see disabled people at a festival. Useful and helpful workers looking after them. Superb. Keep up good work.”
“ I come here for that lovely start to the day coffee –the goods at the café are so sweet –it was our first port of call in Green Gathering and my little girl made a crown with the endless supply of feathers, glitter etc. Cheers guys”
“My boys and I have loved it. The volunteers here are really helpful and kind. The only comment I have is that people with disabilities have very different needs. My son is autistic so this site suits him. However we were next to a couple with mobility issues Perhaps you should have a more central site for people with mobility issues and offer motorised mobility scooters for hire/free from the start of the festival. Can’t wait till next year. Kind regards and thanks.”
“Big thanks for somewhere chilled that carers can come and hide for a little while when needed!”
“My first time at Big Green Gathering at 40 something!! Excellent. GAMA staff great. Good cups of tea. Lovely atmosphere around campfire especially when Unity and friends sang acoustic.”
“Thank you again for another wonderful festival and the ability to dip in just enough without feeling smothered. GAMA is growing into something great – and has much promise for the future. Yes, things are still lacking, but with the group’s vision and enthusiasm it will come. Keep on keeping on!”
“Our first visit to the BGG and “the best disabled facilities I’ve ever seen at a do like this” –my disabled partner-in-crime… as the non-disabled carer it’s been fab- the fire lit for us each night, a great massage too, some cool acts in the marquee and ALWAYS that cool –fluffy-warm energy which is so heart-warming. THANK YOU”
“ Our mobility and stamina problems mean we have given up on Glastonbury and even some of the smaller festies so this was our first time at BGG. What a wonderful festival with lovely people- the GAMA field was perfect –to unload from the car-what a treat!! Reading previous comments I can understand the bumpy site could cause problems for some but on the whole people were managing –the weather mostly helped!! THANK YOU to ALL the GAMA team who put in so much hard work and took so much trouble with any problems large and small! We’ll be back!!”
“Just a belated note to thank everyone in the GAMA Field for making the BGG so special and worry free for our family. All the thoughtful planning really made a difference and enabled our daughter & her brothers to enjoy themselves to the max (giving their parents a chance to join in with workshops and healing). The kids are now very well-informed little eco worriors! Thanks a million, you really have given us all some fantastic memories!”