Having an Absolute Ball

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My 800-1000 word piece for last semester’s portfolio. I designed it for the dummy magazine I created, Cognition – a magazine for parents with special needs children.

Attaching the text in the designed spreads after this, just in case people don’t want to/can’t read the PDF above.

 

Having an Absolute Ball

Sheffield Volunteering hosted Glo-Ball, a prom for adults with learning disabilities. How can adults with learning disabilities have a great night out and manage to mix Justin Bieber with the Beatles? Read on because Cognition will tell you how. 

 

The room was lit only by flashing disco lights. As the tunes of “Go Johnny Go Go Go!” deafened the ears, a couple were busy lip-locking on the plush sofa behind us.

As they came up for air, the boy’s shirt buttons clearly not doing their job, you could realize just by looking that they were not at an ordinary rave party or a prom night.

Cognition had arrived at Glo-Ball.

It’s ball season in universities. The time for formal wear, high heels, flowing glasses of champagne and condoms. Why should adults with learning difficulties and disabilities not experience the same as the rest?

Sheffield Volunteering hosted Glo-Ball at the University of Sheffield Students’ Union Fusion and Foundry halls to give these adults the opportunity to have their very own summer ball.

As Justin Bieber’s pubescent voice blared through the speakers, the attendees boogied without a care of the social hara-kiri they were committing. The Bieber is not something ordinary teenagers or 20-somethings would admit to listening upon pain of death. But these were special people.

Most were wearing fluorescent glowing sticks, handed out at the entrance by the volunteers. People in wheelchairs moved around with the aid of their support workers. Other volunteers helped some attendees to dance. Snatches of conversation included the “disastrous” coalition government amongst talk of how metal music “trumped” everything else.

Ryan Radford, 22, who has a learning disability and loves David Beckham said: “I’m enjoying myself. This is the first event I’ve been to and it seems nice.” He was with Joanne, 52, who said she was looking forward to the dancing later in the night.

They were accompanied by their support workers, Lilly Bashir and Tina Meah, from the voluntary support group Newfield View.

After jugglers, we met Dana Loxley, 36, support worker for wheelchair-bound Elizabeth Murphy. Elizabeth, 44, who has learning disabilities and is non-verbal, seemed fascinated by the strobe lights and loved the loud, thumping, ear-splitting music. Dana confirmed that Elizabeth loved events like these. “It gives her a lot of sensory stimulation,” Dana said.

With decorations glowing all over the venue and posters calling it a “UV Rave”, the party was certainly in full swing.

As a young boy started running and hitting himself, we sat down to talk to Norma Morgan, 67, and her adopted daughter, Bethan. “It’s my birthday today! And it’s Bethan’s twenty-second birthday tomorrow. So we’re celebrating at Glo-Ball,” chuckled Norma.

And when the highly-charged song “Sex on Fire” burst through the speakers, a new wave of energy flowed through the party-goers. Dancing with great abandon, those on the floor who could speak sang loudly along with the baritones of Caleb Followill.

Norma continued: “Bethan has Down’s syndrome. She can talk, but she’s very shy. She’s currently doing the Progression Towards Independence (PTI) course at Sheffield Mencap.”

The lead of the band on stage screamed out loudly at this point: “DO YOU LIKE ROCK AND ROLL?”

Judging by the wild screams from the dance floor, they did.

After the song finished begging Johnny to just go, the dancers applauded and whooped in approval. Then it was the turn of the Fab Four to engage the audience.

In the midst of the laughing, dancers and sore-lipped couples, it was endearing to see one man, his arms covered with intricate tattoos, getting ecstatic while holding a pink balloon. 

In the corner, Jeannette S*, 20, ran helter-skelter from one end of the room. Her support worker, Julie Shearing said that Jeannette had been to discos before with the organization ‘Under the Stars’ and enjoyed music immensely. “She likes Rihanna and Lady Gaga,” she said. Jeannette came up to us and said:  “I like this show. I like dancing.”

The atmosphere was electric as the night progressed. As the music got louder and louder, energy levels soared. Half of one of the amorous duos clambered on the DJ stand and started encouraging the crowd to sing a valedictory chorus. And tired but happy faces trooped out.

 

 

SIDEBAR

The Organizing Whiz

Andy Marsden, 31, Volunteering Co-ordinator of Sheffield Volunteering talks to Cognition about Glo-Ball.

“This was the third Glo-Ball we’ve organized and hope to run it again and build on this year’s success. There were about 150 adults and support workers, and 50 volunteers present. The volunteers definitely made everybody feel welcome. We had the Sheffield University societies involved as well. This time, we worked with more organizations and collected data from people attending the event and created a mailing list. We’re definitely in a good position to move forward.”

*Name has been changed
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