Ben Richards reports on his experience of the UCAN Annual Festival. The UCAN festival, held in the Millennium Centre Wales last month, was a fantastic all-inclusive event aimed at engaging with young vision impaired people through the use and structure of the arts and drama. The day consisted of three rotating workshops which all had different activities based around various aspects of the arts, the first being a sound production workshop, which gave individuals the opportunity to explore how sound production is used and implemented within theatre and media, through sound effects and music.
The second workshop was circus-based, giving everyone the opportunity to try new activities, such as plate spinning, juggling and hula-hoop. This gave many people, including me, an opportunity to try something completely different, and for me especially, to step outside my comfort zone and try something new.
The third workshop was music based, although the focus was to learn and play a unique instrument called the ukulele. Everybody was assisted in learning basic chords and a chorus so that we could all play in sync with one another, to a song which was a fantastic laugh – it was something that I thought I would never be able to do, but was actually pretty good! These workshops were rotated throughout the day, so that the three groups had an equal time and opportunity at each workshop.
These workshops were then concluded with a performance on the public stage later on in the afternoon. There were performances from various people, some who had learnt new talents and some who wanted to show their existing talents – it was incredible! All these performances blew me away, from the sublime performance on the piano by Rachel – which was definitely a top highlight for me – to the outstanding vocal performances by everyone elsel! The show really was the icing on the cake of what was a magnificent day.
Last but not least though was an additional project called UCAN Create. This was an installation piece that ran throughout the festival, where individuals could book a time slot, and then would have some time to indulge in the interactive experience. I must say hats off! This was a thrilling, fascinating experience which was not only accessible but unique, in which different stories or scenarios are played out through a well developed set up. All in all it was an incredible day which allowed me to get stuck into new things, meet new people and most importantly have buckets of fun. I cannot say enough what a pleasure it was to be part of such a memorable day.
And this from Jake Sawyers …
Every summer visually impaired and blind young people of Wales are invited to take over the Wales Millennium Centre, to take part in the annual UCAN Productions performance festival. The festival is the highlight of the UCAN calendar. It is a celebration of diversity, achievement and friendship. UCAN’s mission is to help improve the vocal and physical confidence of VI and blind young people and this yearly event is a fantastic showcase of the talents of their membership. The afternoon is where this is really demonstrated. Members are given the chance to perform on the Glanfa stage. This is a public performance space that visitors and passers-by can attend. Last year UCAN celebrated their tenth anniversary. I have been a member for nearly seven years. The thing I love most about the performance festival is seeing how my friends have all grown as performers. As an actor myself, it is rare that you get to work with the same people for this long period of time. I feel so lucky that I can say, (and my friends at UCAN would agree), that we are the product of UCAN’s mission. Working with Bernard and Jane Latham and all of the UCAN trainers over the years has dramatically improved my confidence. The performances this year on the public stage felt very refined and professional. As compere, members of the public approached me on a number of occasions with questions like “Is that person actually visually impaired’. I felt very proud to reply with a big yes! Every year we take over the WMC to showcase our music and performance skills. Another thing we do is change perceptions of what VI and blind people can achieve.