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Rain fails to dampen the mood of festival goers

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Band Kool Aid Acid Test rocking the stage

The first West Sussex free music festival for 16-25 year olds with additional needs has been hailed a success despite the downpours.

Summerfest 2017, held last Wednesday (9 August), featured live music, entertainment and a BBQ at Lodge Hill, near Pulborough.

One mother and carer from Billingshurst said she arrived with a highly anxious daughter and left with a really happy and excited young adult, who had been treated as such.

Jenny Heredge, whose 23-year-old daughter Immy has autism, social communication disorder and extreme anxiety disorder, said: “Did it rain? Not sure anyone noticed, we were all too busy having fun.

“Summerfest was the most brilliant experience, not just for Immy but for so many young adults who simply aren’t normally given the opportunity to experience anything like this.

“It is all too easy for those people catering for young adults with disabilities to inadvertently patronise them. Summerfest certainly didn’t.

“It gave these young people a real experience of a music festival in a safe yet exciting environment. The music was loud enough to create the right atmosphere, yet sensitive to the fact that extreme volume might have increased anxiety in some.

“It was a truly memorable experience for so many. When asked Immy’s opinion of the evening, she said she loved it and asked ‘can we go again tomorrow?’”

SummerFest 2017 was a collaboration between Lodge Hill, West Sussex County Council and Amaze.

It featured a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers including two DJs, a Crawley-based five piece band, a beatboxer and a six piece funk soul combo.

There were also temporary tattoos, juggling, bubblepop, a photo booth, face painting, a stilt walker, giant Jenga, Connect 4, a covered marquee, mocktails and last minute emergency waterproof ponchos for everyone.

Lucy Keeffe, mother of Joshua Keeffe-Magan, an 18-year-old from Littlehampton with Down’s Syndrome, said: “It was great for Josh to meet his three mates and dance and party without feeling like he was being ‘stalked’ by his mum.”

Stephen Hillier, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Summerfest 2017 gave parents and carers the chance to get some well-deserved respite whilst the young people were able to let their hair down and be themselves.

“Despite the downpours, Summerfest 2017 was still a huge success and that is a credit to everyone involved in the event.”