A one day festival to celebrate youth disability arts through the creative endeavours of the Arts Awards projects funded by a partnership between Oxfordshire County Council and Artswork.

ROAR Disability Arts Festival 2017

The 2017 ROAR Disability Arts Festival started off with a bang in the opening ceremony speeches by Lord Mayor, Councillor Jean Fooks, DaDa Fest Director, Ruth Gould, and ROAR Festival Co-ordinator, Shawnda Corbett. The inspirational speeches were based on the concept of community support, equality for all, encouragement for young people with disability to have more resilience, and the importance of the festival in Oxfordshire.

Speeches at the beginning was very moving indeed and I loved the sign singing Handy Voices.’ –  Attendee

The Speeches and opening ceremony. ‘moving’ ‘thought-provoking’ ’empowering workshops and speeches. Ruth Gould speech and workshop mentioned several times.’ -Partner of ROAR Festival


Ruth Gould presented certificates to the Young ROARsome Collective for their completion of their leadership training and their involvement in the ROAR Disability Arts Festival development. The young people gratuitously volunteered their time to be involved as activist supporters and creatives in curating a festival for the community.

Christine Deblase, Founder and Choir Leader of Handy Voices Signing Choir, and her daughter did a powerful performance accompanied with the soundtrack, ‘I’m Feeling Good’, by Nina Simone. What was captivating about the performance is the movement of language, which seemed be a jazz contemporary dance piece for British Sign Language.

‘Handy Voices performance and participating with them in a song were the most exciting part of the festval’ – Attendee

The workshop-performances with Handy Voices Signing Choir, BLINK Dance Theatre and Tangled Webb were joined by many participants that filled the space with energy. There are many ways to gather a crowd to speak about the equality for the disability community in Oxfordshire, but what made this festival unique is how freely the disabled artists and disabled activists speak with the community supporting them by celebrating their voices being heard.

There were other discussion based workshops for everyone to gain a wider point of view about equality for the disability community. The activist workshop, hosted by My Life My Choice, focused on goal setting and ways to achieve them. This encourages independent thinking without judgement. The youth leadership workshop, hosted by Ruth Gould, was filled with discussions about identity, the meaning of disability, and the empowerment disability has for the individual. Disability was once used as a term of oppression by society and this was the beginning of taking back disability in positive self-identity.

‘I don’t got a deafness loss, I’ve got a deafness gain.’ – Ruth Gould

Identity and self-expression is essential to the festival and the Ark T Centre. Creativity took different forms throughout the event: speech, dance, visual arts, music, and animation short film production. The ROAR Disabled Arts Exhibition featured creatives from the Yellow Submarine, the Parasol Project, the River and Rows Museum, and local schools. The exhibition had portraiture, paintings, digital art, and art installations. The different concepts derived from identity in self-expression and retelling children’s folktale stories.

‘The artwork was beautiful and higher quality than year 1′ – ROAR Festival Partner

Another element of the exhibition was the Film Reel featuring stop-motion productions from Shadowlight and OYAP, and a video message from Councillor Marie Tidball. The ROAR Disability Arts Festival had many family-friendly activities; selfie booth, printmaking, art-cycle, paper marbling, Henna Tattoo, and massage.

‘The whole centre being used with good flow between different areas, inclusive, safe, and comfortable. The garden area had a lovely atmosphere.’  – ROAR Festival Partner

The ROAR Disability Arts Festival had a great outcome this year thanks to the partners: Film Oxford-Shadowlight, Yellow Submarine, The Parasol Project, Let’s Play Bandbury, Family Autism Support, Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership, Core Assetts, Barnados, River and Rowing Museum, Animation Station, Oxfordshire County Council, Handy Voices Signing Choir, BLINK Dance Theatre, Young Women’s Music Project, and My Normal Project. Also, a special thanks to our funders: Oxfordshire County Council, #iWill Campaign, Department for Culture Media and Support, Lottery Funded, Oxfordshire Community Foundation, Ark T Centre, and Oxford City Council.

See great article from Oxford Mail from ROAR 2017!