Disability Rocks Rocked

Yesterday the Annual Disability Rocks in the North Festival was held at Nell Bank in Ilkley.

We, my girls included, did not really know what to expect from the Disability Rocks in the North Festival, but having met Caroline Sutton via another autism group in the Leeds area she didnt have to work too hard to convince me to get tickets and ‘Rock Up’ on the day!

Disability Rocks

Disability Rocks

Caroline told me all about the charity and what they were trying to achieve. A fantastic cause with a unique event to celebrate disability whilst having a blast too! I was sold, my tickets were purchased and we were going.

We got to Ilkley at about 11am and the festival was already busy with folk turning up for day, catching the early performers and finding places to sit on the lawns of Nell Bank. The weather for the day was beautiful, the sun was out and it was neither too hot or cold.  Perfect weather for everyone.

A large stage area for the performers was central to the festival with a selection of ‘Street Food Eateries’ providing refreshments, a number of arts and craft stalls to entertain all and an open mic area for those wishing to do their bit performing. Nell Bank also has a large children’s play area for those parents who simply wanted to let their kids go off and play.

The line up for the day included: The Paradimes, Brooks Williams, Nigel Stonier, Anna Kennedy’s ‘Autism’s Got Talent’, Roundhay Ukelele Band, DMU Gospel Choir and Shabang Theatre.

My girls entertained themselves for the most part, whilst I watched the performers and chatted to good friends that also attended. As festivals go, this was about as family friendly as you will get… it is built around the concept of inclusion and everyone I saw was enjoying themselves thoroughly regardless of age or disability.

Sponge Tree

Sponge Tree

Sponge Tree

Festivals are not just about the music but the often the Arts and Crafts and other entertainment on hand. I want to make a special mention of the Sponge Tree. The Sponge Tree were on hand to provide a creative play area with Sensory Arts. I got to chat to one of the owners, Nicola, whilst my girls got really involved in making rhythm sticks with bells, bright colours and feathers.  They have a great website and is worth a visit.

From the Sponge Tree website:

Sponge Tree believe it is important to have minimal impact on the earth’s resources. They work with the rhythms of nature and promote interacting with the natural world. Where they can their materials are:  taken responsibly from nature, recycled, saved from landfill or community raised.

They also promote community cohesion, through their workshops, projects and their interaction with other community organisations. As they know this develops a stronger community to be in.

Scott James

My highlight was Anna Kennedy’s Autism’s got Talent show. Some fantastic performers and a guy called Scott James (video below).


Everyone gave it 100%, not only the performers… the staff behind the scenes, the event staff and security and all the stall holders. It was a very pleasing day and with great positive people all around me.

Autism Angels

Autism Angels

Autism Angels

Horses are always a show stopper and perhaps the two unsung heroes of the day were Rocky and Blackjack. Autism Angels were on hand for the day with two fantastically tempered horses. Rocky and Blackjack were magnets for kids and families alike. Autism Angels in their own words:

Autism Angels offer unique opportunities for the family to watch their children blossom in our ‘Yes’ and ‘Can do’ environment (in the presence of horses)

Sarah Shearman (founder) and two fantastic members of staff went the extra mile to make everyone smile and go home with some unforgetable memories. My girls now want to volunteer with Autism Angels to work with the Equine Superstars Rocky and Blackjack.

If you are in the Leeds area and are looking for therapy services, do visit their website to find out more.

A great day was had by all and I’m booking for next year. A great day out had by all… thank you Disability Rocks!

Some more information about Nell Bank and Disability Rocks.

Nell Bank provides day and residential experiences for schools and community groups across the full age and ability range. The award winning activities and nationally significant inclusive facilities make it a top choice for learning outside the classroom. The accessible location and stunning surroundings make Nell Bank an ideal venue for adult team building courses and conferences.

Disability Rocks is a not for profit organisation established in early 2012 by Caroline and Richard Sutton, parents of a young boy with a rare chromosome disorder.

They wanted to develop new and innovative ways to help people living with disabilities have positive experiences of music and arts as it had become clear that live music and arts activities and involvement can have a hugely positive impact on people’s lives. However, there were few examples of this being supported.

They are constantly looking for new ideas, opportunities and partnerships to expand the first hand exposure to live music and arts activity and positive experiences.

Disability Rocks is a Community Interest Company which was set up in January 2012 and operates as a not-for-profit organisation.


[box icon=”smile” style=”solid”]

The sole purpose of the company is to remove barriers that can preclude those with disabilities and additional needs from benefiting from involvement in music and the arts. They do this by creating festivals that combine a fantastic line-up of performances and events, with locations carefully selected and configured to provide easy access and a wide range of enhanced specialist facilities in a relaxed, entertaining and harmonious environment.

They also have a commitment to showcasing the talent of artists and musicians who themselves have disabilities. The first festival, held in West Yorkshire in May 2012 proved to be a great success. Since then, the organisation has steadily grown in terms of the size of company itself, overall production and scale of the festival offering.

Their Goals

  • To produce and manage music and arts festivals specifically designed for people of all ages living with disabilities and additional needs, providing the opportunity of positive experience of music and art through involvement
  • To develop partnerships with other organisations, groups and individuals to broaden our reach
  • To secure support through volunteering, corporate social involvement and local artists
  • To innovate with original and creative ideas to enable new engagement opportunities.

For Disability Rocks 2016 they are looking to businesses and organisations with both local and national profiles to help them put on the best festivals yet. They have some suggested profiles that they hope will offer the necessary flexibility to allow your company to sponsor at a level that suits and provides a return on your investment through positive corporate social responsibility, raised profile through local and national media and raised social media activity.

To discuss potential sponsorship opportunities, please contact them at;



By |2015-05-31T15:25:17+00:00May 31st, 2015|The Jigsaw Tree Blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment