Laura Forbes had never fully been out of her wheelchair before participating in aerial workshops as part of this year’s Paisley Halloween Festival.
But next week, she will perform 100ft in the air in front of Paisley’s iconic Abbey alongside her Dirty Feet Dance Company family.
The Paisley-based Dirty Feet Dance Company aims to create opportunities for disabled and non-disabled people and carers to enjoy, express and fulfil their potential through dance. They have been working with professional performers from Scotland’s leading aerial dance company All or Nothing, on the ‘Into the Dark’ show which is taking place as part of this year’s Paisley Halloween Festival on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 October.
During the workshops the group have been given the opportunity to take to the sky in special aerial harnesses to allow them to express themselves in the air.
Laura Forbes (40), joined Dirty Feet Dance Company in 2013 and this is the first time she has tried anything like this. She said: “I’ve never been fully out of the wheelchair before, when I get lifted in the harness it’s an amazing feeling, it’s freedom.
“Before I first went up in the air I was scared but after the first time in the harness I just loved it. It gives me a total sense of freedom out of my wheelchair. If there’s something I’ve learned from this experience it’s that I won’t let being scared stop me from trying something new.”
“I can’t wait for us all to perform at next week’s festival. When we all come together we can do anything and achieve anything – we’re all like family.”
Clare Eason (37) has been a member of the group since 2006. She said: “It feels amazing when you’re up in the air. I know I’m a wheelchair user but I don’t feel disabled when I’m up there. Being part of Dirty Feet Dance Company lets me try new experiences – this is the first time I’ve ever done aerial and I love it. I think it’s amazing what we’re able to do as wheelchair users.”
During the workshops the performers are able to use either a full body or sitting harness attached to a pully rope system to give them the opportunity to see how their bodies react in the air.
Ruth Foster, Co-director of Dirty Feet Dance Company, said: “It gives the performers a real sense of weightlessness and allows them the chance to explore their range of motion in a new platform and artform which has been a great experience for everyone.
“It’s within their power how high to go. They can stay a few feet off the ground or can ascend all the way up to the ceiling. They are in complete control of their movements in the air.”
Marie Williamson, aerial instructor and performer at All or Nothing, said: “The system we use gives them the opportunity to stretch out and discover their movement for themselves.
“From my point of view it’s an incredible thing to be part of – what I can see them get from it is fantastic. They all have such great characters and a real ‘do it’ attitude. They are very determined to show what they can do. I think people will be surprised by what they’ll see.”
This is one of a series of workshops taking place as part of the Paisley Halloween Festival pairing professional performance companies with local community groups to give them the opportunity to learn new skills and be involved in the town’s major events programme.
The award-winning Paisley Halloween Festival is widely regarded as one of the best events of its kind in the UK. This year’s event takes on a Dark Circus theme and promises to be the biggest yet with internationally acclaimed outdoor theatre specialists, Cirque Bijou, helping to deliver an extended programme of performances to thrill, chill and enthral.
In addition to the daring aerial performances visitors will be captivated by the mass costumed parade through Scotland’s largest town featuring giant animated puppets, frightening floats and a cast of spooky circus characters. There will also be bizarre street theatrics, a ticketed silent disco and a fantastic array of family-friendly activities taking place in locations throughout the town centre over the two-day event.
The Paisley Halloween Festival, which was supported in 2018 through the Year of Young People event fund, was awarded £16,950 of National Programme funding from EventScotland for this year’s event.