Feel The Force Day is a revolutionary new way of experiencing conventions, and here at Renegade we’re all up for a revolution or two! This convention, which takes place in Peterborough on the 18th October, aims to solve a problem that has long been plaguing the geek community. It’s the first convention specifically created for disabled geeks in the world.
First brought into existence by 1st Sensory Legion and Extreme Clowning, Feel the Force Day is a way for people with a whole range of disabilities to get to experience what they cannot at a typical convention. There currently exist so many barriers to access, whether you have a physical, sensory or learning disability. It’s not just about crowding and wheelchairs, there’s a whole gamut of things, from over-reliance on visuals to lack of seating to misunderstandings around those with learning disabilities. So this convention aims to change that, and offer an experience parallel to the non-disabled geek.
It’s really cool, because it involves a totally different approach to convention activities. For example, there will be tables where visually impaired congoers can feel the props and costumes used in films, and ‘smell jars’ which creatively interpret particular things from sci-fi (want to know what a wookie smells like?).
And with guests like Warwick Davis, Virginia Hey and Holli Dempsey, plus Bumblebee from Transformers and a whole slew of Disney princesses, what’s not to like?
Recently we caught up with organiser Si Howard and asked him a few questions about the event.
- 1. So your first event was in 2013 – what was it like organising it?
Pressured, but great fun. The people we cater for are really interested in what we do as there is literally nothing else like it in the world, so their support was fantastic and a real motivator.
- 2. What gave you the inspiration to start Feel the Force day?
Inspiration came from JJ Lucia-Wright’s (Trustee) work with his friend Jimmy who is deaf blind. JJ has spent years teaching Jimmy about Star Wars and so this event allowed him to take his skills to more people.
- 3. Can you talk a bit about the different kinds of ways in which people with various disabilities can experience things at your event?
We use multiple methods to enable people to access the subject matters at the events (no longer just Star Wars) everything from touch to smell and sensory additions, we use the latest technology in NFC to enable people to understand more about the characters in attendance.
Any costumer attending our event, must consent to be tactile, to enable people with visual impairments to understand more about their costume and character. Last year Princess Leia in a slave bikini was a tactile model and was happy for people to feel her costume… hence Feel the Force Day.
- 4. The original focus was Star Wars, right? Could you tell us a little bit about why that is and how the event is expanding to other areas of sci-fi?
Star Wars offers a really diverse range of characters and subjects, the story line can work on many levels, from just a bit of fun for kids to potentially a very critical look at world politics. By using Star Wars, it gave us the chance to reach as broad a range of people as possible.
The first event was not intended as a trial of a larger model, simply demand has been so great that we decided to take it to another level. By putting ourselves on the line and booking a venue like KingsGate in Peterborough, we have had to diversify our genre to enable people to get more from the day, and hopefully more people to the day.
- 5. We’ve noticed you’ve gotten the attention of a lot of famous folk – for example Warwick Davis and Virginia Hey are special guests at the event itself, and we noticed many famous faces supporting you on the Facebook banner. Has it been hard getting celebrities involved, and, who would you like to get involved in an ideal celebrity line-up?
It has been difficult to get celebrities to come to our event, Warwick has been fantastic and has supported us from day one. The other guys coming are all doing so of their own will. We have limited funds so these people are giving up their time because they want to help.
We have found celebrities at other conventions to be really engaged with what we do and many have even donated to our cause. We would love to bring even more big named stars to our events but obviously, funds are limited so we have to rely upon the good will of the people we ask.
- 6. How can cosplayers and non-disabled fans of sci-fi culture help out?
Cosplayers are the absolute core of this event, without them, we are nothing… and we know it. We need people to come to the event and be willing to engage with the our guests to make the world a more inclusive place.
The way we see it, film and TV is something anyone should be able to get involved in but for some people, being involved is harder than for others. We aim to break down those barriers so everyone can engage and be included within the stories they love.
Thanks to Si for answering our questions!
For a taster of what’s on offer and why this really makes a difference for folk, check out this interview with Warwick Davis, guest star and ambassador for Feel the Force, after last year’s event.
So pass the message on to anyone you know who would be interested, and help make this year’s event a memorable one!