Disabled teenagers customise their own Dalston-cool club night

Hackney Ark's Youth Squad

Hackney Ark's Youth Squad - Credit: Archant

A group of young disabled people are tailor-making their own trendy club night, to overcome the stigma they believe is associated with mainstream disability events.

Next Sunday the Forest Road Youth Hub, which opened in October, will be transformed into a Dalston-cool worthy venue, with professional dancers, light projections, live music, DJs and a ‘mocktail’ soft drink bar, all thanks to Hackney Ark’s Youth Squad.

The teenagers aged between 13-19 are taking part in Mencap’s Changemakers programme, which is based at healthcare centre Hackney Ark in Celia Road.

The idea is to ask young people with a learning disability what they want to change in their community, and to empower them to make that change a reality.

The group felt disabled teenagers don’t get enough opportunity to meet each other and socialise, and said they often fear being bullied in mainstream clubs.

Team member Jennifer Akinola, said: “Disability events are babyish and not cool. They have balloons and bad music. No one dances properly because no one feels cool or relaxed. Everyone just stands around and talks because the music is quiet.

“You are not allowed to have a grown up drink – I don’t mean alcohol, just a nice drink in a nice glass, to feel like you’re having a nice time and at a good party.

Most Read

“It’s important that people feel glamorous and confident and happy to dance properly and look nice.”

The teenagers have come up with the idea of a special chill-out area for those who feel overwhelmed by the clubbing experience, particularly those with autism, and volunteers called ‘safe people’ will be drafted in to help anybody having a hard time on the night.

A sensory zone for young people who are less able to hear or enjoy music will also be set up.

Mencap project manager Claire Evans, said people don’t realise what young people can achieve with the right support: “Young people with a learning disability are some of the most marginalised members of our society; they face stigma, discrimination and many other barriers that restrict the choices they can make in their lives.

“We hope that the teenagers will have a great time at the club night, but we are also confident that the skills they’ve learnt through organising it will help them get involved in other community projects in the future.

To book a place on Sunday February 17 call 020 7014 7005. Doors open at the youth club in Forest Road at 6pm and close at 10.30pm.