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Bandon fest is praised for its inclusivity

August 30th, 2019 11:50 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Mary O'Donovan, a member of the fundraising committee and Claire Desmond, chair of Jack & Friends.

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ORGANISERS of the recent Bailiú Na Banndan (The Gathering) festival held in Bandon over the bank holiday weekend have been praised for their inclusiveness.

Claire Desmond of the voluntary run Jack & Friends Centre which opened on South Main St earlier this year, said the organisers went out of their way to accommodate children and families with children on the autism spectrum.

‘Bailiú Na Banndan reached out to me here as they took into consideration the importance in having access to a quite space for families and children that may feel anxious or overwhelmed among the crowds,’ said Claire.

‘We were delighted to be able to assist and educate the committee on various sensory triggers and solutions that could be onsite at various events to help those with different needs enjoy the festivities the festival had to offer.’

By using items such as weighted blankets and lap pads they were able to create a ‘playful, calm and safe space’ for families in places like the Town Hall and GAA Pavilion where events were being held.

‘Children came and went throughout the weekend knowing they had that ‘time out’ space to go to when it all got too much, a space adults also used throughout the festival with their children.’

Claire – who set up Jack & Friends two years ago with her husband Finbarr as a result of their son Jack living with non-verbal autism – said that Bailiú na Banndan has set the standard for next year’s festival and that Jack & Friends will be on hand to ensure the festival is inclusive for all.

Jack & Friends Centre, which is solely funded by community fundraisers, now supports over 100 families in Cork where families can avail of activities, occupational therapy, play therapy and an information hub for parents starting the journey.

In a post on Facebook, the committee of Bailiú na Banndan said they were thrilled to have Jack & Friends Centre on-board for their festival: ‘We reached out to Claire for support because we wanted to ensure inclusion and access for everyone. The girls – Claire, Katie and Shaunagh – did an incredible job all weekend and we were delighted to be part of it.’

A ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ event in aid of Jack & Friends Centre will take place at 2pm at The Old Market Bar in Bandon on September 14th. Tickets, €37.50, are available from The Old Market Bar and Jack & Friends Centre. See ‘Jack and Friends Support Centre’ on Facebook or email [email protected]

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