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Carousel’s Blue Camel Club Celebrates 10 Years of Club Nights for Learning Disabled Artists

  • Date: 16 September 2010
  • Artform: None
  • Area: South East
Blue Camel Club, 2000 Blue Camel Club, 2000, Photo courtesy of Carousel

Brighton is famous for its vibrant club scene, but it’s a culture that people with learning disabilities can often feel excluded from.

However in 2000, an Arts Council England regularly funded arts organisation changed this by setting up the first club night in the south east especially run by and for learning disabled people.

Carousel set up The Blue Camel Club to offer a platform for local learning disabled artists and to inspire them to develop their creative confidence, skills and talents. The Brighton-based charity works with people with learning disabilities to help them achieve their potential through the creative arts.

This year The Blue Camel Club will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a special club night at Brighton Corn Exchange, the venue they first ran the night in, on Monday 4 October 2010.

Having built a regular and loyal following over the last decade, The Blue Camel Club has showcased hundreds of aspiring performers to audiences of 450 per night. The club is a much loved social event for a community that has few opportunities to get together.

‘Spending time together makes you feel happy and special,’ said one Blue Camel Club regular. ‘It's good to have romance too!’

The Blue Camel Club is held four times a year with a different theme each time and, like all of Carousel’s activity, it is planned and organised by a committee of nine learning disabled people.

‘Being on the committee is an enjoyable experience,’ said Stephen Wilkinson, a member of The Blue Camel Club Steering Committee and a Carousel Trustee. ‘It's given me lots of new confidence: I can do presentations and speak to the public about the work that we do.’

The Blue Camel Club has also provided hands-on experience in running club nights to the learning disabled people who attend as stewards and presenters.

The standard line up for a Blue Camel night usually includes two or three DJs and VJs serving up a variety of music styles and visuals, art, performances and live bands.

Past acts include Carousel’s dance company High Spin; The Coasters from Crawley; house band Beat Express; and Heart ‘n’ Soul’s new singing sensation Lizzie Emeh.

Other nights have included poetry, magic acts and film screenings, and as in any good club, there’s always lots of dancing.

The Blue Camel Club has been the catalyst for two major campaigns – punk band Heavy Load’s Stay up Late  and Love Matters.

It has also been the model for other club nights across the region, under the Blue Umbrella. There are now clubs in Worthing, Horsham and Crawley, run through the West Sussex Arts Development Partnership and likely to be delivered independently by the end of the year. For younger people, the Junior Blue Camel is held up to three times a year in Brighton & Hove, in conjunction with a special school such as Hillside or Downsview.

The Blue Camel Club's 10 year anniversary party will feature bands from Carousel's Shut Up And Listen! initiative, films from Oska Bright Film Festival, which is run by and for people with a learning disability, performances, magic, DJs and VJs. Tickets are available on the Brighton Dome website.

To learn more about Carousel and The Blue Camel Club, visit their site: http://carousel.org.uk/ Or join them on Facebook!