All it took for me to get from our office in Barcelona to get to Jimmy’s Festival just outside Ipswich, England was a flight, three trains, and a taxi ride.
Those are the sort of travel logistics you’d expect of a headline act with a full entourage. But no, it was just me… and it was totally worth it.
We’d been invited along by the wonderful people at Autism Anglia to help out at the festival, highlighting their work supporting autistic people and their families in the local community.
Naturally, we said yes. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to meet some amazing people, spread the word, and get the chance to hang out at a family-friendly festival in (mostly) glorious weather?
How we met the Autism Anglia crew
Earlier this year, we were contacted on Facebook by Annie Sands. Annie told us that she’d used our book builder to create a personalised book for her autistic son – and that it had gone down a real treat.
Annie is an advisor at Autism Anglia, an awesome charity providing a range of services enabling people with autism to live as independently as possible and experience choice and inclusion throughout the East Anglian region of England.
Annie got chatting to the rest of the team, including her colleague Jonathan Marriott. Before long, she’d put us in touch so that we could work out how else we could support Autism Anglia, plus make our books even better for people with autism.
Jonathan explained that, “For people on the autism spectrum, the world can, at times, be surprising, inconsistent and confusing, which can result in feelings of anxiety. Many autistic people find comfort in logic and specific interests, so being given the opportunity to reflect on one’s life in such a way could be comforting and satisfying.”
Autism Anglia had been selected as the main charity benefactors of Jimmy’s Festival 2017. They asked if we wanted to go along to help explain our books and our work with Autism Anglia.
And that’s how I got to spend the weekend with Sylvia, Jemma, Helen, Iris, and the rest of the gang in the Autism Anglia advice gazebo. It was truly inspiring to see the guys explain to festival-goers the work they do in the local community and offer advice and support to people with questions about autism.
Happy days for all at Jimmy’s Festival
Both their depth of knowledge and unflagging cheerfulness were amazing to witness. They had thought of everything, including being able to direct parents of autistic children to the special Autism Anglia ‘Very Quiet Room’ when they needed a timeout.
No matter what they were asked, they were always able to offer some simple, clear, and practical advice. Nobody left the gazebo without feeling better informed and put at ease.
Calming grumpy kids with the offer of stickers or cheering up stressed adults with some of the finest umbrella dancing seen since Gene Kelly was singin’ in the rain: Autism Anglia had it all covered.
It didn’t matter how laden with camping chairs people were, how many sugar-crazed kids parents were desperately trying to herd, or how occasionally rain-soaked people were. As soon as they were in sight of the gazebo, you could watch them breakout in ear-to-ear grins.
As I started the journey back to Barcelona at the end of the weekend, I realised that, above all, what makes the Autism Anglia gang so supportive and brilliant is their boundless energy, endless smiles, and friendly words. It’s infectious and empowering.
For a charity aimed at inclusion, that seems pretty perfect – and is something I was very proud to help support.