The Awareness Of Autism festival (AOA for short) was held on Sunday 19th March 2017. It was a result of months of hard work and dedication from four Southampton Solent University students, Jordan, Charlie, Niall and Sammy. The event was inspired by a similar event that Jordan, who has autism, had organised in his hometown of Stourbridge.
The event was held in the 1865, a live music venue close to Southampton City Centre. It proved to be an ideal venue with ample room, including a balcony, and plenty of comfy chairs and tables for attendees to sit on and relax at while enjoying the performances.
A nice, clear programme of the event was produced which included a timetable for all of the acts and a description of what the event was all about. When doors opened at 4pm attendees had 30 minutes to get accustomed to the venue and find a nice spot from which to watch. The lighting was at a nice level, not too dark but not too bright, with added ambience of tea lights on each table.
Right on schedule the first act was greeted to the stage. Gospel Train as the name suggests are a gospel group consisting of a mum and son duo, Cheyne (or Queenie) and David, and Verena the third group member. They sang songs in acapella style and sounded note perfect throughout. The perfect start.
Next on was David Gorham. David has been involved with Autism Hampshire for many years and attends our social groups, his business Phoenix Tuition was a sponsor for the event. David was entertaining in reciting poems – a particular highlight the Noel Coward classic “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”.
Next to take to the stage was Connect 4tism, a band that had been hurriedly put together to perform at the festival, where the drummer was recruited on the day! Despite this their performance was polished and professional. They played a three song, crowd pleasing set. Two classics ‘La Bamba’ and ‘Chantilly Lace’ as well as an originally written song, Soar, by the keyboardist, Jason. As the set ended there were cries from the crowd for ‘more’ and though they only came together for this show there is no doubt that there will be more from them.
The next act consisted of young people from the Linwood Youth Project in Bournemouth where Jack Grace, the day’s headliner, works. They first performed a Jack Grace song featuring Adam, who attends the youth project, on guitar. The group then followed with a dancer from the project showing us all how to dance rockabilly style. This performance inspired and encouraged another member of the group, Rachel, to perform an unplanned song. Rachel has a gifted voice and was a pleasant surprise.
Following on from Rachel was a duo called Rivermead, featuring one of the organisers, Sammy on acoustic guitar and his friend Ollie playing lead guitar. The pair played folk inspired songs and were well recieved. With that, the first half was done and the crowd were happy.
During the half hour interval a film played on a screen that formed part of the backdrop for the stage. This was created by Ed Walton from Real Good Films. The film was a touching story of how autism affects a family’s life on a daily basis. The interval also provided a good opportunity to look at the art display upstairs and for the crowd to refresh for the restart of the live entertainment.
The first act of the second half was Daniel Jeffery reading his own poetry. Daniel facilitates our Aldershot Serendipity social group and he was very eloquent in delivering his poetry, the highlight being his poem ‘May’.
Next on was Marcus Mason Williams or how he prefers to be known, ‘The Ice Man’. He was very energetic and got people dancing while he enthusiastically sang classics from Bryan Adams, Green Day and Tenacious D.
That was a perfect warm up for the next act, the people responsible for the official charity single ‘I can be great’ which can be downloaded on Itunes and streamed on Spotify and seen below, Oscar Bell and Jordan Statham. Oscar played a few songs on his own and was then joined by Jordan to sing the current single and the single for the previous Awareness Of Autism event. ‘I can be great’ was a crowd favourite and I am sure many attendees have since downloaded the song.
Last on was the events headliner, Jack Grace. Jack and his band played a storming set playing a nice variation from his back catalogue and some new songs. Particular highlights were ‘Jammy One’, ‘Dead and Cold’ and recent single ‘Blindside’.
This proved to be a very enjoyable event and a great platform for up-and-coming acts to showcase their talents especially as many of the acts featured people on the autistic spectrum. The 100 strong crowd left with smiles and wishing for more events similar to this. It was fair to say it was a success.
Autism Hampshire was proud to help promote the event and very honoured that all money raised would be donated to Autism Hampshire.