Autism and the arts unite

Members of Autistic Wigan, from left, Darren Duddle, Daz Castrick, Phil Topping, Adrian Shone and performer Mercy Carpenter
Members of Autistic Wigan, from left, Darren Duddle, Daz Castrick, Phil Topping, Adrian Shone and performer Mercy Carpenter

Autistic Wiganers will have their artistic talents put centre stage as a charity and culture hub team up to put on regular events.

Connection, a partnership between Autistic Wigan Hub and The Old Courts, starts this weekend to connect service users with the arts and culture and also showcase their abilities.

The first event at the Crawford Street arts hub will consist of open mic slots giving service users the chance to speak for five minutes on a topic of their choice as well as a photography exhibition and live performances from musicians, artists and poets.

Both Autistic Wigan Hub and The Old Courts intend to make Connection a regular event and hope to make the borough a regional hub for cultural work and run events for the public showcasing service users’ art.

Autistic Wigan Hub project co-ordinator Darren Duddle said: “We’ve realised a lot of people with autism have an interest in the arts and many of them who come to our events are artists themselves.

“Some people have real difficulty communicating but they love showing the photographs they have taken, and we’ve also got film-makers, poets, sculptors and writers. It’s very diverse.

“This is about embracing these individuals, exhibiting and showcasing their talents and linking in with the fantastic work going on at The Old Courts. Hopefully it will give them confidence and make them feel more valued.”

The first event, on February 5, will feature poetry by Atherton writer Peter Street, a performance by a drag artist and live music.

Connection will run in the evenings with each event lasting about two hours and Darren says he has ambitious plans going forward.

He said: “We want to have events across Greater Manchester and make Wigan a regional centre. Hopefully it will act as a catalyst for an autistic culture movement.

“It’s about people doing things for themselves and taking control and also about them showing their work to audiences at public events.”