The Velcro Collective’s Creative Outdoor Event at Westonbirt Arboretum

The Arts Society Corinium provides funding support to the Velcro Collective.  The second of its outdoor events for visually impaired children took place in September 2023.

Following a successful creative workshop day earlier this year, The Velcro Collective welcomed visually impaired children and families to another event at Westonbirt Arboretum on 30 th September. This time families took part in CRUNCH! – a new interactive nature trail with performance, sensory soundscapes, creative audio description and fun creative challenges throughout.

CRUNCH! is the culmination of research with local families, artists and community groups to create an accessible, outdoor experience in nature, particularly welcoming visually impaired, neurodiverse & disabled people. Funding from Arts Society Corinium has supported this work to continue in 2023.

CRUNCH! involves three performers.  A visually impaired actor, Dougie Walker, plays the role of Sonny and represents the sun element of nature.  He invites families to join him on an adventure to find his friends who are lost and haven’t been seen in the arboretum for a while.

This photo shows families walking through the arboretum with Sonny, who wears brown, yellow and orange clothing. Along the way, families stopped to notice and interact with different elements of the arboretum.  They were also given a bag to collect treasures from the ground.

Sonny’s three friends were found throughout the trail; two dancers, Mist representing the water element and Clay representing earth, and a large piece of oak called Branch representing air. The families were tasked with waking them up using their treasures. There was laughter and suspense as the friends woke and fell back to sleep again, each with their own personality, sound & movement.

When the friends were all reunited, CRUNCH! finished with a celebratory performance. The woodland clearing opened up for children and families to learn some of the moves, play more games and dress Branch with more treasures. The families were able to socialise together afterwards over coffee, tea & juice followed by free time to continue exploring Westonbirt Arboretum. The time is just as important as the creative event itself, providingtime for families to meet, talk and make their own connections.

The children and families told us:

"I had a really fun time listening to the sounds. My

favourite part was hearing the snoring noises.

Great experience for kids and adults! Scarlett says

‘best day of my life’!"

"Lovely! We felt very included! The dancing was


"BEAUTIFUL!! Wish this was a regular feature – you

brought the magic back into the arb! Thank you. It

was enchanting."

"My favourite part was finding treasure for my bag and attaching it to Branch." 

CRUNCH! and the creative workshops days are part of The Velcro Collective’s work to address the lack of creative opportunities specifically for visually impaired children and families in Gloucestershire. With funding support from the members of The Arts Society Corinium, the company continues to create outdoor events enabling families to meet each other around a shared experience of living with VI.  The work has been co-designed over the last few years with visually impaired dance artist and facilitator, Holly Thomas and more recently with visually impaired actor, Dougie Walker, to develop and deliver events and performances.

Photo above shows two performers, Clay & Mist, leaning on each other as they sleep on a bench. Families and artist, Holly Thomas, are watching from the distance and laughing.  After the event, Holly Thomas said “The work you are doing is amazing…It makes a huge difference. The thing about working with VI children, families and artists is that our numbers are not big but the impact for individuals really is and that is awesome! Quality and fun is the magic formula!”

The Velcro Collective are now planning the next phase of the work. In autumn/winter, they are planning a walk with Holly and local VI families to explore what they’d like to happen next.

On behalf of all the children and families attending Westonbirt Arboretum in September, The Velcro Collective would like to say thanks to all the members of The Arts Society Corinium for the funding support that allowed this exciting event to take place. Louise Brown, Artistic Lead and Michelle Lee, Community Engagement Producer.

The Velcro Collective welcome more local VI families to get in touch about future activities and events. Please email to register your interest.

Images credit: The Velcro Collective