18th June


The one I’ll remember, the one I couldn’t take my eyes off all through the performance, was a beautiful boy, this perfect model of a beautiful boy, leaning against his carer, forehead pressed to her side. They sat together in the middle of the stage, and all around them the other children – all with disabilities of varying severity – banged drums and rang bells and sang if they could sing, and in front of the stage the audience sang and clapped and cheered along with them. That boy and woman were like an island. They were surrounded by noise and colour, and they were in it but also beyond it. The boy was one of the performers, a participant, and yet he seemed not to be there at all. And the woman was with him, wherever he was. That was her role, to be with him.

The hall was full of families come to celebrate their children’s achievements. Tiny, fractional movements were immense achievements for some. There were children in wheelchairs twisted into shapes you would think almost impossible for the human frame to bear. There were raucous, happy, out-of-tune children. There were shy, slow, determined children. I felt I had entered some other world from which the word ‘normal’ had been banished because it was useless. This was in fact what I had done. And I saw that when I went back to my own world that word would still be useless.

The way his head and her body touched was something to see. Had I been a painter, I would have wanted to paint that connection, capture its tranquillity and trust in the midst of everything. I thought of his family. Were they in the hall? If they were seeing him there, did they see him as I did, the centre of everything and nothing, both present and absent? Did their hearts break, or did it make them happy to see him so still and safe up there on the stage? How I saw him is of no consequence either to them or to him, or to his carer, but I wished I could have been Picasso. Picasso would have known what to do.

Reader: Marissa Bonnar
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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