Heart n Soul kick off 30th-anniversary celebrations with Beautiful Octopus Club at Southbank Centre


Creative arts organisation Heart n Soul are delighted to announce the 9th edition of The Beautiful Octopus Club Festival (BOC Fest), a unique event bringing together an eclectic mix of musicians, DJs and performers from the UK’s burgeoning learning disabled scene. Taking place at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday 9th September, BOC Fest 2016 also marks the beginning of Heart n Soul’s The Big 30; a year of special events to celebrate the pioneering charity’s 30th anniversary.

Photograph from Beautiful Octopus Club featuring 2 DJs and an emcee on a stage

Heart ‘n Soul. The Beautiful Octopus Club Festival, Royal Festival Hall. © Patrick Baldwin

BOC Fest aims to put learning disabled arts and culture firmly on the map. An immersive, multispace playground featuring music, performance and workshops, BOC Fest’s innovative programming is in part due to the lack of genre restrictions within the learning disabled scene. The artists taking part share an uninhibited urge to create, resulting in a space where both audience and performers are free to experiment and experience something new. Expect to be wowed by one of the most fun, friendly and un-self conscious events on the festival calendar!

Featuring an exciting musical line up spanning countless genres, visitors to BOC Fest 2016 will have the chance to experience some exceptional live music. Heart n Soul’s very own left-field DIY pop outfit The Fish Police, whose music is heavily informed by two of the member’s autism, will curate a stage featuring the UK debut of Brazilian disabled hip hop artist Billy Saga, London punks Sauna Youth and electronic experimentalist Team Trabant.

Two performers at Beautiful Octopus Club in bright coloured dresses

The Beautiful Octopus Club Festival will feature a colourful array of events. © Patrick Baldwin

Soul singer Lizzie Emeh, who in 2009 was the first ever solo artist with learning disabilities to release a full length album, will perform a stunning philharmonic set with members of the London Symphony Orchestra, including an arrangement by composer Bobbie-Jane Gardner. Poet and harmonica player Peter Brown, who was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was 60, will perform a brand new multi-media spoken word composition, and musical instrument inventor David Sawyer & Friends will play improvised sets on instruments that no one will have seen before! There will be rousing sing-alongs from the grassroots Heart n Soul Choir and over 150 participants from
Heart n Soul’s creative arts projects Allsorts (18-60+) and Do Your Own Thing (10-25) groups will take to The Takeover Stage.

With dance music at the heart of The Beautiful Octopus Club, festival-goers will be able to dance the night away to a host of DJs on the Riverside Terrace. There will also be a spectacular Soundclash DJ Battle inspired by the reggae sound-system battles of the 70’s. The soundclash will feature over 25 DJ’s from some of the country’s top learning disabled club nights: Squidz, The Bubble Club and The Funky Llama. One of BOC Fest’s most popular attractions is also back for 2016; a mass Just Dance dance-along area!

Technology plays an important role in the learning disabled music scene and the SoundLab Playspace is a digital zone encouraging the exploration of noise, sound and music. There will be demonstrations of Imogen Heap’s ground-breaking Mi.Mu Glove, a wearable piece of technology that allows users to perform and compose music using intuitive human movement, irrespective of their physical ability. Demonstrations will come courtesy of The Fish Police’s Dean Rodney and musician and technologist Kris Halpin. The SoundLab Stage will host other live performances from a range of pioneering digital musicians including pop-up collective Electric Fire, AC Sabre inventor Hari Singh, sound educators School of Noise, multimedia artist and filmmaker Dele Fakoya and tech-savvy musician Wayne Taylor, using the creative app Pyka Loop. Festival attendees will also have the chance to play with instruments and equipment from some of the world’s most cutting-edge companies including Ableton and Pyka.

Photograph of a crowd enjoying Beautiful Octopus Club event from the perspective of the DJ booth

A crowd enjoys a previous Beautiful Octopus event. © Patrick Baldwin

Outside of the music programming, a range of thought-provoking activities will also be taking place at the festival. Captivating performance artist Tilley Milburn will present Goggieland, a chill out area with a difference that allows participants to explore notions of rest and relaxation. Tilley has devised Puffing and Wooling, her own unique concept devised to make the participant feel calm and content. Battersea Arts Centre associate artist Will Dickie will present Meeting Points, individual performance pieces designed to enhance attendees experiences of entering the festival. There will be an Art Market & Exhibition Space featuring original art by some of the UK’s leading disabled visual artists, Heart n Soul co-founder Pino Frumiento MBE will be premiering his new film and attendees can get involved in several art workshops or have their face painted. Plus, Heart n Soul will take over the Royal Festival Hall’s famous Singing Lift!

The Beautiful Octopus Club Founded in 1995 at Heart n Soul’s HQ in Deptford as a response from people with learning disabilities who wanted a space to celebrate, The Beautiful Octopus Club was the first club night to welcome all audiences to a mainstream venue to experience and be part of a learning disability cultural event. The club allowed an important cultural scene to develop and kickstarted regular learning disabled nights around the country. As momentum grew, the BOC Festival emerged as an event to bring together the network of clubs on an annual basis.

BOC Fest is part of the Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival, celebrating the artistic vision and originality of disabled artists.

For full listings information about BOC Fest, see here.