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Glastonbury singing session for the neurodiverse

By?Carys Nally,?BBC News, Somerset
Elizabeth McGregor Elizabeth McGregor (L), Abby Fell (C) and Ciara Blacker (R) on the Victorian Pier Elizabeth McGregor
The Charlala's are Elizabeth McGregor (L), Abby Fell (C) and Ciara Blacker (R)

A trio of performers are holding accessible singing sessions for neurodiverse people at the Glastonbury festival.

The Charlala's have been singing seaside-themed classics at the world-famous event at Worthy Farm since 2019.

The sessions will involve singing, bubble guns and stimulation props so all can participate.

Member Elizabeth McGregor said: "We want to help people regulate, reduce anxiety and just be present in the moment together."

"Singing is much more than a musical activity, it's a powerful tool for emotional regulation and social bonding," she added.

"With more than 200,000 people at Glastonbury there really are all sorts of people with all sorts of needs coming.

"We just thought it would be really nice to provide an accessible sing-a-long session for everyone to join in."

Elizabeth McGregor The Charlala's being interviewed at Glastonbury last year by a TV crewElizabeth McGregor
The Charlala's have become well known at the festival

The trio have been singing at Glastonbury since 2019 after Ms McGregor sent a Valentines Day card to the event's co-founder Michael Eavis.

The singer, who has ADHD, said she was "shocked" when she got a call to say Mr Eavis had appreciated the card and was keen for The Charlala's to perform.

Ms McGregor said: "Fast-forward to June 2019 and we opened Glastonbury-on-Sea standing next to Michael Eavis, which was just the best experience ever!"

James Stiles / LABL FOTO The Charlalas talk to child and mother James Stiles / LABL FOTO
The Charlala's accessibility session will be on Sunday at the end of the Victorian Pier at Glastonbury-on-Sea

Ms McGregor, who describes herself as having a "neuro-spicy family", has a few tips to make sure neuro-diverse people can enjoy Glastonbury to the full this year.

She said: "I've got ADHD and I definitely have some hypersensitivities. I’ve been going to Glastonbury for years so I’ve got some good ways to work this through.

"My main bit of advice would be to say 'you do you' – everyone’s needs are really different and it’s really important that you honour your boundaries and what works for you and what doesn’t.

"Go at your own pace and then let the rest of it flow."

"There are some really peaceful areas like the Green and Healing Fields where you can go to retreat away from the noise.

"Up on the hill where the Glastonbury sign is above the park stage is always a nice viewpoint, and it's usually quite quiet in the day."

Getty Images A large crowd packed in, in front of the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. People are leaning on the crash barrier and also waving flagsGetty Images
Glastonbury is well known for huge crowds, but there are some quieter areas on the site

Ms McGregor said people should opt for comfortable clothes rather than worrying about how they look.

"I love sequins but make sure that you’ve worn the clothes before so they’re not scratchy because sequins can be so itchy!

"If you have really hypersensitive skin perhaps consider wearing like a sweatband underneath your admission ticket band because a lot of people find that a really sensory issue.

"Bringing comfort things from home to help you feel grounded is helpful, whether that's a weighted blanket or fidget toys, noise cancelling headphones or earplugs are brilliant.

"Also remember to pack safe snacks - non-melty things that you feel are easy to digest are really, really helpful to have in your bag.

"What Glastonbury offer to support for people who are neurodivergent and who have additional needs is incredible.

"They've got sensory calm spaces across the site which is sort of designed to help people recalibrate and just take some time out and then go back into the festival and really enjoy it."

Ms McGregor also said that people who arrive on Wednesday and Thursday, or are able to get up early, can explore the site when it is less crowded.

Getty Images People wearing backpacks leaving the Glastonbury Festival site. They are walking alongside a row of binsGetty Images
Some people may struggle when the festival comes to an end, Ms McGregor said

'Post-Glasto blues'

"This festival will rock your world and the 'Glastonbury Blues' are real," she added

"You need to take time to decompress from the sensory and social stimulation that you've experienced.

"Try and choose calming activities, whether that's spending time in nature or reading, and really reflect on the good bits!"

The Charlala's accessibility session will be on Sunday 30 at 11:00 BST at the end of the Victorian Pier in the Glastonbury-on-Sea zone.

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