This Friday, The Royal Festival Hall opens it’s door to The Beautiful Octopus Club. Run by company Heart N Soul, the festival is currently in its 8th year and aims to put learning disability arts firmly on the map. An immersive, multi-space playground featuring music, performance and workshops. In the run-up to this one-off event, The Metropolist sat down with 3 of the creative minds behind the festival. Kali Perkins from the band Too Hot For Candy, Dean Rodney Jr from The Fish Police and Catherine Dunne, associate artist at Heart n Soul.
The Metropolist: Tell us about the festival in general. What is it about, what can we expect?
Kali Perkins: You can expect lots at the festival! There’s going to be live music, plus a choir, massage, face painting and a whole lot more! We’re going to be using three floors at the Royal Festival Hall to celebrating the start of Heart n Soul’s 30 birthday.
Dean Rodney: People can take part in all kinds of things and have fun. There’s going to art activities, digital music, you can check out the DJs and watch lots of live performances.
The Metropolist: Why is it so important that we have events like these that focus on people with learning disabilities?
K.P: Because it gives people with learning disabilities a chance to show what we can do. Since Heart n Soul has been around they’ve given people a chance to make their dreams a reality. They believe in everyone and have helped us to triumph. It’s so exciting to be a part of and it’s great to celebrate with everyone.
D.R: I’m going to be performing with my band The Fish Police. Our sound is kind of like a mix of electronic glitsch pop. We’ll be performing tracks from our album, The Marzipan Transformations. We’re also going to be hosting the live music stage, The Anthropomorphic Stage, so we’ve got other bands performing there too including Sauna Youth, Team Trabant and Billy Saga and Kid Campbell.
K.P: I’m going to be performing with my band Too Hot For Candy which I’m in with my two band mates Arthur & Isaac. I’d describe our style as funky and sassy. We’ve recently come back from doing a gig in Germany. I’m really excited about performing, I can’t wait!
C.D: I’m going to be hosting Googieland which is a section of the festival that myself and Heart n Soul artist Tilley Milburn have created. Goggieland is a chill out area with a difference. People can rest and relax in a safe, fun area. There will be cushions, sofas, meditation, lullabies, massages, T’ai Chi and Tattoos.
The Metropolist: What do you think some of the stigmatisms are of the learning disabled in the arts?
K.P: Sometimes people don’t think the work is going to be good quality, that’s why there aren’t many people with learning disabilities in the music industry. But Heart n Soul are helping to break down these barriers and show we wan do. Once people hear us, they quickly change their minds.
C.D: I think people think you can’t take risks. You have to play it safe and make everything clear. But at Heart n Soul no one is put in boxes, there’s loads of crossover in art forms and this is where the amazing creative work happens.The Metropolist: How has your learning disability shaped how you create work?
K.P: I think it’s opened up doors for me and I think I’ve got a greater connection to music. I say I have ‘bionic hearing’ – once I hear a tune I can play it back straightaway. We all have different gifts.
D.R: I guess I see things a bit differently. I created this whole universe called The Dean Rodney Singers four years ago which featured 72 artists from 7 countries. We travelled to all these different places to meet everyone and work with them. We had an installation at the Royal Festival Hall. It all started because I had a dream about it and it became a reality, I loved it.
The Metropolist: If you could sum up the Beautiful Octopus Club in 3 words, what would they be?
K.P: Festive, fun, awesome
D.R: Unique, Imaginative, fun
C.D: Creative, amazing, fun
The Beautiful Octopus Club is a Free event at The Royal Festival Hall
Friday 9th Sept, 7PM – Midnight
For more information, check out the websites: