Inspired folk dancers receive 2012 seal of approval


A project that adapts traditional English folk dances for wheelchair-users has been recognised by organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Folk in Motion has been granted an Inspire mark, official 2012 branding that recognises innovative and exceptional projects inspired by the games.

The project takes traditional English folk dances dating back to the 1600s and adapts them for wheelchair-users, to produce a new form of dance that those taking part have called “wolk”.

Wolk is danced in pairs, with a group of pairs making up a team, usually of eight dancers. Teams dance at the pace of the slowest member.

Dr Ju Gosling, who created the project and is based in the 2012 host borough of Newham, said: “We believe that dance is for everyone. With no body movements required, wolk is open to all wheelchair-users, including people who need to be pushed. Forming a wolk team is also a great way to have fun and make friends.”

Gosling is hoping the Folk in Motion project – which is supported by the English Folk Dance and Song Society – will boost interest and participation in wheelchair dance.

Wheelchair dance sport is recognized by the International Paralympic Committee, although it is not included within the Paralympics itself. There are fewer than 15 wheelchair dance sport clubs in the UK, compared with more than 10 times that number in the Netherlands.

Gosling also hopes local wheelchair-users will take part in a wolk project at the Together international disability arts festival, which is due to take place in parallel with the Paralympics, in a park in Newham, less than two miles from the main Olympic Park.

There could also be a performance on what is likely to be the penultimate day of the festival, Saturday 8 September.

Gosling is director of the festival, which will put disability rights at its heart, and will be led by the UK Disabled People’s Council.

The Folk in Motion project was founded last November following Gosling’s exhibition Canning Town Folk, which looked at the work of three women from the English folk dance movement, and their links with Canning Town in east London, early in the last century.

While working on the exhibition, Gosling realised the dances could be adapted for wheelchair-users. A development week was funded by Arts Council England.

The project provides free downloadable choreography, music, scores and teaching videos on its website.

Lord [Seb] Coe, chair of the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG, said: “Folk in Motion is encouraging disabled people to fulfill their potential.

“I am proud that with the help of partners such as Folk in Motion and the English Folk Dance and Song Society, we are delivering our vision to use the power of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to boost participation in wheelchair dance.”

Folk in Motion is available for demonstrations and to lead workshops, and next year plans a tour of folk festivals.

5 March 2012