Service user Shirley is a lifelong Elvis fan with a love of music and iconic events like Glastonbury. With the big-50 milestone approaching, Shirley discussed her ideal celebration with Heathcotes staff and Shirlfest was born. The festival took place at Whitley, Heathcotes’ specialist residential accommodation for adults with autism, dual diagnoses and associated complex needs.
Shirlfest welcomed 80 staff and service users from across the Yorkshire region, including Sheffield, Leeds, Morley, Wakefield and Bridlington. Shirley greeted each guest at the gate with a Shirlfest-branded VIP wristband providing access to a fun-packed day which included glitter face tattoos, hair braiding, a mocktail tiki bar, coconut shy, barbecue food, funfair games and live music, including an hour-long performance from the King himself.
Services Manager, Hollie Henderson, explained how Shirlfest came together:
“Shirlfest involved three months of planning and Shirley was at the centre of it all the way – she really got involved in the organisation and decision making. The wristbands were Shirley’s idea and she wanted to hand them out personally to every visitor. The only unknown element for Shirley was the appearance of the Elvis impersonator – we wanted to keep that a surprise! Everyone had a fantastic time and for Shirley it was a dream come true. We always encourage service users to choose and help to organise their birthday celebrations and this year we have done everything from tea parties to trips to Sea Life.”
Gemma Hollingsworth, Heathcotes Head of Services, said:
“Occasions like this are a very important part of the person-centred care that we provide at Heathcotes. Engaging the people we support and getting them involved in activities and events are invaluable for promoting social inclusion and independence across all of our services. We often receive hospital referrals involving individuals that have not been encouraged to make their own choices and have become deskilled and institutionalised as a result. Events like Shirlfest provide opportunities for our service users to develop and build upon their skills, allowing them to transition from an institutionalised mindset to a greater sense of empowerment and agency in the way they live their life and the decisions that affect it.”