The arts open for all with the first inclusive eisteddfod section at Royal South Street

Passion: Maria Van-Ravenstein from Karden received first prize in the Vocal Solo (Open) section at Royal South Street Eisteddfod's first The Arts for All competition, which is for performers with a disability. Picture: Kate Healy
Passion: Maria Van-Ravenstein from Karden received first prize in the Vocal Solo (Open) section at Royal South Street Eisteddfod's first The Arts for All competition, which is for performers with a disability. Picture: Kate Healy

Royal South Street Eisteddfod has launched its first inclusive competition for people with disabilities.

The Arts for All section took place on November 6 and 7, with more than 60 singers, dancers, actors and musicians performing at RACV Goldifelds Resort in Creswick.

Royal South Street Society chief executive officer Brett MacDonald said each performer had enjoyed their time in the spotlight. 

“We always suspected it would be really well-received, each person just loves performing and gets so much out of it,” he said. 

“It’s been a terrific event if smiles are anything to go by, as there’s been lots of them.

“South Street is treating this section like any other when it comes to the opportunity for feedback, the prize money and medals.

“It really is a first for them to get up on stage and compete against their mates, and to receive that feedback from a professional adjudicator is really unique.”

Discussions to create a South Street section for people living with disabilities have been happening for three years.

After getting the go-ahead from local disability support provider Karden, Royal South Street formed a working group with members of Ballarat’s disability sector. 

Karden studio coordinator April Welfare said the calls for a more inclusive eisteddfod had built over time. 

“It’s just such a fantastic opportunity for the artists to showcase their talents in a prestigious event,” she said.

“They’ve been so appreciated by the audience, and it’s been great for increasing the feelings of inclusion for people with disabilities.

“We had fifteen performers involved and they’re already talking about what they can do next year, so the event has provided lots of excitement.”

Section adjudicator Thomas Banks, an actor and comedian living with cerebral palsy, said the competition was an great opportunity for performers. 

“There is almost no one with disabilities on stage, so the fact that it’s happening here is exciting,” he said. 

“People with disabilities don’t normally have as much of an opportunity to be involved in performance.

“All my life and through my career, I’ve never performed in something like this.

“By opening this section, I really think the Ballarat community will be amazed by what they see.

Mr MacDonald said he’d ultimately like to see the section expand in size next year. 

“It’s been entered by all Ballarat entrants this year, but we think it will appeal to people right around Victoria eventually,” he said. 

“We want to grow the section so it doesn’t just go for two days, it goes for a week, and has more people coming to Ballarat to enjoy what is quite a unique event.”