Disco 'for and by' adults with learning disabilities praised as safe and joyful place to socialise

A club event "for and by" adults with disabilities in Belfast city centre has been praised as a safe and joyful place for everyone to enjoy nightlife in safe company.

Most of the performers, organisers, volunteers and partygoers at the Black Moon in Black Box have additional needs.

More importantly, they love live music, DJ sets, dancing, chatting and having the opportunity to meet friends, old and new.

Elvis Impersonator Trevor Lemon was first to entertain the crowds at Tuesday's event.

He said he was "humbled" to perform there.

"It's them (the crowd) that keep the whole thing going.

"If it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be a show!" he said.

After a bout of illness, Trevor had to step back from the limelight, but said that now he is glad to "get the cobwebs off" because he was "missing the suit".

Mark Patty, AKA DJ Twister, DJ Stevie B (Steven Bradley) and Robert Whiteman/ DJ Revolve kept the party going after Elvis' energetic performance.

"There aren't many places like this for people with disabilities in venues," said DJ Revolve.

"People with hidden disabilities don't get recognised as having a disability and when you try and explain they just blank you out.

"I really enjoy the music, I'm a producer making my own music as well to play at the Black Moon, so I try and get myself out there to recognise that people with disabilities can do these things."

Earlier in the day, the social-cafe event in the venue (called Express Yourself) was in full swing.

Dozens of art-lovers and coffee-drinkers were busy glueing collages and decorations for the special Valentines Day themed party.

This daytime event is a weekly fixture in the Cathedral Quarter area of Belfast, unlike the disco which happens once a month.

Amanda was one of several people who completed the double-whammy and attended both events. She designed an Elvis themed poster, which was proudly displayed at the entrance to the nightclub.

Amanda created an Elvis poster during the daytime art cafe, and returned to show off her crafts and her dance moves at the disco.

UTV spoke to William, a blue-grass banjo player who has travelled the world.

He is hearing impaired, and says he was called names including Frankenstein and Quasimodo as a boy.

He enjoys attending the social-cafe, and says that things are a little easier now for people with disabilities than they were when he was growing up, but there's more ground to cover - and that more events like these would be a good start.

These popular events are possible thanks to help from Belfast City Council and from the National Lottery.

Catherine McShane is director at the Black Box.

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