Jorik Mol, a young white man, stands in a grassy field addressing an audience. He is wearing a t-shirt saying "Autism / Embrace Difference".

Brighton’s autistic people are loud and proud

There was no shortage of communication at a gathering of Brighton’s autistic community on Saturday, August 24.

Autistic Pride Brighton, part of a wider network of similar organisations, hosted a community picnic in Surrenden Field, Preston Park, accompanied by music, comedy and rap performances. Guests included campaigner Emma Dalmayne, comedian Sarah Saeed and performer Paul Wady, who are all on the autistic spectrum.

Heathen Rose, a young white woman, performs a rap in front of a leafy green tree. She wears a purple t-shirt saying "I'm the Crazy Lesbian Everyone Warned You About".
Heathen Rose performs a rap about the challenges of being autistic

The day opened with a discussion about improving support for the UK’s autistic people, presented by Jorik Mol, an expert by experience at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

He spoke about his work to build an all-age integrated pathway team, which will tour Buckinghamshire and Berkshire focusing on the suitability of NHS services for autistic people. The project is the first of its kind in the UK.

“GPs, social care, education – every way in which autistic people come into contact with the world around them, we will look at, we will scrutinise, and we will change,” he said.

“We will be able to make the changes that we need in our community. Part of that is very simple – hiring autistic people.

“We want an NHS that is full of autistic people, from the bottom to the top, because we get the problems that we suffer on a daily basis trying to access the basic amount of healthcare that we deserve.”

Also present were members of Sussex Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes and Hypermobility Support, highlighting and offering advice about chronic illnesses commonly seen in autistic people.

Organiser of Autistic Pride Brighton Adrie van der Meer said: “Pride is about celebrating and embracing autistic identity and all neurodivergent minds.

Sarah Saeed, a white woman, poses dramatically with a blue champagne flute. She is wearing a lace dress, green-and-gold wrap scarf and a black fascinator.
Sarah Saeed entertains attendees with a comedy performance

“But it is also a protest, because historically there has always been a world that has stigmatised autistic people.

“It’s an opportunity to educate autistic people that they can be proud of their disability, and those who want to support the autistic community.”

In future, Autistic Pride Brighton hopes to work with other Brighton and Hove organisations to provide their community with more accessible and enriching entertainment.

Click here for Autistic Pride Brighton’s official Facebook page. Another Facebook page providing information and more events to Brighton’s autistic people can be found here. Pictures by Peter Williams Photography.