Dance performance at Liberty Festival 2016 in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Mayor welcomes disability arts, entertainment and sport in London

14 July 2017
  • World Para Athletics Championships at the London Stadium kicks off today
  • Record numbers expected tomorrow at 15th annual free Liberty festival at Queen Elizabeth Park with live bands, break dancers, comedy and accessible sport

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is welcoming a weekend of world-class sport and spectacular disability arts to the capital, as the World Para Athletic Championships arrive at the London Stadium and the ground-breaking Liberty Festival returns to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The world’s best para athletes return to the London Stadium from this evening, kick-starting the biggest global sporting event of 2017 in the World Para Athletics Championships. This will be the first time ever that the World Para Athletics and IAAF World Athletics Championships have been held in the same city in the same year, with the latter starting next month.

The UK is the proud birthplace of Paralympic sport and London 2012 demonstrated not only the incredible sporting ability of para athletes, but a huge level of support by Londoners and right across the country, attracting record crowds.

The popularity of para athletics continues, with record crowds expected to cheer on competitors at the World Championships.

 They will include London’s emergency services and their families, who have been offered free tickets to attend the World Para Athletics Championships by the Mayor to thank them for their tireless efforts in responding to recent tragedies in the capital.

 Around 80,000 children from 1,000 schools in London will also get to see superstars up close, after the Mayor helped secure tickets for schoolchildren at just £3 as well as free travel for them and their teachers on the Transport for London network to get to the championships.

 On Saturday, the UK’s largest outdoor showcase of Deaf and disabled artists will be performing in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at the trailblazing Liberty festival, now celebrating its 15th year. A lively and eclectic line-up of live bands, break dancers, hip-hop performers, comedians and aerial performance artists plus a range of sports will be on offer for visitors to enjoy and get involved in.

This year's Liberty line-up includes sign language hip-hop artist Signmark, the world’s first Deaf artist signed to an international record label; ILL-ABILITIES™, an international disabled breakdance crew who have toured the world with their spectacular show; and a film screening of the highlights from the Together! Disability Film Festival.

There will also be a range of sport to try out including wheelchair basketball, boccia, sitting volleyball and new age kurling.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “London has pulled out all the stops this weekend to put on an unparalleled showcase of disability arts, entertainment and sport.

 “We all watched in wonder last year as Richard Whitehead, Hannah Cockroft and Jonnie Peacock raced to victory in Rio. Now I’m delighted to welcome the biggest global sporting event in the world to the best sporting city in the world as London hosts the Para Athletics and World Championships during another stunning summer of sport for the capital.

“As well as the fantastic sporting spectacle on offer this weekend, our city once again plays host to some of the finest Deaf and disabled artists and performers in the world at the fantastic Liberty festival.

“As ever, this year's festival has something for everyone with an eclectic line-up of top sporting showcases as well as some brilliant arts and performance.

“My message to Londoners and visitors this weekend is to head to Queen Elizabeth Park for a great day of creative arts, and the chance to see our sporting heroes on home turf at the World Para Athletics Championships.”

This year, two new pieces of work have been commissioned by Liberty Festival:
  • Admiral Pullen's Party celebrates the life of John Henry Pullen, a talented carpenter and artist with autism who spent most of his life at the then Earlswood Asylum. The project, created by Vital Xposure, recalls the story of his life with workshops, a performance and a parade featuring a giant John Henry Pullen puppet, COMMA a nod towards the large, mechanical mannequin that Pullen built in the middle of his workshop that he would sit inside to manipulate its face and appendages and talk through a concealed bugle in its mouth.
  • Planted Symphony will give visitors a full sensory experience where they will be able to smell and flower and hear it play music, hug a tree and hear it sing, and play a park bench like a xylophone. This project, created by Drake Music will also feature two disabled musicians improvising a performance using the garden and the technology behind it.

The comperes at this year’s festival are Kelly Knox – the 2008 winner of ‘Britain's Missing Top Model’ born without a left forearm who famously never wears a prosthesis – and Samantha Renke – winner of best best actress at the LA Diversity Film Festival for her performance in ‘Little Devil’.

Samantha Renke said: “The Liberty festival is all about getting everyone together of different abilities and saying look lets come together and celebrate diversity and have an amazing day out.  Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a great venue especially if you’ve got accessibility issues - for me as a wheelchair user it is a dream. At the event we have dancers, rappers, theatre, sport and it is all free. I’m helping host the main stage so come down and say hi!”

Notes to editors

Notes to editors

1, Media wishing to attend Liberty Festival on Saturday should email [email protected]  

Now in its 15th year, the Mayor of London's Liberty Festival is the UK's most high profile platform for Deaf and disabled artists. Liberty is organised by the Mayor of London and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and supported with Lottery funding by Arts Council England and sponsorship from TfL and Unison. For more information go to www.london.gov.uk./liberty  

2, Tickets for the World Para Athletic Championships are available here: https://tickets.london2017athletics.com/