This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Sophie Partridge goes in search of pirates in Leyton and ends up running away with the circus / 19 August 2010

profile of actress suspended in a sling

Sophie Partridge at Cirque Nova workshop.

Zoom in to this image and read text description

Ah, that difficult second blog; expectations to live up to, reputation to safe-guard, the angst, dead-lines.. Or not as the case may be!

Last week was quite momentous, not least because it was a good friends 50th Birthday celebrations. Lets face it, if nothing has managed to kill us Cripplys off by that age - it’s an achievement in itself!

I also weathered three days in a caravan in Hastings and got caught up in a Pirate Parade - 6000 of em!¬†All trying to break the World Book of Records for the number of¬†Pirates’ in one place! Qualification apparel as a pirate, consisted of both a hat and a gun (pirates don’t go in for political correctness!), although mostly there just seemed to be loads of inflatable parrots stuck to shoulders!

Was also the week I finally ran away to join Cirque Nova and was COCOONED! In reality I got driven to a resource centre in Essex but still with the pirates “Aa-aargh!” ringing in my ears... makes a change from tinnitus! I went with appropriate sense of adventure. I’m still very excited / traumatised by this... circus I mean, as opposed to pirates and / or parrots! They were really quite friendly!

For those of you who have not experienced the literally dizzying heights of Circus Skills, a cocoon is a lot like a hammock - or sling thing if you’re a hoist user! The idea is that you sit / stand / somehow stay in and manipulate cocoon whilst it’s suspended off the ground, spinning at your preference! Depending on how physically `strong’ you are, you can then do all sorts, hang from it, twirl etc. More Cripply-friendly than Silks, your body is supported and held as much as you may need a la cocoon!

At first I just lay in it, slightly hysterical having just been lifted off the ground via my arm and leg by a Frenchman (not a pirate!) and me, giggling nervously due to a lad with challenging behaviour who had taken a liking to my power-chair (once I was out of it, thank-frig) and was trying to board it - definitely a pirate at heart!

Next I tried sitting up but my legs got squished too tightly against the cocoon’s fabric, so I had to lay down again. Having spun a few times and not thrown up, I ventured to get my feet out the open side and then my legs below the knees.

Then, abley assisted by someone’s mum (mothers - where would we be without them?!) I finally managed to `sit’ in the cocoon, being supported from behind as I can’t lift my head, myself. I FELT LIKE A PARALYMPIAN! ;-) Actually, I’ve no idea what a Paralympian feels like - or particularly want to know! But I did feel pretty good, half sitting there in the air, some sort of little-winged butterfly emerging from her wrappings. So I'm going back this week for another metamorphosis!