MyRaynesPark Festival is a community arts festival for the residents of SW20. The festival takes place every summer and includes comedy, art, music, drama, poetry and family fun. As it celebrates its 10th year, Time & Leisure Junior spoke to chair Tom Underwood about the steps being taken to extend inclusivity throughout the festival.

When thinking about Raynes Park community is probably one of the first words that comes to mind. Nestled between Wimbledon and the A3, its location lends itself to the local, village feel. A good selection of local restaurants and shops, its own arts centre and a multitude of other family-friendly amenities.

But 10 years ago, that might not have been your first thought. In fact the aftermath of the financial crisis had affected many communities. In response, the Raynes Park Community Church (RPCC) decided to do something positive to recreate that sense of community. And so the MyRaynesPark Festival was born.

Tom Underwood, Chair, MyRaynesPark Festival

A sense of local

and community Now in its 10th year, the MyRaynesPark Festival still embodies that sense of local and community. But it has also grown to encompass family, creativity, social justice and inclusivity.

Inclusivity – always on the agenda – has been given additional prominence this year. Tom’s background as an actor and current work as a teacher in a special needs school makes him uniquely qualified to bring this focus. This effort takes two main forms – seeking to make events more accessible to those on the Autistic spectrum and hosting events which celebrate diversity.

“But the most important thing is that everyone in the festival is trying to be sensitive. From the organisers to our helpers, we want everyone to be considerate.”


“We want to make sure that inclusivity is part of the festival as a whole. There is no separate programme. It is just about making everyone more aware about those with additional needs. Often families with autistic members don’t feel that they can go anywhere,” he explained

Raynes Lark in the Park Raynes Lark in the Park is a staple of the festival. An open event in Holland Gardens, everyone is encouraged to bring a picnic and join in the free activities. For the first time last year, the event was specifically designed to be autism- friendly with ear defenders, quiet spaces and sensory toys available.

“Autistic people like routine and structure. New experiences can be quite overwhelming, so we provided a social story. It is a way of preparing autistic people for what will happen at the event,” explained Tom.

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