Quex House

Quex Park is a country estate in Birchington which is near Margate in Kent. It’s 250 acres of parkland and gardens and 1500 acres of farmed land. It has Quex House and the Powell-Cotton museum, the Waterloo Tower (which was featured in an episode of Blake’s 7) and a Secular Bell Tower.

My day here was going to be full, not just the visit to Quex Park itself but also to enjoy Festability, ‘where music meets disability’. I shall be showing here all the great people met and the great fun had at Festability, but first let us introduce the lovely Quex House and Park.

There is something for everyone at Quex Park. There are many family attractions, shops and cafes and it holds regular seasonal events. It is free to enter but individual attractions you will need to book and pay for.

Attractions at Quex Park

The Secret Garden Centre, which has parking available. 

Craft Village quex park

Quex Craft Village with Shahla’s Cakes and Bakes, Peter Campbell Saunders Art Works, The Bearded Pig Forge, Classic Bows, Helen Evans Art, Sew Many Memories, N. Were Designs leather bags and accessories, Artisan Silver and The Pig Shed with luxury scented products. 

Adventure Farm Park with Bouncing pillows, Meeting farm animals such as goats and sheep, Zip wire, Ball games, Tire climbing and the fabulous Maize Maze. 

Activity Centre where you can:

Paintball, Airsoft and Archery

Quex Golf 1

Quex Adventure Golf:

18 hole Crazy Golf Course with ponds, streams and waterfalls. Mini replicas of Quex Park can be found around the course including the Gun Tower, Waterloo Tower and the Victorian Steps.

Quex Golf 3

There is also an Ice Cream Parlour which has over 22 different flavours of ice cream and hot, cold or alcoholic drinks as a treat after you have finished the course.

Rum and Raisin ice cream

The golf course is great fun and a real challenge. I love playing crazy golf and this is definitely my favourite place to play now.

We will definitely be going back. I had a rum and raisin tub of ice cream after which was absolutely delicious. 

Quex Golf 4

Alpaca trekking

Take a goat for a walk around the park

The jungle play centre

Path down to village

The History of Quex Park

Quex Tree

There has been a house at Quex Park since the 1400s.

Quex Park got its name from one of its original owners, The Quekes family who owned the house in the 16th Century. Over time the spelling of Queke changed into Quex. 

Henry Fox, First Lord Holland, Leader of the house of commons and Paymaster General owned the house in the 1760s and his son MP Charles Fox, who inherited the estate, sold it to his father’s secretary John Powell in 1777 (apparently to pay off his debts).

The house was then handed down from generation to generation of the family of Powells and lastly to Henry Cotton. In the 19th century two farms were put together to form Quex Park and they began to plant trees and landscape the garden. 

Quex Entrance

In 1896 Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton opened the Powell- Cotton Museum at Quex Park. There he displayed his collection of Mammals and artifacts that he bought back from his scientific expeditions of Africa and Asia.

The museum won the UK’s most inspiring museum in 2014 and the museum and Heritage Awards also in 2014. 

During WW1 Quex house became a military hospital and in 1923 the grounds were donated to Birchington by Mr H A Eriebach for sport and recreational use. The site is now owned by Thanet District Council. 

A Great Place To Visit

A trip to Quex Park is an absolute must. It has something for everyone. Beautiful gardens to look around, lovely places to eat and fresh coffee or tea.

It has lots of places for children to let off steam and a brilliant crazy golf course. What’s not to like? The Secret Garden Centre is lovely and has so many different varieties of plants and is very reasonably priced too. There is parking by the center which is very handy.

Do take a wander around the craft village and take time to have a look in all the little shops. Everything is handmade and local. You won’t come away empty handed. 

Festability

It was a beautiful sunny day in June and I had heard how amazing Festability was, so I thought I would pop along and see for myself. Festability is a Music Festival for all, that is held at Quex Park in Birchington, Kent.

It’s totally inclusive so that everyone, whatever their disability, feels welcome and comfortable to enjoy themselves. 

I parked up and walked towards the music and found myself in a field packed with people having fun and loads and loads of laughter.

Lots of fun fair stalls and rides, food galore and fabulous music coming from the main stage where everyone was camped out having picnics and dancing.

It really was an amazing sight to see. I caught up with one of the organisers Debs Aspland and took my time wandering around the event to take everything in. 

View from the Stage

What is Festability?

Festability is an annual music festival in Kent for children and adults with disabilities. It’s held at Quex Park in Birchington and has become a huge success. It’s been running now since 2018 and every year it’s getting bigger and better. 

Festability is where music meets disability. 

Festability fair

It all came about when local mum Debs Aspland saw a piece on BBC3 about another festival at a school for disabled children and thought that it would be a great idea to do the same kind of thing in Kent but on a much bigger scale.

She put out feelers on social media to see if this would be a good idea and then was overwhelmed by offers of support and interest in the event.

Vanessa and Carrie said they would love to help (two other parents of children with disabilities) and so Festability was born.

It was important to get a music festival that was like the other big events that go on every year in the UK but a festival that was suitable for everyone. A festival that was totally inclusive to all.

Wilfred and friend
This is Wilfred Jenkins and his friend Oliver having fun at Festability

Who is behind Festability?

Carrie,Vanessa and Debs

Debs Aspland. 

Debs is a mum of three children who all have special educational needs. From autism, severe visual impairment, global development delay to hydrocephalus. Her eldest son is 18 and her twins are 17.

Debs and Sally

Vanessa Oakes.

Vanessa is a mum to two sons who are autistic so she understands that being inclusive is really important and it must be done correctly. 

Carrie Wood.

Carrie is a mother to Carl who has Cerebral Palsy so knows all about accessibility and issues that can crop up for wheelchair users.

Carrie is also a co-founder and manager of the local disabled children’s charity “Snaap” so she has invaluable knowledge and experience of planning and running events for people with disabilities. 

Samuel and Steve
This is Samuel and his dad Steve enjoying Festability

What is Snaap 

Snaap stands for The Special Needs Advisory and Activities Project and is based in Herne Bay in Kent.

They provide support and information for families of children with disabilities.

They focus on the well being of the whole family and not just the child. Their ethos is to empower parents, enabling them to get access to the best services and support so that their children can achieve their full potential.

They also run lots of leisure activities in the school holidays.

Snaap Helpers

For more information please visit Snaap

 Who can come to Festability?

Anyone is welcome to come to this inclusive music festival. There are facilities on site to cater for everyone’s needs.

Festability t shirts

The event is run by volunteers but everyone has had disability awareness training. 

There are BSL interpreters provided by Interpreting Matters, Makaton signing volunteers, Chaperones available to allow carers short breaks in the sensory marquee.

There’s a quiet zone for chilling out and all the vendors have made their menus accessible to all and have had disability awareness so that they can assist people when they order. 

There is a whole bank of portaloos and three Mobiloos (mobile accessible toilets with adult sized changing benches and hoists).

Mobiloos

What things are at Festability?

There’s Sing and Sign, Scalextric, VR Gaming, Music and Magic, Inclusive Sports, African Drumming, Messy Play, Sensory Play, Karaoke, Fun Train, Ball Pool, Silent Disco, Chill Out Areas and a central stage that saw acts this year Mark Taylor, Guilty Pleasures, Hot Wax, Lofty Harris, Shaken Albert, Black Key and the White Notes, Meister and a performance of The Greatest Showman. 

The Greatest Showman Act

Food venders including: Burgers, Hot Dogs, Mac n Cheese, Bacon Baps, Salad Boxes, Vegan Pastries, Vegan Quiche, Fish and Chips, Fish Fingers, Sandwiches, Nachos, Candy Floss, Waffles, Crepes,Slush, Tray Bakes and Ice Cream. 

Who are Interpreting Matters?

Karen Interpreting Matters

Interpreting Matters is a local Kent agency that provides communication professionals for the Deaf and hard of hearing community throughout the UK.

These can be BSL interpreters/ translators, lipspeakers, speech to text writers and notetakers.They provided this year’s Festability with 6 Interpreters who were on hand throughout the festival and on stage signing in BSL, British Sign Language.  

Stage and signing

Interpreting Matters is a family firm run by a mother and daughter team. Mum Kathy Skinner, who is the office/ accounts manager and daughter Karen Dinley, who is a qualified RSLI interpreter.

Karen is a full member of VLP, ASLI and NUBSLI as well as being a qualified professional supervisor for sign language interpreters. She is also a member of AIIC, The International Association of Conference Interpreters.

It was fantastic to see the acts on stage being interpreted in BSL. What a difference it makes to everyone for the festival to be so inclusive. 

Wilfred Jenkins, who is profoundly Deaf and autistic said “I loved the interpreters this year, they were brilliant”

Interpreting Matters can be booked here.

Who sponsors Festability

Festability this year was sponsored by Thanet Earth, Fostering Together, Born Anxious and CareTech. 

After I had looked around the Festival and joined in with the dancing I also took the chance again to look around Quex Park. 

Conclusion

Put a date in your diary for Festability next year. It really is worth it. Just the look of sheer joy and contentment on everyone’s faces was so fantastic to see. A huge congratulations to Debs, Vanessa and Carrie for all their hard work in putting the event together every year. 

To see pictures and details see the Festability site.

With special thanks to Wilfred Jenkins, Siobhan Phillips, Karen Smallwood, Angela Ralph, Interpreting Matters, Debs Aspland, Festability, Snaap and Mobiloos for some of the pictures I have used in this piece.

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