No rain on Newark’s neurodiversity parade!

Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2023

Newark’s Market Place is looking a lot brighter all of a sudden thanks to the addition of hundreds of colourful umbrellas hanging above the square. The installation, launched on an ironically sunny Wednesday by Newark Creates, is part of the nationwide Neurodiversity Umbrella Project and is designed to represent the one in five of us who have a neurodevelopmental condition, such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia or Tourette’s syndrome.

Newark’s display is the largest yet as part of the initiative by the ADHD Foundation – The Neurodiversity Charity. Its CEO, Dr Tony Lloyd was in attendance at the launch to deliver the closing address and he explained: “How these umbrellas came about was our youth group a decade ago was trying to think of a name for themselves and they said ‘we’ve come up for a name for our group, we’re going to call ourselves the Alphabet Kids’, and I said ‘why is that?’. They replied ‘because we’ve got lots of letters after our name like you like ADHD, ASD, LD with honours’ and I tried to explain to them that there wasn’t anything wrong with them and that these acronyms and this horrible ‘D’ word were really just an umbrella term that covers nearly 1 in 5, possibly 1 in 3 human beings on this planet.

We all know somebody, work with somebody or have friends with one of these neurodiverse minds so the umbrellas are a celebration of these people and of the youth group who ended up calling themselves the Umbrella Gang.

As part of Newark Creates’ education and outreach programme, they are working with local communities and schools to offer opportunities to perform during the installation’s run until September. Barnby Road Academy is one of five ‘Umbrella Schools’ involved with the project and pupils performed a selection of songs to kick-off the launch after assisting Newark and Sherwood District Council’s Director of Communities and Environment Matthew Finch with cutting the ribbon. A rendition of True Colours to which the children also signed the lyrics was particularly moving.

Fantastic performances continued with a dance by the students of YMCA Creative Academy portraying everyday teenage pressures and members of Robin Hood Youth Theatre delivering a song from the musical Heathers as well as a powerful poem about living with ADHD.

The aim of Newark Creates, which is led by Newark Cultural Consortium as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone, is to celebrate Newark's heritage and arts organisations through a series of exciting activities and their 2023 programme has integrated the Umbrella Project in a diverse range of events at locations across town. Beanblock Café is running colouring crafts throughout the project while the National Civil War Centre is hosting a day of umbrella craft activities on Tuesday 30 May followed by rainbow road street art with Urban Canvas in the Market Place and cartooning and poem-writing with author Chris White on Wednesday 31.

Carol Newman, Director of Culture at Inspire: Culture, Learning and Libraries, the lead partner in the Consortium, said: “It will be wonderful to see local people of all ages engaging with the umbrellas in a number of different ways over summer. The whole point of this installation is to spread information and acceptance about different minds and this fabulous display is already getting people talking as well as putting smiles on faces. One of the really amazing ways we’ve been able to get people to engage with it is with the UmbrellAR App which can be downloaded from QR codes around the Market Place and allows people to interact with characters to learn more about neurodiversity.

Newark Creates is funded by grants from Historic England, Arts Council England, Cultural Heart of Newark and Shared Prosperity Funding. Visit to find out more and see their full programme for 2023.