Athletes and artists ready for Special Olympics opening ceremony in Sheffield

Sheffield-based basketball player Luke Wan and athlete Bethan Morgan will compete in the 2017 Special Olympics GB National Games, which will take place in Sheffield in August.
Sheffield-based basketball player Luke Wan and athlete Bethan Morgan will compete in the 2017 Special Olympics GB National Games, which will take place in Sheffield in August.
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A Sheffield theatre director hopes to challenge people's perceptions about disability at the opening ceremony of this summer's Special Olympics National Games.

Nathan Geering, who runs Rationale theatre company, is busy putting the final touches to an event that will show off the skills of athletes and artists with intellectual disabilities.

The 35-year-old has taught in Sheffield's special educational needs schools for 10 years and has also helped organise sporting events for pupils, so was an obvious choice for Special Olympics GB.

As artistic director for the ceremony - which will take place at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium on August 8 - it is Nathan's job to introduce the games to the people of Sheffield.

"For the Special Olympics I want to challenge people's perceptions of what can be achieved by people with intellectual disabilities," he said.

"In order to achieve this I have devised a creative brief which aims to highlight the artistry in athletes and the athleticism within artists.

Nathan Geering

Nathan Geering

"We will be put into an arena of not just regular athletic events but 'super' events to expand people's imaginations of what is possible not only for people with intellectual disabilities.

"But it will hopefully also inspire the nation to achieve more than what they feel is possible."

Exact details of what will happen on August 8 are being kept under wraps. But those in attendance can expect a few surprises. From Sheffield artists to impressive feats on 'power stilts', the show should be well worth seeing.

For Nathan, who lives in Clowne but works from Arbouthorne, most of the work has gone on behind the scenes.

The EISS hosts another Special Olympics Taster Day, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 26th March 2017. Photo by Glenn Ashley

The EISS hosts another Special Olympics Taster Day, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 26th March 2017. Photo by Glenn Ashley

Talking to the venue, developing stages with the production company and figuring out how to transport the performers are all on his job sheet.

Many months of hard work should come together for a spectacular show.

"I have been sourcing artistic groups not just from Sheffield but all over the country," he said.

"I want intellectually disabled artists to collaborate with non-disabled artists to deliver fully integrated performances, rather than something that is just tokenistic.

Nathan Geering in action.

Nathan Geering in action.

"In order to achieve this I have been identifying groups who I think will work well together, and then devise a plan for each paired group to ensure it can logistically happen in the smoothest way possible.

"For example, you may see a streetdance crew having their sound provided by autistic drummers, a group of DJs with intellectual disabilities providing the soundscape for the procession of delegates and a Mexican wave around the whole stadium of up to 20,000 people that leads to the lighting of the Olympic torch."

Nathan first began to breakdance while studying for a degree in psychology at Sheffield Hallam University. He went on to perform around the world before setting up Rationale, which has sold out theatres across the UK.

For the past three years Rationale has focused on research into how hip hop can be used to benefit people with visual impairment. For example, in partnership with a neuroscientist at the University of Sheffield the company has carried out MRI scans one people while watching different forms of dance to identify the most visible movements.

Nathan calls the Special Olympics job a 'huge honour' and hopes to make his city proud.

He said: "The city of Sheffield should look forward to the games because it is an opportunity for them to witness sporting excellence that can be achieved by people with intellectual disabilities.

Boxer Kell Brook is a Special Olympics ambassador

Boxer Kell Brook is a Special Olympics ambassador

"Also it is a great opportunity to break down stereotypical barriers and misconceptions of intellectual disability.

"There will be in the region of 2,600 athletes with intellectual disabilities taking part in our games and they will inspire all who come to watch them compete to not only achieve new heights in sport but in everyday life."

There are less than 100 days until the games begin. Find out more at sheffield2017.org.uk.

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