Shining a light on The Beautiful Octopus Club

Catherine Lynch

We caught up with Ono from creative arts company Heart n Soul who helps to run The Beautiful Octopus Club.

The Unlimited Festival shines a light on extraordinary work by disabled artists. As Unlimited begins at Southbank Centre this week, we caught up with Ono from creative arts company Heart n Soul who helps to run The Beautiful Octopus Club featured in the festival.

What does Heart n Soul do?

Heart n Soul works with young people and adults who have learning disabilities and artists with learning disabilities. It’s been running for over thirty years in Deptford. 

How do you get involved with Heart n Soul and what do you do?

I’ve been working with Heart n Soul for 15 years. I started straight out of college as a ‘taking part assistant’.

I make sure people feel comfortable participating in projects such as ‘Do Your Own Thing’ which is a part of Heart n Soul’s outreach projects. 

How did Heart n Soul get involved in Unlimited?

One of our artists, Dean Rodney Jr, created a world-wide music project ‘The Dean Rodney Singers’ at Heart n Soul.

The project was part of the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad and we started working with Unlimited Festival on this.

As part of the activity around the Paralympics we held a Beautiful Octopus Club, and it has been part of Unlimited Festival ever since.

What is The Beautiful Octopus Club and what can we expect from it? Why is it different?

The Beautiful Octopus Club is for young people and adults with and without learning disabilities and is a space where people can be themselves and relax.

We have live music acts performing such as Lizzie Emeh who was the first solo artist with a learning disability to release an album to the general public.

There are other great bands performing too, including The Fish Police, Too Hot For Candy, Pino Frumiento and Electric Fire. 

The club has been running since 1995 — it started out in our local area — and now it happens once a year at Southbank Centre.

How can people get involved this week and beyond in future club nights and projects?

The Beautiful Octopus Club is free and open to everyone. There’s a chill out area if the music gets too much, a massage area to relax in and the opportunity to make your own art on the night.

Plus, we have our own radio station that’ll we’ll be broadcasting live, people can come and have their voices heard – you can listen in on our website if you can’t make it in person. 

If you want to see the other things we do and participate, keep a lookout on our website

The Beautiful Octopus Club is free and open to all and takes place on Friday 7 September from 7pm-12am at Southbank Centre.


Unlimited supports ambitious, creative projects by outstanding disabled artists and companies, check out their website to find out more.

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