On Thursday 14 March the Greenbank Sports Academy hosted the very first WheelPower Merseyside Sports Festival. This new event gave local disabled people the opportunity to try a variety of wheelchair sports that included powerchair football, boccia, badminton, table tennis and para laser run. For many of those attending this was their first introduction to sport in a wheelchair and it is hoped that following this experience they will feel inspired to continue to play, enjoy and have fun through sport in their own communities.

The event was organised by WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport and was supported by a fantastic group of local coaches and student volunteers from Liverpool John Moores University. On the day the festival welcomed 38 people with physical disabilities aged from 6 all the way to 70, proving that age is no barrier to the many benefits of sport.

"Introducing Isaac to new sports, and other kids similar to him has been a really positive experience and will give him so much confidence. I would absolutely recommend this event to other parents." Paul parent of Isaac 7 from Southport.

One of those who attended was 10 year old Esmay from the Wirral. She is a full time wheelchair user and just loves playing sport. She said, “It’s been very very fun! Everyone’s really friendly and playing these different sports has made me feel energised. I’m one of the most sporty people in my whole year at school and sport is one of my favourite things to do. It makes me so happy and maybe I’ll be a PE teacher when I’m older. I’m definitely going to carry on doing sport as I always have a smile on my face when I do it!”

Jamie acquired a spinal injury back in 1998 and has recently rediscovered his passion for sport. Coming along to the WheelPower Festival introduced him to sports he hadn’t done for a while, and also some new ones too! He described why sport is so important to him, “It feels like disability sport and the range of options out there is just increasing all of the time and regardless of what you’re interests are, I think everyone can find something for them. Playing sport gives you that challenge, it gives you purpose and also gives you the opportunity to meet you people and engage socially. The benefits of doing sport are so far reaching that I’d highly recommended these kind of events to anyone wanting to get active.”

Many of the disabled children attending were joined by their parents who found the event inspiring and eye opening to the opportunities that are available in the Merseyside area. Paul and his daughter Philippa had travelled to Liverpool from Wigan for their first experience of wheelchair sport. Reflecting on the day he said, “Since becoming a wheelchair user 3 years ago we had kind of written off sport but after today it’s obvious we were very wrong to do so. It’s been amazing and it has made her realise that there’s more people in the situation she’s in, and that she’s not alone.”

"Its been an amazing day to be able to teach boccia to a lot of new potential players. Boccia is one of the most inclusive sports out there for all ages, young people, older people with various disabilities can come together and play. Unfortunately not a lot of people are aware of what’s out there and what’s available. So having an event like the WheelPower Festival come to Liverpool is just wonderful." Pablo, Greenbank Boccia Coach.

Also joining WheelPower at the Merseyside Festival event was local Paralympian Nathan Maguire who wanted to inspire disabled people of all ages with his own sporting journey, and show how far disability sport can take you. After speaking to many of the participants and trying some of the sports himself he said, “Today has been absolutely incredible, and it was lovely to come along and see people enjoying themselves. Having the opportunity to play sport and try new things is so important and something not many disabled people utilise. It’s also a great way of meeting new people, learning new skills and ultimately having fun. Without sport I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and by coming to events like this you never know where it could take you. We could have had the next Paralympic champion in the room today and I’m excited to see where the sport can go.”

Finally, we hear from one of the organisers Conor Harris from WheelPower who said, “We have had a brilliant time here in Liverpool and we can’t thank the local community enough for embracing this new event and helping to make it such a success. Our sports festivals have travelled across the United Kingdom in recent months and this event once again showcased the very best that sport has to offer. The energy, the smiles and the life changing memories that come from joining us today will hopefully pave the way for many more disabled people to enjoy sport in the future.”

"Congratulations to the WheelPower team on this brilliant event, its felt really energised and I really enjoyed coming along today to meet some of the participants. They have enjoyed taking part in the opportunities for the first time and its nice to know there’s sport and activities they can get involved in locally." Esther Jones (Sport England Disability Team)

Thank you to: Greenbank Sports Academy, Liverpool John Moores University (Sport Science) Kirkbees Boccia, Boccia England, Badminton England, Greenbank Powerchair Football, Pentathlon GB,

The Merseyside WheelPower Sports Festival will return in 2025!

Check out the 2024 Merseyside WheelPower Sports Festival Photo Album 

Merseyside WheelPower Sports Festival 2024

Thank you to ITV Granada Reports for featuring the event: