When Ables Nightclub celebrated its fourth birthday at the Harp Hotel recently Greenacres boss Chris Christodoulou was there to see how the inclusion event for people with disabilities was growing.
Mr Christodoulou had attended other monthly nightclub events since the concept was started by Beau Thatcher. Each time he has been impressed and enjoyed the latest karaoke event so much he plans to come back soon.
“I am going to come more often. I have promised one of my participants I will sing next time. And I will be challenging other CEO’s to do it. We can do a CEO sing off”.
The nightclub for people with disabilities rotates monthly between The Grand and Harp hotels.
“When we were first asked to sponsor Ables we had no hesitation in doing it but I just wasn’t sure how successful it would be,” Mr Christodoulou said.
“But year after year it has grown. It is something that many of our people with disabilities really look forward to. It is a big day in the month on the calendar for them. They have a fantastic time.”
Mr Christodoulou said the success was a real tribute to the organisers. “And one of the positive aspects about the NDIS is that more people with disabilities who previously were unable to go to Ables have been able to access more support to get there”.
Mr Christodoulou said the owners of The Harp and The Grand had been really good at allowing their premises to be used for such an important inclusion event.
“It is on a Friday night but they have obviously seen that people with disabilities can come along and have a good time like anybody else. They haven’t been prejudiced in any way and people with disabilities have been integrating into the karaoke/disco scene which is just great.”
Brooke Alexander, who works at Greenacres, has come all four years. Her mother Maria Hirst enjoys it as much as her daughter. “She always dresses up in whatever theme it is. “It has given her confidence to get up on stage and sing. She really looks forward to Ables each month.”
Mark Halls has also been involved all four years and gets to meet and greet everyone. “When I first heard it was on I went to see what it was all about and I ended up getting the position doing the stamping on the door. I like meeting other people and make them feel welcome.”
Sam Maloney first got involved two years ago during a disco at the Grand. “They were looking for a fill in DJ. I was running my own company doing parties. I had done some for the Flagstaff Group. Ables is a great event for people with disabilities. It is fantastic. We want to get this Australia-wide.”
Mr Maloney also does stand up-comedy and recently performed at KidzWish Foundation’s Chuckles for Charity.
Angelo Perusco runs the karaoke for Ables at The Harp.
He said it has created such an infectious atmosphere that he kept starting earlier to accommodate everyone.
The karaoke now begins at 6.30pm one Friday every second month.
But many attending Ables are still waiting for more moments on stage when the regular Friday night crowd comes in.
No one seems to mind which is only adding to the inclusion experience.
And Mr Perusco encourages the regular Friday night patrons to cheer. And would love to see Ables become an all inclusive event.
“Ables is fun for everyone,” he said.
Mr Perusco said because of the NDIS many people were coming to Ables who had not previously had the chance to have big night out.
During the fourth birthday celebration Mr Thatcher and others who have been involved since the beginning reflected on how the inclusion concept could be adopted elsewhere.
"My aim over the next four years would be to establish an Ables event in more city's in NSW and even Australia".
Mr Thatcher said when he first came up with the idea it was a little daunting.
He wondered whether there would be a need and would it be successful.
“Four years on those questions have certainly been answered. Each monthly event only seems to get more successful with more people coming along".
"We have seen people travel up from Nowra to stay overnight just to come to Ables. One lady was catching two trains down from Cronulla to get down for an Ables event. She would tell us how much she loved coming and how there was just nothing like it anywhere else".