A magical midsummer evening at TouchBase Pears

On Tuesday 21st June, Sense TouchBase Pears in Birmingham was transformed into a magical midsummer forest, fit for a royal visit.

This week we hosted a very special event here at Sense TouchBase Pears. We welcomed guests including our patron, HRH The Princess Royal, to our Midsummer Commonwealth Games Evening for a celebration of all things Sense, sport and sensory exploration.  

HRH The Princess Royal shaking hands with a group of people. One lady, the Mayoress has red hair and wears a gold chain over her black dress. There are two older men with white hair wearing tuxedos  also in the group.
HRH The Princess Royal meeting dignitaries in the gardens at Sense TouchBase Pears.

It was all hands on deck for two days of set up, turning TouchBase Pears into a beautiful, midsummer sensory experience – and what a transformation. We lined the main foyer with illuminated trees, filled the space with woodland scents and decorated tables with posies of wild flowers. It looked truly enchanting.

The main foyer of Sense TouchBase Pears, a wide, long open space is illuminated by light up tree sculptures in rows on the right and left sides. To the right are some tall glass doors signifying the entrance to a difference space.
Foyer at Sense TouchBase Pears decorated with illuminated trees.

And then there was the Buzz. On a normal day this performance space has mirrored walls and a sprung dance floor. On Tuesday it was carpeted in faux grass, the tables were adorned with more wild flowers and finished with the warm glow of tealights. The 54 flags of the countries of the Commonwealth hung in celebration of this years Commonwealth Games which is to be hosted in our city in just 30 days time.

A large room in TouchBase Pears is decorated for the gala dinner. Tables are covered in a black table clothe and laid with cutlery, glasses, candles and wild flower centre pieces. Behind the tables we can see flags handing from the ceiling and a large screen with a Sense video projected onto it.
The Buzz decorated with the flags of Commonwealth countries to celebrate the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

It’s fair to say that the last couple of years have been fairly quiet at TouchBase Pears so it was amazing to see our space doing what it does best – bringing people together.  

Guests mingled in the foyer and gardens over glasses of fizz, interacting with exhibits from our arts, sport and wellbeing programmes. We showcased our accessible Shakespeare exhibition with tactile posters, costumes and braille. There was a showcase of adapted sports activities, an inclusive dance session and music from disabled music makers outside on the piano.

A man with brown curly hair wearing a floral shirt plays the yellow piano outside in the garden. A man in full police uniform stands to the right of the piano.
Tim, our resident music artist plays piano in the garden at Sense TouchBase Pears.

HRH The Princess Royal met with our very own Joe who volunteers here on our reception desk. If you visit TouchBase often, you’ll definitely know him. He also accesses our services. A really special moment was seeing Joe chat with Princess Anne about his screen dance film and his passion for the dance sessions that he takes part in with Sense.  

She also met Lisa Simpson, Director of our national dance programme who demonstrated how she choreographs routines using the Simpson Board.

HRH The Princess Royal meets and older gentleman with a shaved head wearing a tuxedo. She leans in close to speak to him. Her hair is darn brown and styled up and she is wearing a metallic gold and silver jacket.
HRH The Princess Royal speaks with Sense volunteer and service user, Joe about his love for dance.

We were also lucky enough to be joined on the night by the team from Raymont Osman Product Design, the guys behind the design of this year’s Queen’s Baton. As well as talking HRH The Princess Royal through the process of designing the baton for this year’s Commonwealth Games, the prototype that they brought along was the perfect prop for many a selfie throughout the night! 

After taking in all of our exhibits, guests moved through to the beautifully decorated Buzz for a delicious dinner, hosted by 3×3 wheelchair basketball Paralympian and local sportswoman Siobhan Fitzpatrick. After dessert were inspiring speeches from Siobhan, our president Lord Levy, the Lord-Lieutenant John Crabtree and HRH The Princess Royal herself.  

HRH The Princess Royal stands on a stage giving a speech. Her hair is dark brown and styled up. She is wearing a metallic patterned jacket and behind her we see the Sense logo projected onto a large screen.
HRH The Princess Royal gives an after dinner speech in the Buzz.

Once speeches were finished, guests retired back to the gardens – which by now were illuminated by festoon lighting, and to the foyer to continue enjoying the exhibits. As they chatted and mingled in the warm evening air, the piano provided the perfect backing track for the sun set on this very special evening.  

We’d like to thank each of our guests for joining us for this truly magical event.