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‘We should celebrate diversity’: Aberdeen Inspired officially launches first Umbrella Project in Scotland

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired,  and Tony Lloyd, chief executive of the ADHD Foundation, at the launch of the Umbrella Project. Picture by Kath Flannery.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, and Tony Lloyd, chief executive of the ADHD Foundation, at the launch of the Umbrella Project. Picture by Kath Flannery.

A project aimed at celebrating neurodiversity involving canopies of multi-coloured umbrellas has been officially launched in Aberdeen.

The Granite City is now the first in Scotland to display the rainbow-bright installation.

Aberdeen Inspired and the ADHD Foundation launched the colourful canopies of umbrellas in Aberdeen city centre on Saturday.

They are in place at Shiprow and Bon Accord Terrace.

The sun shone down as the project was officially launched at Shiprow. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Displayed with great success at other UK locations since 2017, this is the first time they will be on show in Scotland.

The project seeks to celebrate the “umbrella” term of neurodiversity, including ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyspraxia.

Robert Gordon Pipe Band playing for the crowds under the canopy. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Robert Gordon College’s pipe band started off the celebrations at Shiprow under the umbrellas, welcoming the crowds to the launch.

The narrow street was then filled with performances from the Sinclair School of Highland Dancing, Citymoves and Danscentre.

‘More inclusive, warmer and inviting’

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said he was very proud to see the project in Aberdeen.

“It’s been wonderful to see people at both locations today for such a worthy charity,” he said.

“We found that businesses were very receptive to the message that we’re trying to portray supporting the Umbrella Project, and all have spoken of personal experiences and why they want to get behind it.

“It’s what makes the city centre that bit more inclusive, warmer and inviting – that’s what we’re about as an organisation.”

Highland Dancers kept onlookers entertained. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Mr Watson said Shiprow was chosen because it has developed recently and has a strong cafe culture. Aberdeen Inspired decided it would be the appropriate area to place an installation and it was well-received by the businesses.

To get a strategic balance in the city, they decided to erect the second canopy in Bon Accord Terrace.

He added: “This has been a very positive experience for the city, and as I keep saying we need to talk the city up because there’s a lot to be proud of – the talent on display from the kids.

“You can see the colour and the splendor of the umbrellas, we’re hoping people continue coming into the city to enjoy them and the meaning behind them.”

‘One in five of us think differently’

Tony Llyod, chief executive of the ADHD Foundation, said it’s “really exciting” to see the installations now in Scotland.

He commented: “It’s a testimony to the city, to Aberdeen Inspired, to all the businesses and to all the other agencies that have contributed to what is a celebration that is going to last all summer.”

Dr Lloyd explained the project is aimed at educating people that one in five are neurodiverse and can be found in all walks of life, in every profession.

Groups of young people gave performances under the umbrellas. Picture by Kath Flannery.

“One in five of us think differently,” he said. “It’s about realising that can be an asset, not a disadvantage.

“We’re living in a world now where our economy and culture is changing really rapidly. We need to be able to nurture and develop all that potential and talent in young people because they’re going to be the workforce of tomorrow, they’re going be the leaders of Aberdeen tomorrow, and we need to recognise that we need all types of different minds.

“Your brain is as unique as your fingerprint and we should celebrate diversity, not insist that everybody has to be the same or think the same.”

Local businesses and schools involved

The Umbrella Project is part of the ADHD Foundation’s national campaign inviting people across the UK to “think differently” about those who are neurodivergent.

It is the largest celebration of neurodiversity and raises awareness of the support available to individuals and families.

Multiple businesses have now signed up for an installation, both within and out of the Bid, such as Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University, The Sandman Signature Hotel and Trinity Shopping Centre.

Young performers celebrated the launch. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Local schools have also been getting involved in the project, with 25 signed up to display their own mini umbrella installations.

They have been encouraged to sign and decorate the umbrellas with their special talents and abilities.

The installations in Aberdeen city centre will be in place until September.

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