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Brolly good show as colourful Umbrella Project returns to brighten Aberdeen’s summer

Aberdeen is in for a brolly good show as the colourful Umbrella Project returns to the city this summer to both celebrate and raise awareness of neurodiversity.

A stunning canopy of multi-coloured brollies will be unfurled on Shiprow from May through to September in tribute to the “umbrella” term of neurodiversity, which includes ADHD, autism, Tourette’s Syndrome, dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyspraxia.

As part of the hugely-popular project, local schools and businesses are also being invited to create their own mini-installations by Aberdeen Inspired, which is bringing the campaign to the Granite City in partnership with the ADHD Foundation and headline sponsors Harbour Energy as well as TMM Recruitment.

A call has also been made for local neurodiversity organisations to find out how they can become involved in the Umbrella Project.

The announcement of the return of the Umbrella Project to Aberdeen comes during worldwide Neurodiversity Celebration Week, which is running from Monday, March 18, to Sunday, March 24.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “The Umbrella Project is one of the most colourful and most important of Aberdeen Inspired’s many projects and we are proud to be part of this celebration of neurodiversity.

“With one in five people being neurodiverse it is something which touches all our lives – either for ourselves, our families, our friends, or our colleagues. The Umbrella Project reflects that and raises awareness of the importance of inclusivity in every walk of life.”

Dr Tony Lloyd, chief executive of the ADHD Foundation, said: “These different minds – dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, autism – are now recognised for their genius, innovation, and inventiveness in a variety of roles.

“One in five of us think differently and the neurodiversity Umbrella Project in Aberdeen celebrates the unique contribution made by this ‘hidden 20%’ to our local economy, our workplace, and to our families and friendship groups.”

Mavis Anagboso, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Harbour Energy, said: “Harbour Energy is once again proud to be the principal sponsor of this worthy cause to promote neurodiversity awareness in Aberdeen City. We are delighted to be partnering with Aberdeen Inspired and the ADHD Foundation.”

Amanda McCulloch, chief executive of sponsors TMM Recruitment, said they were delighted to support the Umbrella Project. 

She said: “Since the Umbrella Project was launched in Aberdeen three years ago it has raised awareness of neurodiversity and challenged misconceptions about neurological differences. 

“It’s important to maintain this momentum, I hope we can build on the work so far and move the conversation on from celebrating the importance of thinking differently to valuing neurodivergent people as their whole selves, not a diversity and inclusion statistic.”

The return of the Umbrella Project has been welcomed by Mary Martin, owner of the Douglas Hotel and a key partner in the Shiprow Village project. 

She said: “A resounding success in previous years, the bopping umbrellas always brought an instant smile. With constant enquiries about their return, we can’t wait to see the vibrant rainbow of colours dazzle our street once again.

“It’s not just an installation, it’s a wonderful cause, and we’re excited to continue supporting it here at Shiprow Village.”

The success and joy of the Umbrella Project will also extend beyond Shiprow, with schools and businesses asked to take part and create their own mini-installations to celebrate the intelligence and ability of every human being. 

Previous years have seen displays on show at a host of restaurants, cafes, and centres of education, as well as corporate offices of leading businesses.

Mini installation at sponsor TMM Recruitment offices. Credit: TMM Recrutiment

The Trinity Centre has previously hosted mini-installations as part of the Umbrella Project and says it will take part again this summer. 

Trinity Centre unit manager Kenneth Bruce said: “Trinity Aberdeen has over the past few years been delighted to help Aberdeen Inspired in support to raise awareness of neurodiversity by hosting an installation of umbrellas. This creates a vibrant and colourful display within the centre and helps celebrate and raise awareness in the local community.”

Adrian hopes to see a flood of other venues joining Trinity Aberdeen in hosting mini-installations this summer. 

“The positive messages they represent mean these installations are hugely popular and have encouraged people from all walks of life to come into the city centre to embrace the joy of these colourful displays,” he said. 

“We also want to celebrate and include as many local neurodiversity organisations as possible, and I would encourage them to get in touch to find out how they can take part and raise awareness of their work and the people whose lives they touch.”

You can find out more about the Umbrella Project – including a range of resources around neurodiversity – plus how to sign up for your own mini-installation by visiting Aberdeen Inspired’s Umbrella Project 2024 website.

Header photo: Aberdeen Inspired