Newcastle has always been a town filled with innovation. From technology and scientific research to the celebration of Art and literature. Right down to inventions across the mining, defence, and communications industries. It has been a town where different business ideas are celebrated with an open mindedness unique to the region. Over the years this has expanded to business ideas that celebrate diversity and pop culture.
I caught up with Kaitlin Mason, Co-President of The Colosseum, earlier this week. “The Colosseum” is run for and by people with a disability, their families, friends and the community as a whole. We are devoted to empowering people with disabilities to broaden their social experiences, in a fun, safe and all-inclusive environment. All via Gaming and Pop Culture related activities.
We expanded on Kaitlin’s thoughts on Local Pop Culture, Diversity in Gaming and what “SuperCon” is all about.
Tell me about the Colosseum and what you are aiming to achieve within the Pop Culture/Gaming community?
The Colosseum’s ultimate goal is to create a place where everyone is included despite their ability, to create a hub where everyone is comfortable to interact via game play, in whatever way they like, be it in private with a few friends, or with a team to compete against others, to meet new people and explore new things.
We give those who need the assistance, to reach out to people through organised programs, to give them the confidence and support they need to build their social & community participation. In regards to the pop culture & gaming community it gives Newcastle a place for eSports tournaments and leagues in reach of passionate gamers from console & PC players to Card & RPG players. A place for avid cosplayers to meet and show their work in competitions and events, a speciality shop tailored to those who usually depend on online services to shop and a support base for everyone who just wants some company.
I notice one of your missions statements is to empower those with disabilities to broaden their social experiences. That sounds like a very personal statement for an organisation to make. Can you tell me why this is so important to you and everyone part of the Colosseum?
Almost everyone in our team either has a intellectual disability or has someone they hold dear who has a intellectual disability who would benefit from a place where they could better socialise through their love of playing games. We have seen first hand how being with other people doing something they are passionate about allows them to open up and socialise with confidence, almost as if they don’t realised they are socialising. So, creating a place for those we hold dear to enjoy, to feel comfortable, to gain confidence and be themselves as we see them at home and with family wherever they may be.
One of the aims of the Colosseum is inclusion through gaming. Specifically gaming streams, board games and card play. Can you take me through the different programs you offer?
Our programs are still undergoing development so they are subjected to change. We will run after school programs, school holiday programs, day programs and early childhood programs. We will be running a few different sessions to cater to different interests. Console play programs are centred around certain games such as Fortnite, Overwatch, Mario Cart, Apex Legends or Call of Duty (dependant of age). Before jumping on the consoles, we will hold an induction session, where everyone has the chance to introduce themselves and tell us a little about their favourite games.
We do this to encourage group discussion and work towards improving social skills, self confidence and rapport. From there, teams will be formed randomly and they will jump on the consoles to play a few practice matches, as a team, with encouragement by staff to interact and converse for optimal team work. Next, we run a mock tournament putting their practiced team work into play.
At the end we will encourage everyone to meet back and have a group discussion about their experiences as individuals and as a team and gameplay. Our Table Top Programs which include card games, iPads & board games, will run similarly only tailored to a different kind of gameplay. We will also be running beginners sessions for those who would like to learn a new game or improve their skills. We also have the option of running specialised programs upon request.
What are your thoughts on the effects of streaming services on modern society?
I believe it has two effects as most things a positive and a negative, dependant on how it is utilised. Using streaming as a tool to interconnect people with like minds and interests especially those who cannot access the means to reach out, is a wonderful thing that our technology can allow. As humans we yearn to belong and to connect to others within the community. Streaming is giving us the means to connect those who usually wouldn’t get the opportunity to interact with others and give them a sense of belonging. Of course some say this is making our society mindless and vain but I honestly believe it allows us to associate in more ways than ever.
I’ve been to a few pop culture related events and although they appeal to the mainstream crowd they don’t seem to always offer options or alternatives for an individual who has a disability. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Honestly? It sucks. Pop culture and gaming is a massive deal for those with disabilities. Just ask my brother, who lives with Autism – he can tell you all about how legendary Marvel and DC is and the influence it has in his life. I believe inclusion in these events would be momentous in the lives of our clients. I believe it doesn’t take much in order to put more accessible alternatives in place and is absolutely worth the investment.
I must say a few of the major pop culture events have considered some of these factors such as Madman Festival offering those who hold a Carers Card free entry to allow them to support their family members or clients who want to attend, making it more affordable and accessible to those with disabilities. More initiatives like this would be amazing in making these events more accessible.
With the closure of Pop Culture centric businesses in Newcastle such as Graphic Action Comics and The Empire Coffee Co, how important is it now for local Novocastrians to support local pop culture events and businesses?
Losing businesses such as Graphic Action Comics in Newcastle has had a massive impact on the community as a whole but more so for those in the community living with a disability, as it was their go-to for their Comic Books, it was a part of their routine and a safe place that they had, where they could meet & chat about common interests.
With the closure of the Empire Coffee Co, the city lost a well known business who supported pop culture events and sadly for everyone who loves pop culture, especially those with disabilities, are now having to venture to SYDNEY or further to enjoy anything like it, which of course has its own issues.
We are confident that when our shop & cafe components of the venue open, we can draw on our experiences with both of these businesses and provide a similar, if not better experience.
The Colosseum is running “Super Con” on March 8th, 2019. What can we expect from this event?
It is an awesome fundraiser to help us achieve our goal to create a hub where we can make our services available, for people with disabilities and mainstream members of the community. You can expect an awesome Cosplay Competition not limited to the superhero genre with great prizes to be won, a Super Raffle with prizes donated by Event Cinemas and Boost Juice and many other kind donations from local businesses and a lucky door prize for just sitting in the right seat to watch the incredible Captain Marvel. Our whole team is hyped to see what types of cosplay we come across and all the people that have come to support us.
How can we find you on social media and support The Colosseum?
You can jump on to our website thecolosseum.org.au to find out more about us and keep up to date with the things we have in the works for this year. We are on Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and Facebook and are dropping some awesome stuff daily.
The SuperCon fundraisier is happening on March 8th, 2019 from 5pm to 8pm.
Pick up your tickets by heading to this LINK and remember to dress up.