London Marathon charity anthem co-created by people with learning disabilities

The UK’s leading learning disability charity has released a London Marathon anthem ahead of Sunday’s race, co-created by people with learning disabilities.

Side By Side, produced by Mencap – the official charity of the 2020 marathon – includes the line “life is a marathon and all we need is to be in the race”.

It features more than 100 people with a learning disability performing a dance routine choreographed by Andrew Self, a Mencap ambassador and star of the BBC’s The Greatest Dancer, who has Down’s syndrome.

The lyrics were inspired by content from poetry workshops for people with learning disabilities, led by artist Emma Claire Sweeney as part of an Arts Council-funded project.

It aims to bring people together and recreate the spirit of the race as runners take part in the virtual marathon across the UK.

The charity teamed up with Electric Umbrella, which challenges perceptions of people with learning disabilities through music, to create and produce the song.

Lead vocals were by Electric Umbrella’s Callum Belcher, who has autism, and songwriting credits go to Ali Milne, a member of Electric Umbrella who has a learning disability, and artistic director Tom Billington.

More than 300 runners are taking part in the race on Sunday on behalf of Mencap, 10 of whom have a learning disability.

Among them is Aaron Plummer, 20, from Walthamstow, east London, who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability. This will be his first marathon.

Virtual London Marathon 2020
Virtual London Marathon 2020

He said: “Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dreams.

“What you want to do, you can do. Just put your mind to it and achieve it.”

Edel Harris, chief executive of Mencap, said: “I hope that this marathon anthem will have a legacy by showing the world what people with a learning disability can achieve with the right support.”

Due to coronavirus restrictions, runners will be completing their own local 26.2-mile route over a period of 24 hours, rather than the original circuit in the capital.

Only elite runners will take part in the organised event in London.

Don’t forget you can cheer on #TeamMencap virtually tomorrow by turning #SideBySide up and getting involved in the dance!

Send us your own dance moves to the song by using #TeamMencap.

We would love you to get involved with our @virginmoney@londonmarathon cheer anthem!

— Mencap (@mencap_charity) October 3, 2020

Milne, supported by Dacorum Mencap, said: “The song is about respect — something worth fighting for.”

Self said: “I was so pleased and excited that they asked me to choreograph a special dance for Side By Side with my dance teacher Imogen. We loved working together and wanted to use fun dance moves that showed how happy the song made us feel.

“We also wanted to make sure everyone was included so put together some tricky and some not quite so tricky choreography so there was something for everyone! I love dance and I can’t wait to see lots of people dancing to this special song.”

To support Mencap’s Learning Disability Running Squad visit