The Passion Behind The Award Winning Spectrum Festival

David Ryan is the father of two young boys on the autistic spectrum. William, who is now 10 years old and his 6-year-old brother Edward. Both boys were diagnosed at a young age. Edward was also diagnosed with ADHD and Tourette’s.

In 2018 David cofounded peaksGO along with best friend Chris Wright. peaksGO is an outdoors activity company that specialises in team building activities in the Peak District.  

He recognised early on that his sons were not able to participate in big outdoor events that were open to the general public. They were fearful of large crowds, they hated the noise the levels often found at festivals and the smells that lingered from various food stalls, but they so desperately wanted to go. They were missing out and as a parent it was heart breaking. David knew that he couldn’t change these events to suit his boys’ special needs but he didn’t want them to miss out on things due to their sensory requirements.

Using peaksGO as the driving force, he wanted to start something special for his two sons. An event to spread the word about autism and its many wonderful traits. He wanted to create an environment that would provide the kind of festival atmosphere for children and adults with autism and other special needs.

No two autistic children are the same, so trying to provide the right support and atmosphere for your child can be extremely difficult. What may work for one person won’t necessarily work for another, so creating a festival environment that would suit everyone would be a challenge. But with the support of his business partner, various family and friends, not forgetting William and Edwards super supportive friend Niamh (Chris's incredible daughter) he knew it could be done.

After a meeting with Autism East Midlands in 2017 and Lea Green Learning & Development Centre in early 2018, David and Chris pitched the idea for the Spectrum ‘Autism Friendly’ Festival.  Both parties loved the idea. It tied in perfectly with Autism East Midlands 50th anniversary and Lea Green’s specialist skills when it came to activities for children and adults with special needs.

After agreeing that the first festival would take place in September that year, the boys quickly realised that they only had 7 months to not only get the festival set up and make sure it was suitable for all those in attendance, but to also spread the word and make the festival a success, as well as running the newly formed peaksGO.  Challenge accepted and with the help of many family, friends and local businesses, the first Spectrum Festival ran without a hitch.

Not only was the festival a sell-out, but there were no complaints from anyone in attendance.  On top of that David and Chris won an award for ‘Best New Accessible Event’ for 2018.

It just goes to show that with the right mind set and with the support of the right people you can achieve anything.

After the success of the first festival and due to the demand for further dates David and Chris are working with both parties again for 4 dates in 2019.  They have managed to keep the ticket prices and capacity the same to keep the festivals as accessible as possible for all walks of life. 

To find out more about Spectrum 2019 click HERE

To find out about Niamh's incredible charity challenge click HERE

“Spectrum was everything I wanted it to be. A positive event full of people exchanging idea’s and possible solutions to each other’s problems. I think the most satisfying thing for me was seeing and hearing how relaxed people felt at the festival, both those with special needs and those supporting them. Needless to say, William and Edward had a fantastic day.” David Ryan

William and Edward
David, Niamh, Ed, Will and Chris
Chris, Jack (AEM) and David

Spectrum 2018 Testimonials

Samantha Dawkins – Sept 24/09/18

Had an absolutely amazing time at Spectrum yesterday. Huge well done to the organisers and thanks to all those that ran activities. Particular faves were Disney characters and Silent Disco and the ever brilliant Cookstars!!! Can’t wait to come again next year xx

Suzanne Gerrard – 24/09/18

Absolutely amazing day, my son had so much fun trying new things. Staff were amazing, fantastic. X

Sarah Clawson – 23/09/18

Absolutely loved today, the venue was beautiful and the event spaciously around the grounds which was just perfect. We literally spent the whole day there with minimal challenges – A big thank you to the lady on the climbing wall for supporting my little lady in a little meltdown whilst I was high up. As well my kids having a great time, I have relaxed and smiled! So great.


Natalie Poppins – 23/09/18

Thank you for today, had lots of fun and lasted over four hours. This never happens. We will be back next year. Everyone was so friendly and kind.


Michelle Porter-Reed – 23/09/18

We had the best day, it was really good fun. Very well spread out so not too busy at each activity, which was great. The Silent Disco was fab. The staff were really good with the kids at each activity.
Cromford Mills - Matlock - Derbyshire