It’s hard to believe but May the Fourth is the Include Choir’s 8th Birthday.

Two years before registered as a charity, people with and without communication needs were already joining together once a week to sing, sign, include and bring the ‘joy and uplift’ that Include has become famous for.

The Include Choir sings and Makaton signs

And as you may know (if you are a person of a certain age or have children obsessed with lightsabers), we share our 4th May birthday with Star Wars Day.

So on behalf of all of us at ‘May the Fourth be with You’.

Groan. As my son would say.

Birthday cake with icing and star wars chocolates on it with the words "May the 4th be with you"

This salutation is an old joke (and a great excuse for a pre-Bank Holiday celebration) but this year, we’ve decided to reflect more deeply on our connection with Star Wars Day and what Star Wars can teach us all about inclusive communication.

More than 1 in 5 people in the UK will experience difficulties with speaking and understanding in their lifetime – and those people will need Inclusive Communication Partners to help them access services, have their needs met, make choices and live a full life.

Being an Inclusive Communication Partner means recognising, respecting and using all forms of communication that people need to understand and express themselves, not just the spoken or written word. It may mean sharing a smile with someone to reassure them you are listening, using Makaton signs for someone who finds it hard to understand speech, even though their hearing is fine. It could mean getting out a pencil and paper to draw what will happen next for someone who is anxious. It could be recognising what that movement and sound means for someone who doesn’t use words or it might mean taking your time so that someone can say what they need to say, even if speech is hard.

At some time in your life, you will have been an Inclusive Communication Partner, and with a little more awareness, we could all make much more of these skills to make the world better for those 1 in 5 with communication needs.

The Include Choir hatstand wearing a Happy Birthday hat next to an 8th Birthday baloon

OK – all well and good. But what does this familiar Include message have to do with Star Wars?

Well, without even straying from the original trilogy, we can find some outstanding examples of inclusive communication.

R2D2. So much going on in that electronic circuitry but no speech to communicate with others without the support of polylingual C3PO. C3P0s words explain R2’s feelings and thoughts to others – but we also still know how R2 feels about things when he does an excited little dance, emits a high-pitched, frightened squeak or droops with a low electronic sigh. We all respect and recognise his non-verbal communication too.

And what about Chewbacca? It’s not easy being a Wookie in a human world. Apart from the amount of time it takes for a blow dry, you are reliant on inclusive communication partner Han Solo to interpret your messages- although we can all tell a great deal about how Chewy is feeling from the pitch and inflection of his utterances (and I suspect we would all recognise and respect the body language of an angry Wookie).

We don’t only need to consider non-verbal communication either (though Ewoks and Jawas provide plenty more examples). Where would the Rebel Alliance have been if young Jedis were not capable of interpreting Yoda’s unique use of grammar to make sense of his wisdom. When we accept communication in all its forms, we can truly connect and grow together as Inclusive Communication Partners.

So to help us celebrate Include’s birthday on 4th May, we are asking you to think about how you could include people with communication needs by recognising, respecting and using all forms of communication – from symbols and pictures, to gestures and signs to body language and facial expression.

After all, it is only at the end of Empire Strikes Back, when we finally see Darth Vader’s face that we truly understand and connect with him.

staff and members do Star Wars look

May the Fourth be with you as an Inclusive Communication Partner, this Star Wars Day.

Our birthday hopes and wishes:

  1. A more inclusive world where all forms of communication are welcomed.
  2. People celebrate 8 years with us on Bank Holiday Monday 27th May at Teas on the Green in Brockham, see the choir, sing Happy Birthday to Include and buy tea and cake!
  3. Make a one-off birthday donation to or set up a regular / monthly donation on 4th of each month to give year-round cheer and help ensure no one is excluded due to communication disabilities or differences.
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Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager