STRONG currents swept a disabled artist off course in Weymouth’s Fleet lagoon as she tried to cross in an underwater wheelchair.
Yet Sue Austin celebrated the setback as a dramatic addition to the spectacle.
Crowds dressed in red and holding flags and umbrellas watched with bated breath for Sue to emerge from her first public performance.
The £49,938 Creating a Spectacle! project, paid for by Art Council England’s Unlimited funding for deaf and disabled artists, is part of the Maritime Mix Cultural Olympiad by the Sea.
Kitted in diving gear, Sue set off underwater from Ferry-bridge Inn car park in a specially-adapted jet-propelled NHS wheelchair.
She was accompanied by a team of divers led by Portland’s Rob Hughes.
Her destination was the shore on the other side where dozens of young Morris dancers from Beechcroft St Paul’s Primary and Wyke Regis Junior schools, part of the Dinosaurs Not Allowed project, entertained the crowd as they waited.
But strong currents knocked Sue and her companions off course and they lost their guide, prompting a safety boat rescue. She said: “Basically there was a very strong current underneath, Rob, Trish and I all got caught in it.
“We were separated from our surface guide and had to stop.
“It added to the drama with the rescue and some spectators said my arrival by boat was actually more visual.
She added: “The point of this event was that I disappear in the water, like I’ve entered a new dimension.
“This is the start of a whole series of films that will be released over the summer, leading up to the finale in Osprey Leisure Centre on August 29, which will link in with the local opening of the Paralympic Games.”
Doreen Frankham, 75, of Tophill, Portland, said: “I think it was beautiful and this is a lovely place to do things like this. Evie Petty, aged 10, Beechcroft school, said: “It was amazing and beautiful.”
Luke Trim, aged 10, enjoyed the dancing and the impromptu song his fellow pupils sang called ‘Sue, where are you?’
• FOOTAGE of Creating a Spectacle! will be shown at the Olympic Live Sites, at the ICCI 360 degree arena, between July and September. It will also be part of the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre, London from September 1 to 9. Tickets for the live pool performances, from August 29 to September 1, at Osprey Leisure Centre, Portland will become available at a later date online at wearefreewheeling.org.uk/freewheeling-performances