Leeds Autism Services have teamed up with Canal and River Trust and Royal Armouries to host this year's accessible version of the Leeds Waterfront Festival. The event is specially designed to be autism, neurodiverse and learning disability friendly.

The Leeds Waterfront Festival brings the waterways alive each year by hosting a fantastic mix of activities, arts, performance and fun for all ages.

This year’s main festival launches 1st July, with our accessible autism friendly event taking place at Leeds Dock and Armouries Square on Friday, 28th July 2023 (11am - 4pm)

It's free entry and everybody is welcome!

What's On

All the events and activities are designed to be accessible and aim to showcase the best of the city’s waterfront area around Leeds Dock and Royal Armouries.

Free Accessible Activities 

  • Canoeing
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Canal Drama Walk with Rusticus
  • Arts & Craft activities
  • Social Meet Up 
  • Photography competition
  • Royal Armouries live Horse Shows
  • and lots more...

There will also be a collection of stalls representing local organisation's who provide support for people with autism, learning disabilities and neurodivergent people plus the hosts Canal & River Trust and Royal Armouries. 

We aim to create a relaxed, friendly community atmosphere with accessibility and inclusion at the heart of it.

Canoeing & Paddleboard Sessions

The event is free to attend, however if you would like to try our Canoeing or Paddleboarding Taster sessions you will need to reserve a time slot. 

There will be 4 canoeing sessions throughout the day and each session is 1 hour long. You will need to arrive at least 10 minutes before your time slot to listen to the safety brief and put on your life-jacket. 

There will be 80 places to book in total for the day, this is so we ensure all canoeing sessions are accessible, safe and manageable for our instructors.

Per session - There will 10 spaces to pre-book online and 10 spaces to book on the day (sign-up is located at the Canal & River Trust stand and issued on a first come first served basis.)

All the equipment is provided.

Book Paddleboard Session Book Canoe Session

Drama Walks with Rusticus

You will also be able to book a free place on an exciting canal side drama walks with theatre company Rusticus, great fun for all ages! There will be multiple timeslots available to book on the day at the Canal & River Trust stand.

The journey will last around 1 hour and covers around 1.7km of walking around the waterfront area.

Rusticus have had ten brilliant years of creating open-air family-friendly immersive adventures that place audiences at the centre of the story. If you are a family who love an adventure then come and join Rusticus on a canal side adventure - and don’t forget your imaginations!

Book Drama Walk

Accessibility Information

Sensory Needs:

Disposable earplugs will be available at the Canal & River Trust stand

All staff will be aware of the need to avoid loud noises and will avoid shouting unless there is an emergency

Some noises may be outside our control, so if you want to wear your own ear defenders you are welcome to

As the event is outdoors we will not be able to control the light levels. Please bring your own sunglasses or other protection if you might need it

If you take part in activities on the water it is possible you may get wet. Most people get splashed a small amount from using the paddle of the canoe, but not wet enough to need a change of clothes.

If you take part in stand up paddleboarding there is a possibility you will get wet. A change of clothes and correct footwear is advisable.

Quiet Zone:

A quiet area is available in Armouries Square and inside the Royal Armouries Museum to help people reduce sensory input, take a break or just need take time to process things in a quiet space.

The outdoor quiet zone will be a tent/covered area with comfy beanbags to sit down and reduced lighting. A staff member will present at all times to ensure quiet zone is used appropriately. 

Easy Read Information:

We will have easy-read signage & event maps plus friendly volunteers on hand to help guide you through the venue.

Toilets and Changing Facilities:

A brand new Changing Places facility and accessible toilets can be found inside the Royal Armouries building plus public toilets available by the entrance of CitiPark multistory car park in Leeds Dock


There are 5 accessible parking spaces for Blue Badge holders in the coach park area, which is opposite the Holiday Inn, 100 metres from the event location. They are available 10.00-17.00.

There is a multi-storey car park next to the Holiday Inn, which has additional accessible parking spaces for Blue Badge holders, as well as standard parking spaces. Postcode LS10 1LE, what3words ///glitz.desire.silks

A drop-off point will be available close to the venue entrance. 

Public Transport:

Train: Leeds station is approximately 1 mile away on foot, or 2 miles/10 mins in a taxi

Bus: The below bus routes all arrive nearby

29, 87, 110 Sapphire, 140, 140A, 141, 167 Sapphire, 168 Sapphire, 189, 410, 444 MAX, 446 MAX, X10

Get Involved 

If you are a third sector organisation, and would like a slot or stall to run activities or provide entertainment at this years event, we would love to hear from you.

This is a great opportunity to showcase the amazing work our third sector does across the city. 

Third sector providers will be focused on providing engaging activities on the day, and will only signpost people to where they can get further information or support.

Email: [email protected] 

2022 Venue Walk-Through Video

Following the success of last years event, we thought we would share a video we created for the 2022 event to help you prepare for your visit to Leeds Dock and to help let you know what to expect at the Waterfront Festival.

We hope you find it useful.

Booking for this event has now closed.