Monday, 6 December 2010

A Walk through the South Africa Landscape

On ground still wet from the morning rain, seven St Dunstaners took a stroll through the South African landscape, recreated in the grounds of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. Designed as a multi-sensory experience they touched and smelt the succulent vegetation and flora of the Cape region as they walked along the winding path. The plants and flowers bought in from South Africa included African lilies (Agapanthus), Funbos heather, varieties of daisy and the South African geranium (Pelargonium) and Elephant’s foot tubors. Making a bold statement in the weak October sun the Lesotho red hot poker (Kniphofia caulescens) with its bright orange rocket-shaped flowers stood alongside the shocking pink fig marigold (Carpobrotus).

Merging the landscape with human history and culture, reproductions of rock paintings by the San, a hunter-gatherer community, were woven amongst the plants. Bending to touch the surface of the rock, Eddie O’Brien who had travelled with his fellow St Dunstaners and staff from the craft workshop in Ovingdean felt the outline of elephants carved into the stone. More than just an art form it depicts how the San used animals to bring rain to arid land. The San’s shaman would think of the rain as an animal, they would capture the imaginary animal, in their mind they would take it to the place where they wanted rain and kill it. Its blood would then become rain.

The British Museum’s African Collections Curator, Chris Spring led the journey and Percussionist and Composer Eugene Skeef played native instruments with everyone joining in. With history meeting present day culture, Vuvulezas were bought out to accompany traditional instruments. Impressed by Arthur Walton’s prowess on the Vuvuzela, Eugene gave him a dried carob pod that was used as a percussion instrument as it rattled when shaken.   

Arthur Walton said: “It was a long journey to and from the British Museum but it was a great experience. I hadn’t played a Vuvuzela before and it certainly makes a loud noise. The garden inspired all of us to have a go at recreating elements of it at Ovingdean. Esther Freeman, Catherine Jones-Romain and Phil Rawson all have ideas how we can do it. We’ve worked out how to recreate the instruments and will also try some rock carvings.”

St Dunstaners who journeyed through the South Africa landscape were: Bob Michael, Peggy Saunders, John Nunney, Eddie O’Brien, Arthur Walton, Brian Taylor and John Watts. They were accompanied by Art & Craft Workshop Manager, Esther Freeman and craft instructors Catherine Jones-Romain and Phil Rawlson

written by Catherine Goodier

40th anniversary of first disability discrimination legislation

It is 40 years since the first disability legislation was steered through Parliament onto the statute book.  Hailed as the ‘Magna Carta’ for disabled people, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 set down specific provisions for the inclusion of people with disabilities in welfare services, housing, education and recreational facilities.  While much progress has been made, people with disabilities continue to encounter discrimination and exclusion.

At St Dunstan’s, the charity working to secure an independent future for blind and partially-sighted members of our Armed Forces, we see, first-hand, the positive impact art and culture can have in the rehabilitation process for blind and visually-impaired people. Yet we know that people with serious sight problems struggle to fully participate in cultural experiences, such as museums and art galleries, with exhibitions and displays designed, primarily, for only the sighted.

By introducing simple measures, such as audio description, tactile displays and through harnessing the power of IT, art and cultural venues would make an important contribution towards promoting inclusion and equality for disabled people.  By bringing exhibitions to life, our cultural institutions would help them share in the same immersive experience and joy we often take for granted when visiting museums and art galleries.

That’s why St Dunstan’s is supporting a ground-breaking Resolution, which calls for Europe-wide action to remove the barriers that blind and partially-sighted people face when visiting museums, galleries and heritage collections.  Passed at a recent conference held by St Dunstan’s and the European Blind Union and presented to the European Commission and European Disability Forum, the Resolution urges national governments to promote the full participation of people with a visual impairment in all aspects of art and culture.

At St Dunstan’s, the craft workshop classes run by our flagship rehabilitation and training Centre in Ovingdean, Brighton, is transforming the lives of the ex-Service personnel we work with.  The classes help unlock their creativity and provide them with a channel through which a range of emotions can be expressed. Giving disabled people the chance to fully experience the power of art and culture, on an equal basis with others, brings a host of therapeutic benefits and gives them a sense of achievement, pride and belonging.

We ask so much of those who make incredible sacrifices by putting their lives on the line for our safety and security. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first disability discrimination legislation, let us all make a pledge to make 2011 the year we redouble our efforts to tackle the barriers that prevent our blind and partially-sighted ex-Service men and women from a playing a full and active role in society.

Written By Andrew Cooper

In Touch With Art Conference

Conference Resolution calls for Europe-wide barriers to museum collections for visually impaired people to be removed.

A ground-breaking Conference Resolution on ‘Equal Access to Museums for Visually Impaired People’ is being presented on 3 December at the conference ‘European Citizenship: Real Benefits for Persons with Disabilities?’, organised by the European Commission and European Disability Forum. 

The ‘In Touch with Art 2010’ Resolution[i] launched on the 2010 European Day of People with Disability, calls on governments throughout the world to take the cultural rights of disabled people seriously.

It asks that governments develop ‘comprehensive access policies and action programmes designed to bring about significant and lasting improvements for all people with disabilities’, as called for as far back as1992 by the Council of Europe.[ii]

The Resolution also calls for urgent action to remove the many access barriers[iii] that blind and partially sighted people face to museum, gallery and heritage collections, so that they can participate ‘on an equal basis’ in the museum experience, as called for by the United Nations[iv].

The Resolution was passed by the delegates[v] of the conference ‘In Touch with Art – international perspectives on Equal Access to Museums for Visually Impaired People’. The conference was  held on 13 October 2010 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and was organised by St Dunstan’s[vi], the charity which supports blind ex-Service personnel, in partnership with the European Blind Union[vii].

Marcus Weisen[viii], ‘In Touch with Art’ Content Director, who presents the Resolution in Brussels today said:

“Vigorous action from ministries for culture is needed to make a shared museum experience for blind and partially sighted people an everyday reality. It is one of Europe’s unspoken scandals, that national and local governments are spending billions of Euros on new museums and galleries, whilst paying little or no attention to intellectual access to collections for disabled people. A high level, Europe-wide, culture shift is urgently required. We need ambition and enlightened strategies, not the current piecemeal approach.”

Andrew Jones, Director of Communications at St Dunstan’s said:

“We are fully supportive of the In Touch With Art Resolution. Through our work with blind and partially sighted ex-Service men and women, St Dunstan’s sees first-hand the impact of art in the rehabilitation process and the joy that can be derived from being able to access it. Art and culture can help blind and partially sighted people grow in confidence and develop feelings of achievement, pride and belonging, This is why St Dunstan’s encourages that more should be done to improve accessibility for disabled people in Museums.

Carol Borowski, Chair of the European Blind Union’s Culture & Education Commission, said:

“EBU, in partnership with St Dunstan’s, warmly welcomes this opportunity to bring home to the European Commission the present low levels of accessibility of museums and places of cultural interest to blind and partially sighted people.
"Of course, there is good practice, but it is exceedingly rare. Across Europe, we need significantly more opportunities for visually impaired people to experience art and culture through audio description, authentic objects for handling, tactile models and tactile images. We need to exploit the empowering potential of new technology. Exhibition design which is inclusive of the needs of disabled people has to become the norm, not the exception, as it is today.
“We invite the European Commission to energetically promote the cultural rights of disabled people in its new Disability Strategy 2020. Equal access to museums and places of cultural interest is a right of visually impaired people, not a luxury.”

For more information please contact Marcus Weisen., mobile: 0033-6-40188010

[i] ‘In Touch with Art 2010’ Resolution ‘Equal Access to Museums for Visually Impaired People’,
[ii] Council of Europe. Recommendation R(92)6 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on a Coherent Policy for People with Disabilities, chapter VIII, section 8.5. 1992.
[iii] Major barriers remain Europe-wide: the accessible museum offer is tiny and fragmented. It bears no relationship with the significance of European cultural collections.Visitor information about the accessible offer is often hard to find and unreliable. This seriously hinders cultural tourism by visually impaired people within the European Union.

[iv] United Nations. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, article 30,
[v] 144 delegates from 22 countries and 4 continents passed the ‘In Touch with Art 2010’ Resolution. Their combined expertise was exceptional and included 6 winners of national and international access to culture Awards. The delegates were museum professionals and visually impaired people.
[vi] St Dunstan’s is the UK national charity supporting blind ex-Service men and women.
[vii] The European Blind Union is a non-governmental, non profit-making European organization founded in 1984. It is the only organisation representing the interests of blind and partially sighted people in Europe. EBU aims to protect and promote the interests of all blind and partially-sighted people in Europe.
[viii] Marcus Weisen is a museum access consultant with significant international experience. He is Director of the Jodi Mattes Trust for accessible digital culture ( The title of the talk the European Commission invited him to give is ‘Access to European museum collections is a right, not a luxury’.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Artist Open House

Come and visit St Dunstans Ovingdean to see work by staff and St Dunstaners -
We will take this opportuinity to display the work that has been produced in the Craft Workshop by the St Dunstaners; conduct tours of the building to allow people to learn more about the work we do, together with highlighting the artistic skills of the staff that work for St Dunstans. Hope to see you here!

If you get hold of a catalogue - we are number 73 on the trail....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Duke of Kent Visit to The Workshop

The Duke of Kent visited the Workshop at Ovingdean on 26th October 2011. He spoke to St Dunstaners that use the Workshop to produce a range of Art & Craft.
He met Frank (featuring in the last picture) who he had met some years ago in his last visit, where Frank had been making Rocking Horses. Frank is still making Rocking Horses and has passed the 100 mark!
You can also see how the day went in tha video found on Buckingham Palace YouTube site - type in St Dunstans Duke of Kent and there we are!

Friday, 12 November 2010

What is the Art & Craft Department?

The Art & Craft Department offers training and support to all St Dunstaners at Charity Centres as well as in their own homes. The flagship of the department is the well equipped art & craft workshop at Ovingdean, and a new workshop at Llandudno when the site is completed, which are often the highlight of a visit to our main centre for many St Dunstaners.

Accessible to everyone
The Art & Craft workshop is open to St Dunstaners, and includes adjustable workbenches to accommodate wheelchairs, as well as standard ones. There are special facilities for two of our popular activities, pottery and wood-turning. 

Art & Craft available
The wide variety of Art & Craft on offer includes:
·         Chair-caning
·         Weaving
·         Mosaics
·         Painting and drawing
·         Picture-framing
·         Rug-making
·         Papier mâché
·         Stone carving
·         Pottery and ceramics
·         Wood-turning

The dedicated woodturning workshop has all the equipment necessary to produce beautiful one-off pieces, including a lathe, bandsaw, pillar drill, chop saw, linisher and grinder.  As well as woodturning, St Dunstaners study wood carving, routing and joinery.

Pottery and ceramics
The pottery room is comprehensively kitted out with two electric wheels, drying and glazing facilities and a kiln. 

Specialist courses
Advancing skills is just as important to us as teaching new ones, so we run specialist courses in all the crafts we teach, for beginners and for those with some experience. 

Exhibitions and conferences
The Art & Craft department also plays a key role in raising awareness of art and visual impairment in the wider community. From winning the Big Draw competition in 2005, to exhibiting at Blind Art in Bankside Gallery, London, and producing the international In Touch With Art Conference at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2007, the department has worked hard to promote access to art activities for all visually impaired people.