Coping with sight loss during Covid-19 – enlightening podcast series shares important stories

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A new podcast series, sharing the stories of visually impaired members of Wakefield District Sight Aid managing during lockdown, will be launched this week –  https://onetoonedevelopment.org/stories-of-insight/

Produced by arts organisation, One to One Development Trust, “Stories of Insight” is one of 17 initiatives commissioned as part of Wakefield’s Creative Challenge programme, as a response to the pandemic. It forms part of a new ‘Together & Apart’ exhibition funded by Wakefield Council and Creative Wakefield, which takes place from 10 -20 June 2021 at the Former Market Hall in Wakefield, open daily from 10am to 4pm in a Covid-secure building (admission free).

The nine podcasts (lasting 20 minutes each), with accompanying photographic portraits, explore the impact that Covid-19 had on the lives of people with sight loss, giving an intimate insight into their lives and how they overcame challenges during this difficult time.

Wearing a pair of dark glasses, a high viz vest and a short sleeved shirt, Dougie one of the participants in Stories of Insight is sitting on a bench by the roadside holding a white cane, and smiling at the camera. With him is his golden coloured guide dog Albert who is also sat on the bench and is staring intently and quizzically at Dougie.
Stories of Insight Doug Lloyd sitting on a bench with guide dog Albert photo credit One to One Development Trust

Creative Director and CEO of One to One Development Trust, Judi Alston, worked closely with participants who were invited to talk about their experiences over phone conversations from their own home. Each individual story tells of a different journey and explores the lives of members spanning over eight decades – from those in their 20’s who are studying, through to older members in their 80’s and 90’s who share some fascinating memories. Those who took part in the podcasts come from diverse backgrounds and include – the first blind nuclear physicist at Sellafield; a photographer in his 80’s who is still working and exhibiting his work in the region; an Open University student and a hospital worker at Pinderfields NHS Trust. All had to adapt quickly to sudden restrictions imposed on their lives and through the stories explored what Covid-19 meant to them. Some had been born with sight problems whilst other experienced this at different stages of their lives.

Brian, 87,who lives with Macular Degeneration, describes Coivd-19 as a bit of nuisance which stopped him going to church but added it had given him the opportunity to bring his garden back to life and build a pagoda; student Luke, who has Leber Congenital Amaurosis, was stuck in Bournemouth during lockdown and welcomed the opportunity to step away from his busy life, have some down time and get on with his studies without any distractions; Ornithologist, Norman, who has Retinopathy of Prematurity, was able to concentrate on his bird aviary and mark up all is bird seeds in print and Braille in case anyone else needed to feed them and animal lover Joyce, who became visually impaired in her 40’s, was still able to ride her horse Nemo who has offered her a safe haven during lockdown.

The pandemic raised issues that this community had not faced before. Those with guide dogs had work out how to deal with social distancing which was difficult as their dogs had no understanding of this concept, the knock-on effect meant that they went out less which restricted exercise opportunities for both themselves and their dogs. Several struggled with changing layouts in shops, which mean that regular routes were no longer familiar to them, which affected their confidence.

All podcast participants spoke about the invaluable support given by Wakefield District Sight Aid, who were quick to respond at the start of the pandemic and were in touch consistently offering support, advice and running errands. 95-year-old member, Jim, who has age-related macular degeneration is part of the charity’s befriending team and during the pandemic he was happy to re-direct his energies to supporting others by phone and rang seven members each week to offer friendship and relieve loneliness.

Hayley Grocock, Chief Executive of Wakefield District Sight Aid, said that the podcasts has brought her to tears, she added: “They capture the essence of our members so perfectly, they are great to listen to, insightful and entertaining, and I learnt things about everyone of them.”

One to One Development Trust, who has a long history of working on community engagement projects, said this initiative had been deeply moving. Judi Alston commented: “It was a privilege to create this series of podcasts and have the opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people with sight loss which are often not heard.

“Covid-19 had thrown the participants new challenges, but they had taken them in their stride and worked to find solutions. These podcasts provide a legacy of this unique time in history and I hope that people enjoy listening to the stories.”

“Stories of Insight” podcasts are available to listen to on the One to One Development Trust website at https://onetoonedevelopment.org/stories-of-insight/
Copies of Stories of Insight will be available to borrow on CD or memory stick from any of the 12 libraries in the Wakefield District from the beginning of July.

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Image Attached – Photo Credit: Stories of Insight participant Dougie with his guide dog Albert by One to One Development Trust

Editor’s Notes

One to One Development Trust

https://onetoonedevelopment.org/
One to One Development Trust is an award-winning arts organisation that uses digital media to work with communities to produce innovative and immersive projects. They have a strong track record of instigating, facilitating, and delivering successful projects including the development of films, apps, websites, and interactive media. Since 2014 we have won or been shortlisted for over 20 international awards through our in-house game’s studio Dreaming Methods. Funders, clients and partners include national cultural organisations, local authorities, universities, museums, professional sports clubs, voluntary sector organisations and international NGOs. In an era where technology changes so rapidly, One to One helps partners/clients embrace digital technologies, for realistic costs, with ensured ongoing support and commitment.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onetoonedevelopment
Twitter: https://twitter.com/121productions
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onetoonedevtrust/

The Creative Challenge 2020

https://creativewakefield.net/creative-challenge-gallery/
Creative Challenge 2020, managed by Wakefield Council and funded by Cultural Development Fund, was launched in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and its devastating impact on creative sector. On 23 March 2020, the UK entered its first national Lockdown in response to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Local artists who had suddenly lost their work and their income were invited to apply for Creative Challenge grant funding, designed to respond to the impact Covid-19 on the district and our communities, and to work with some of our most isolated communities where possible, with a creative approach. The grants supported 17 creatives and cultural organisations from across the district and ranged from £1k to £10k. The total investment was c. £55k, sustaining 226 working days for local creatives. The projects took place across our district in Wakefield, Castleford Central and Glasshoughton, Altofts and Whitwood, South Elmsall and South Kirkby, Crofton Ryhill and Walton, and online.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/creativewfd
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CreateWakefield
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/creative_wakefield/
Hashtag: #TogetherAndApart and #CreativeWakefield

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