Visionary Annual Conference 2018: Round up

Visionary Annual Conference 2018: Round up
Annual Conference Latest News

Thank you to everyone who joined us at this year’s Visionary Annual Conference, held on 24 and 25 October at the Aston Conference Centre in Birmingham. We hope you agree that it was a great opportunity to network, share ideas and learn from each other. We certainly came away feeling inspired and that we are all “Stronger Together”!

204 delegates from 81 organisations attended, which is an encouraging increase on last year. The two-day programme comprised of one plenary session, 28 workshops, 15 exhibitors and 8 speakers. We were fortunate enough to welcome experts from both within and outside the sight loss and wider sectors, giving delegates a comprehensive view of the voluntary sector landscape.

An informal networking event in the Aston Conference Centre bar and restaurant kicked off the event on the Tuesday evening. Although not officially part of the conference, it provided a good chance for delegates to get together for a catch up and refresh after some very long journeys.

[image above shows a large Visionary banner saying ‘a brighter future through partnership. In the background there are delegates registering for the conference.]


Visionary CEO, Fiona Sandford formally opened the conference on Wednesday 24 October.  This was for first time as a Visionary team member and gave us all something to think about and discussed how we are looking forward.

[Image on the left shows Fiona addressing a room full of delegates at the plenary session.]]


Chris Grant (former CEO of Sported) spoke encouragingly and passionately taking his steer from feedback given to him prior to the conference from our members – about what is missing from the sight loss sector and what changes are required to fill the current gaps in services for blind and partially sighted people. Graeme Reekie (Director of Wren and Greyhound) then gave a compelling insight on how to and what makes organisations sustainable.

[Image above on the left show Graeme Reeki and the image on the right shows Christ Grant.]


We were particularly pleased this year by the varied workshops we were able to offer delegates – a total of 28 over two days. The sessions were varied, covering subjects such as; trustee issues, gaining a credible standing in the NHS, leadership, employment, eye health and sight loss pathway, mentoring, social media, funding, Sight Loss Councils, partnerships, frameworks, social franchising, technology, and children and young people.

This year’s exhibition was more varied in an attempt to suit different audiences with a record number of 15 organisations exhibiting.  As well as the exhibition, this year for the first time we ran a number of events on Day 1. These included:

  • performances by Connect and Co, a group of local visually impaired performers on the theme of ‘getting on with life’;
  • shoulder and feet massages given to delegates by six talented trainees from the Royal National College for the Blind’s massage and complementary therapies department;
  • part of the interactive exhibition of artwork inspired by and raising awareness of Charles Bonnet Syndrome, commissioned by the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind;
  • A chance to create a unique conference perspective and hear delegates views to Visionary’s #SightSupportMeans

[Three images below show delegates visiting exhibition stands; on the left is RNIB, in the centre is Guide Dogs and on the right is Synapptic.]


[Image below shows a large screen which displays delegates holding up signs describing what #SightSupportMeans to them.]

[Image below shows performers from Connect and Co.]






[Images to the left show delegates receiving massages from the RNC. In the first image delegates are seated in forward-facing massage chairs and in the second image a delegate is laying on their back receiving a foot massage.]





The awards dinner was an excellent opportunity for delegates to network and witness the winners of this year’s awards, and were ably presented by our very own Neera Chaudhary, Kyle Phillips and Fiona Sandford of Visionary. The dinner was follow by an enjoyable quiz by Simon Curtis (TPT) who dazzled everyone with his sparkly jacket and quiz mastery.

The winners of this year’s Visionary Awards were:

Inspirational Service Delivery – Beacon Centre for the Blind

[Image below shows three of Beacon’s staff holding their award.]








Collaboration – Sight Support Hull and East Yorkshire

[Image below shows three staff from Sight Support Hull and East Yorkshire holding their award.]








Life Changing Impact – Southend in Sight

[Image below shows the Chair of Trustees from Southend in Sight holding their award with Kyle from Visionary on his right and Neera on his left.]








Visionary WOW – Beacon Centre for the Blind

[Image below shows three staff from Beacon holding their award and to their left is Fiona Sandford.]

This year we introduced a new award: The Visionary WOW award –  selected by a judging panel made up of Visionary staff and Trustees with sight loss and chosen from one of the three winners in the other categories. Beacon Centre for the Blind’s FAB Lab was the inaugural winner of the award. Fab Lab was seen as a creative and innovative project which has the potential to be replicated by other local organisation regardless of their size or location.



Many thanks to all of you who submitted an award nomination, and/or voted for your favourite entry using the new format. The standard was exceptionally high this year, and you should all feel very proud of your achievements.

Click here If you would like to learn more about the shortlisted and winning award entries.

The Visionary AGM, including an update from the Board of Trustees and Question and Answer was focused and efficient this year and moved to an earlier slot on Day 2 of the conference. After 20 years as a Visionary Trustee Jim Moran has now retired and has been replaced by Philippa Crowther.


Thank you from all at Visionary

[Image above shows Visionary mug with Conference 2018, followed by ‘Stronger Together’ underneath]