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    Getting Crafty! Wood Week at our Llandudno centre

    Our centre in Llandudno recently dedicated a whole week to teaching visually impaired ex-Service men and women the craft of woodwork!  We were taking part in the Gwanwyn festival, which takes place in Wales each year and celebrates creativity in older age.

    The Gwanwyn festival is run by Age Cymru and is supported by the Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales. It is the festivals 8th year and throughout the month, 9,000 people will attend over 400 events.

    We took the festival as a wonderful opportunity to get everybody together and share interest in wood and craftsmanship. Throughout the week veterans had a chance to work with a love spoon craftsman called Llew Tudur, a Chainsaw Carver/Sculptor called Ian Murray from the North Wales Carvers Association and with the Waterfield family at the Woodskills Centre.

    wood week 1

    Pictured above: Ian Murray, Chainsaw Carver/Sculptor.  He made an owl from a trunk found in the grounds.

    Everyone who took part had a fantastic time, enjoying one another’s company, meeting local craftsmen and women and having a go at making all sorts from their own Love Spoons, a small wooden whale, wooden boxes and rocking horses. They enjoyed getting stuck in carving, sanding, cutting and finishing.  They enjoyed the process and the results were superb.

    Blind veteran Bill Mooney said about his time at Wood Week:

    “This week we made new friendships and cemented old ones. I am going home with more knowledge than I came with, because you can always meet someone you can learn from. The week brought out the creative side of everybody; it built confidence and independence and everyone was keen to finish their projects.

    My favourite bit was spending time with the chainsaw carver Ian Murray. He was a friendly down to earth man and explained every bit and let us feel the work as he made it. However, all of the demonstrators were first class and unique. Everybody contributed to the atmosphere, it did not matter how experienced they were. There was something for everyone and the right amount of varied activities. I’m pleased I was part of it.”

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    Pictured above Blind veteran Jo Elsender, he had this to say said about the Wood Week:

    “This week has inspired me so much; my head is still spinning with all the ideas of what I can do. I was apprehensive at first because I didn’t think I could do it. When we met the love spoon man Llew, I was terrified in case I could not do it, but with a little help I learnt quickly. I enjoyed the whole week; every day was a new challenge. The relaxed, supportive atmosphere meant that we could enjoy one another’s company and take an interest in what the rest of the team was doing.”

    If you would like to find out more about what we do to support visually impaired ex-Service men and women click here.

    Former member of the Women’s Royal Army Corps Paints pictures for Blind Veterans UK’s Poppy Wing

    Veronica Simpson, a blind veteran and former member of the Woman’s Royal Army Corps, has been asked by our Llandudno centre if she would like to paint a series of pictures to be exhibited. The centre asked is she could paint the pictures so that they could be used as markers to support the centres veterans and help them to find the Poppy Wing.

    Former member of the Women's Royal Army Corps Paints pictures for Blind Veterans UK’s Poppy Wing.

    Nadia Wazera, an arts and crafts instructor at our Llandudno centre described Veronica as “an inspirational lady with lots of great ideas, learning to paint has offered her an opportunity to make her ideas come alive.

    “Her confidence has had a real boost from knowing she can produce work to a superb finish.

    Former member of the Women's Royal Army Corps Paints pictures for Blind Veterans UK’s Poppy Wing.

    Each of Blind Veterans UK’s centres runs arts and crafts workshops to give veterans an outlet for their creativity. Whether it’s a skill someone thinks they may have lost or something they’ve never tried before, we help our members develop their creativity.

     Former member of the Women's Royal Army Corps Paints pictures for Blind Veterans UK’s Poppy Wing.

    After her week at the Llandudno centre and arts and crafts classes, Veronica said “I was honoured to be asked to paint pictures for the Poppy Wing. Considering I have never painted before (only a lounge), I was thrilled with how they have turned out. I can’t wait to get home and paint some more. I’ve had a real confidence boost this week.”

    We launched the No One Alone campaign to reach out to more people like Veronica. It is estimated that there are 68,000 plus blind veterans who could be eligible for our help but are unaware of it. If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or National Service who now suffers with sight loss (including age-related sight loss) request our free support by calling 0800 389 7979.

    93 year old blind veteran rediscovers painting after 22 years of sight loss

    After a staggering 22 years of sight loss ex-Service veteran Eric Radford, from Nottingham, has rediscovered his favourite pastime, painting, with the help of Blind Veterans UK.

    Eric, who is now 93 years old, divulged “I didn’t think I’d ever be able to paint again. I never even gave it a thought but Blind Veterans UK has helped me to give it a go.

    “Last year, before I joined Blind Veterans UK, when I was 92 I thought a couple more years and I’m done for. Now I am enjoying my art and want to carry on.”

    We can see this passion through this gallery of pictures.

    Eric Radford Dog

    Eric joined the RAF in 1941 and started out in Squadron 157 as an armourer. Later he moved to a special unit and was stationed in Canada, the Americas and the West Indies.

    Eric says “I was very lucky. The RAF showed me the world. I had never been on a boat or a plane. In those days you didn’t have anything other than possibly a bicycle. The RAF made it possible for me to see more of the world.

    “One of the most memorable things that happened during my service was when a 25 pound bomb dropped on my shoulder but it was nothing out of the ordinary, really.”

    Eric Radford at Home

    Blind Veterans UK provides support, rehabilitation, training and recreation to blind veterans, regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight.

    We have three fantastic care, rehabilitation and training centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno.

    Eric Radford - art in progress

    Eric says: “Blind Veterans UK helped me enormously; at my home a volunteer helps me with my post and groceries and at the Llandudno centre too. I’m able to do some gardening but most of all painting again.”

    Eric began to lose his vision in 1982 and was diagnosed with Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). His family and friends were very supportive, helping him whenever he needed.

    How Eric discovered Blind Veterans UK

    Eric only recently joined Blind Veterans UK after a fellow blind veteran urged him to join. He says “I had heard of Blind Veterans UK, formerly St. Dunstan’s, but I thought it was for totally blind service people. I never thought of joining or that they would be able to help me. Another fellow, who had been to one of the centres, told me what Blind Veterans UK does and told me to join. I’m so glad I did. They have done so much for me. I’ve been to Llandudno centre three times now and I’m very excited to go again this May.”

    We recently launched our No One Alone campaign which aims to reach out to an estimated 68,000 blind ex-Service personnel who could be benefiting from our support. Many do not know about the charity or they do not know that they are eligible for its services.

    Eric recently featured his art on the BBC. You can see his video here.

    BBC Eric Radford

    If you know someone that could benefit from our support, visit Blind Veterans UK’s No One Alone campaign:  www.noonealone.org.uk or telephone:  0800 389 7979.

    A taste of interactive Swedish art for our blind veterans

    This week our blind veterans visited the Swedish artist Jacob Dahlgren’s new work ‘On Balance’ at the Fabrica gallery in Brighton. These interactive pieces welcome visitors to experience the art by walking through and on top of them.

    The extensive floor work has 713 polished bathroom scales in candy-pop colours, ranging from turquoise and lime to cerise and black.

    The exhibition itself was built to “acknowledge the sensual pleasure of the material world, and take delight in the moments of physical and social interaction.”

    With help of Blind Veterans UK our veterans have been able to regain their independence, following their sight loss and take delight in these new and experimental artistic experiences.  Today, we support blind veterans by providing free, lifelong practical and emotional support to those servicemen and women and their families. We support all blind veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight, reaching far beyond those blinded in conflict.

    If you would like to visit the exhibition, it is on until May 26th. It is part of the Brighton Festival 2014.

    You can view more of our arts and crafts activity on our blog.

    Interactive Gallery

    Talented Blind Artist Matthew Rhodes has painted a mural at our Llandudno centre.

    Blind veteran Matthew Rhodes served as an army physical training instructor with the 1st Battalion, the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment until a motorbike accident gave him severe injuries. He was paralysed down the right side of his body, and was registered as blind due to brain damage.

    Matthew was told by Doctors that he would never walk again but this was not the case and 8 months after his accident Matthew joined Blind Veterans UK and rediscovered his independence. After training he started fundraising through various charity events from horse dressage to the London and Brighton Marathons!

    Matthew Rhodes' painting at our Llandudno centre

    Matthew soon discovered a talent for painting after attending an arts and crafts workshop at our Ovingdean centre in Brighton. Even though he had never painted before, used to be right handed, but now uses his left and is blind, he took to it straight away.

    Since then, Matthew has painted many pictures, most notably a portrait of Steven Gerrard that is signed by the England Captain and is due to be auctioned later this year to raise funds for Blind Veterans UK.

    Matthew’s talent has continued to develop so Steve Boswell, the Llandudno centre’s Rehabilitation and Training Manager, asked if he would paint one of the walls in the Falklands room at the centre.

    Matthew said “I was given no hint as to what was wanted for the painting, the choice was left all to me! Because the painting was to be in the Falklands room, I decided to do a painting representing the Falklands war. With a helping hand from my wife Michelle we chose to paint the Falklands islands as the base painting and then to paint the statue of a marine on top.”

    Matthew described how the map was designed to represent the scale and “ALL the troops who has served there.” He chose to paint the map in bold colours as he finds it is easier for people with sight loss to see, than using blended colours.

    He says “The marine statue I painted all in a bald bronze colour, but 3D so that it looked as though it was standing on top of the islands.” The union jack was also painted to look 3D and realistic like it was flying away from Matthew’s painting.

    Matthew Rhodes painting representing the Falklands war

    Matthew’s favourate part of the painting is the marines beret. When  choosing his favorite part he said “Funnyly enough though, I can’t see what the full painting looks like, just tiny bits of it! It took me five days to paint, starting at 0600hrs in the morning & finishing at 2000hrs in the evening, just stopping for the delishous meals, & always receiving a wonderful cup of tea!”

    “I hope for people to look at the painting & to remember all those troops who served in the Falklands War; God bless them all”

    If you would like to see more of Matthew’s talented artwork please visit his website.

    University student thanks Blind Veterans UK for photographing veterans

    Photography student Charlotte Weaver visited our Llandudno centre to photograph blind veterans and learn about how they lost their sight as part of her university photography project. Similarily Elisa Tuckey, from Middlesex University, visited our Brighton centre for her photography project, ’Identity’ earlier this year. Charlotte speaks about her experiences at Blind Veterans UK and what she learned about our members in her project:

    “I fully enjoyed my experience coming to visit the members and to find out their stories which they were kind enough to share with me.

    “My stories show what they told me about their past war stories and time in the forces, and how they lost their vision.”

    University

    Nadia

    “I started my career in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a Plotter based in Bath underground for 3 years when I was 17, until I left to be part of No11 Fighter Command in an underground bunker in Uxbridge. My macula was damaged in both eyes and therefore I can only see the outlines of people and things meaning I have no central vision” – Nadia, 90

    University IV

    “I was a part of the largest special forces of the Second World War called the Chindits. I was sent to North Burma for 4 years on the Burma Campaign against Japan. The Japanese were not very merciful – not many of us survived.” – Bernard, 98

    University III

    “I was in the Korean war when I was 23 from 1950 and 1953. My blindness isn’t war related but instead I lost it to a disease referred to as AMD which stands for Age-related Macular degeneration. Therefore overtime I completely lost my vision and along with that I’m partially deaf – you can’t live life too seriously.” – Ron, 87

    University II

    “Blind Veterans UK members praised the centre saying it was a very helpful organisation and have lovely staff.

    “Thanks to the Blind Veterans UK charity for letting me photograph the members of the organisation.”

    Blind Veterans UK provides free support and services to Armed Forces and National Service veterans who are struggling with severe sight loss. If you know a veteran with sight problems request free support from Blind Veterans UK.

     

    Steven Gerrard praises portrait by talented blind artist Matthew Rhodes

    Liverpool FC and England captain, Steven Gerrard MBE, has praised a painting of himself done by blind veteran, Matthew Rhodes, who discovered a talent for art thanks to Blind Veterans UK.

    Gerrard, who has played at Anfield since 1998, said that he had been “really impressed” when shown a portrait of himself created by Matthew Rhodes, a soldier who was left blind and physically disabled by a horrific motorbike accident and has since become an artist.

    Steven Gerrard praises portrait by talented blind artist Matthew Rhodes

    Steven Gerrard signs portrait by talented blind artist Matthew Rhodes

    Steve Gerrard said: “I was really impressed with the painting and I think that Matthew did capture a good likeness of me. His talent and technique is illustrated in this piece, which I was more than happy to sign.”

    Father of four, Matthew, from Preston, had his life turned upside down by the accident which happened 18 years ago whilst he was serving in Germany with the 1st Battalion, The Devonshire and Dorset regiment. After spending ten weeks in a coma, Matthew awoke to find that he was blind, paralysed down his right side, had a very bad short term memory and had lost some of his ability to feel emotion.

    Wiltshire-born Matthew joined Blind Veterans UK 10 months after his accident, and with extensive help and support has been able to cope with his blindness and other disabilities, as well as discover a talent for portrait painting. We have supported Matthew with his living arrangements too, both in his current location in Preston and in Peacehaven, near Blind Veterans UK’s, Brighton centre for many years previously.

    Matthew Rhodes painting

    Matthew Rhodes painting

    Matthew says: “The moment I was registered blind, Blind Veterans UK was there for me, teaching me how to regain my confidence and independence. It was when Blind Veterans UK invited me to spend some time in the art and craft workshop at its Brighton rehabilitation and training centre that I discovered my unlikely painting talent.

    “I have painted many people before and as a Red it made sense for me to paint one of its top players”.

    Matthew’s portrait has now been signed by the England captain and will be placed at auction in aid of Blind Veterans UK in early 2015.

    You can view more of Matthew’s incredible art work on his blog. You can also read more about Matthew’s story in his autobiography, ‘Never say Die.’

    To find out what Liverpool FC’s have to say about the picture please visit their website. You can also find more details on this story on the Daily Mail.

     

    Gwanwyn Festival

    Our Llandudno centre Art and Craft Team are delighted to have been selected to join in Gwanwyn, a month-long national festival held across Wales in May each year, to celebrate creativity in older age.

    99 year old blind veteran Bob Early at the art and craft workshop in Llandudno.

    99 year old blind veteran Bob Early at the art and craft workshop in Llandudno.

    age cymru

    As part of our involvement with Gwanwyn, we have organised a dedicated Wood Week which will bring together our veterans who share an interest in working with wood. The week will include workshop time, demonstrations, sharing skills and a day out at the Woodland Skills Centre in Denbighshire.  We hope it will enable our veterans to share amongst their peers useful practical tips and also share stories.

    gwanwyn

    The dedicated week for members to work with wood will take place from 25 – 31 May 2014 and after the week, our veterans work will be on display at a local festival of national repute called Wood-Fest.

    Gwanwyn, which means ‘spring’ in Welsh, celebrates older age as a time of opportunity for renewal growth and creativity. Gwanwyn provides an opportunity for older people to get inspired, get immersed and get involved. The Gwanwyn festival is run by Age Cymru and supported by the Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales. 2014 will be the festival’s 8th year and throughout the month, all across Wales over 9,000 people will attend over 400 events involving over 65 community groups or organisations across Wales.

    Emma Robinson, Coordinator of Gwanwyn Arts Festival at Age Cymru said “We’re so glad to be working with Blind Veterans UK this year”.

    To find out more about Wood Week or other art and craft opportunity with Blind Veterans UK, please contact our Llandudno centre.

     

    Blind by Charlotte Bassett

    We were recently visited by Graphic Design student Charlotte Bassett who studies at the University of Brighton. She is currently working on her final exam project ‘blind’ and the focus is on the work of Helen Keller, a deaf-blind author. She wanted to visit Blind Veterans UK to gain an understanding of blindness and to find out about experiences of our blind veterans and the different ways of seeing. This is what Charlotte had to say about her visit to Blind Veterans UK and her insight into blindness.

    “After my visit to Blind Veterans I fully realised the unique quality of being blind. Blindness, I learnt, was an extremely unique disability where seemingly no two people experienced it in the same way. There are many words associated with blindness; vulnerability, loneliness, and darkness and while there was a small sense of this in the people that I spoke to what was humbling was the flip side of this stereotypical negativity.

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    “In each person that I spoke to there was a positively that shone through and counteracted the adversity that they faced. Their determination, experiences and outlook was something I wanted to tell through my work.

    “I wanted my work to tell the story of blindness in a way that didn’t speak in blanket terms or focus on the negativity of blindness, I wanted to try to show what being blind really meant. That it was so much more than a medical condition, it was a way of life that wasn’t something that left one in a dark state of isolation, but was something that was faced, adapted and overcome.

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    “I went on to spend time with the members of Touch Trust in Brighton, listening to their stories and experiences and went on to combine these with some of the anecdotes I had noted down from my visit to you into a book. Wanting to make the the book something that could be read by people with visual impairments too I experimented with printing techniques, to almost emboss the type in the book and allow it to be read almost like braille and tested these techniques on a member of Touch Trust to see which was most accessible.

    “A screen-printed book is the outcome to my project exploring blindness through the words of the people I have met. Mimicking the way people spoke the prints are often misprinted and the background of type is blurred, sometimes bit-mapped, to evoke feelings of sight-loss on the audience. Some of the prints are textured so that they can be read through touch, others in a large pt size, starting in full colour the book slowly looses blue and green to mimic the loss of one’s colour perception where often these are the first colours to go.”

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    You can view more of Charlotte’s work from her ‘blind’ collection on her website.

    Blind veterans craft cracking Easter gifts

    At Blind Veterans UK’s Brighton centre we’ve been having an eggcellent time in the art & craft workshop making decorations and chocolate surprises in celebration of Easter.

    94 year old Betty Metcalfe crafts one of the Easter boxes

    94 year old Betty Metcalfe crafts one of the Easter boxes

    Some of our veterans, including 94 year old Betty Metcalfe, 89 year old Brenda Bryon and 93 year old Arthur Walton, got cracking on their Easter gifts and also made items for sale in our art & craft shop.

    The group set to work on decorative boxes which started as papier mache and have been decorated to be used for Easter chocolate gifts. The smaller boxes were crafted out of card and our veterans printed patterns onto them.

    94 year old Betty Metcalfe  makes an Easter box

    94 year old Betty Metcalfe makes an Easter box

    Decorations included silk flowers which were made too at Blind Veterans UK’s workshop in Brighton. Our veterans have the opportunity to try their hand at a wide range of art and craft activities whilst visiting our centres in Brighton, Llandudno and Sheffield. Many of our veterans have discovered a hidden talent or with training, now have the confidence to continue with their previous art and craft hobby.

    Some of the Easter crafts were given by our veterans to their family members or spouses but the majority were sold as gifts to raise funds for Blind Veterans UK. Our veterans spent half a day’s work on the boxes which looked absolutely stunning when on display.

    A beautiful Easter egg made by blind veterand Brenda Bryon and Arthur Walton

    A beautiful Easter egg made by blind veterand Brenda Bryon and Arthur Walton

    Other Easter crafts included eggs which were also sold in aid of Blind Veterans UK. Brenda Bryon, who recently held her own weaving masterclass at our Brighton workshop, and Arthur Wialton made most of the eggs which started as a paper shell. They were then painted using scrunched up newspaper to create the mottled effect. Our veterans finished the decoration with ribbons and stickers and wrapped them in cellophane. The best part of the egg was that it was filled with a chocolate egg inside – the perfect Easter treat!