Ballymena Does Womad 2014

On Saturday I attended something called Womad. Womad stands for world of music art and dance. I wasn’t sure what to expect at all.

The concert started about 7 o’clock up in a place called Ballymena north. I think it is like a community centre. There was a group who came from Zimbabwe performing too called Siyaya which apparently means on the move in English. There was lots of dancing and singing. There was also a jamacin too, who took people up from the audience to get them to dance with him. Youth groups were also involved with the music as throughout the week Siiyaya had been teaching them how to do the dancing and some of the singing. The youth groups were from areas where the young people had maybe got in to trouble in the past. I suppose it was something for them to do and was a good way of keeping them off the streets.

I loved how the concert was so happy. You felt like you were being sung to directly in each piece. There was just such a buzz about the place. It’s amazing what can be done with a few droums and the human voice. Even though you couldn’t understand anything sung apart from a few songs, it was still very lovely to listen to. It was a lovely end to community relations week 2014.

For something like this to come to Ballymena was just amazing. Ballymena is very close minded at times, or it has been in the past. Back in the 80s, the band ELO were going to come to sing at the Ballymena showgrounds. That was vetoed because the Ballymena counscil thought they were “Satanic” so Ballymena became a laughing stock for quite a while unfortunately.

I hope next year Womad will come back here again. It was bunged too.

As a side note, the guys from Siyaya came to our
That morning. They had sung to all the parkrunners before they left. I usually start at 9 rather than the half 9 start because Ushi likes to stop quie a lot along the course, so it gives us more time so that we can still come in with the others and catch up with everyone. Because i had missed Siyaya singing, they sung especially for me when i came back. It was quite weird. They litterally surrounded me so they could sing for me. I thought they would just sing, but they all got on the bench i was sitting on and sung a beautiful rendition of “The lion sleeps tonight”. I felt so privilidged, and i wasn’t expecting them to sing again for me at all.

I would like to thank everyone who made community relations week happen. I had also attended a workshop the day before on Polish culture which was also very interesting.

If you would like to hear some of the music from Womad,
Here is a clip

It was deffinetly a great way to spend a Saturday night!

Ship To Shore Launch

Tonight was the launch of our
Ship to shore
On the belfast barge.

I must say it went very well. The minister for the department for culture, arts, and leisure was meant to come, but she couldn’t so we had the deputy Lord Mayor for belfast too, who thankfully was able to come. She also is the minister for disability too throughout belfast but don’t quote me on that. Arts Extra which is a radio program about the arts were meant to come too but they never got back to us.

The launch was basically me and a friend introducing the exhibition and thanking the funders, followed by whine and lemmonaid and people just browsing.

The prints are on display for the next month, so please do call in and have a nose. They are downstairs.

I even saw my old art teacher from school which was cool. She even has all my old work :).

Thanks again to everyone involved.

I would also like to thank one of the volunteers for deciding to eat with me afterwards in the washington bar. It was nice to have some company. Thanks Liz :).

Accessability Oddit

Today i headed out to do an accesability oddit to see how a place was for visually impaired people. A company has been set up by a wheelchair user called
Trip Ability
And part of their work involves doing access oddits for buildings and public attractions. They are going to do these oddits throughout the coming year. They are approaching local counscils and offering to carry out these oddets to make places more accessible and to make sure the right provisions are being provided.

Today we were heading up to Castle Gardens in Antrim. The head of the company picked me up from Antrim train station. Unfortunately Ushi wasn’t too keen to get in the car as it has a metal ramp to get up to it. The ramp then has to be raised to get in to the car so i’m not sure how to get ushi used to it if she ever has to be in the car again. I just reassured her and once she was in and out of the car she was grand but it was a new sensation for her.

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the amount of dog bowls scattered around. This wasn’t for guide dogs but it was just because it must be a popular spot for dog walkers. They have loads of outside taps too. There was a guy who was in a wheelchair who runs the company, a deaf guy who went to school with me, and me and Ushi. We all had different cryteria that had to be met like ramps and steps and such. The ramps and that had to be measured too.

We all started in the reception area and went our separate ways then. The first thing i asked for was provision for guide dogs such as water. I knew this was already available but it was so hot too that i wanted to make sure Ushi was well watered. I asked if they provided braille or large print and they said they didn’t but they had braille signs. I asked what would happen if someone with a visual impairment came on their own and would someone be able to guide them throughout the gardens. They said normally someone does a tour but if that wasn’t available then a member of staff would do it so i presume they would assist you.

We then headed off to look for some steps. It is all flat ground but some of it is paving stones. I thought they were grand but they would maybe need to be a little flatter.

There was a little road where lawnmorers and stuff would go but there was no tactile paving at it so i suggested that some would need to be put there. When you crossed that, you didn’t know you were on the opposite path, so i suggested some tactile paving be put there as well as a handrail to take you down the ramp that was there.

We walked across gravel at the bottom of the ramp which was quite easy to walk on. Normally some gravel is very hard on your feet even through your shoes. There was a little band stand in the middle which had four steps up to it. There was no handrails and no tactile markings to indicate the steps and the steps weren’t painted. This was noted that there should be tactile paving and handrails and the steps should be brightly painted. I said that i didn’t know if the tactile paving could be put at the bottom of the steps since it was gravel but deffinetly at the top of the steps.

Around the band stand was this decorative boarder. It was a paved area about a foot wide and it went right along the gardens. I asked was it consistent but it wasn’t. I thought maybe it was put in for people to follow but it wasn’t. It was nice and low and all, but i said it seemed pointless as it looked a bit like a small step. I know it was there to look nice, but i said they should have either one or the other meaning they should either have it all paved or gravel rather than this little bit. The counscil probably won’t like that suggestion though.

The ramp was measured that acompanied the steps up to the band stand and it was 8 degrees. Apparently it can’t be above 15 degrees as a standard so that was okay.

We went to the reception again after to look at stairs and lifts. There was another floor to the building but i’m not too sure what was on it. The lift buttons had braille on them, but the lift didn’t announce which floor you were on. While that is okay for only one floor, i pointed out that it might still be useful to have it announce the floors. The call button was a bit low, but i thought nothing of it. Apparently there is a standard for the call buttons to be a certain height too.

Even things like the door mats had to be looked at to make sure they wouldn’t become a trip hazzard.

We stopped off at the caffe after as we all needed a drink. We were sitting in like a courte yard. I pointed out that if you were in the main caffe they should maybe have someone to help you read the menu and stuff. That was noted too.

Finally we went out through the gift shop, but there is a little lip going up that would maybe need to be flattened a bit. The shop was quite spatious though.

Overall, there weren’t many issues from my point of view, but i think the wheelchair user found some. The findings will be put to the counscil to see if it can be changed at some point.

we headed back to the bus station from there. I must say that Antrim bus station seems very hard to get around. The train and bus station have been redeveloped in to one station. I could not find the counter to ask for assistance. Ushi ended up taking me to the toilets lol instead. Eventually we found a counter. I could hear someone behind it so i waited a while before knocking the window. I got no response so looked for another counter. Eventually someone answered, and once i got to the counter i did get assistance, but finding it was the problem.

When we got to Ballymena, we hit a snag. It was boiling today. I kept Ushi well watered today, but she kept showing me to every seat on the ballymena platform lol. We were then going to walk home but Ushi refused. So we went over to the bus station since it was quite a while before the next bus home. My sister and dad came to meet me so i didn’t have to get the bus. Ushi eventually walked home but i just walked her home and got guided. I was looking forward to going to yoga tonight, but i knew by the way Ushi was that it was just far too warm i think for her her to concentrate. I knew by the way she was that she wasn’t being stubborn either as normally she works so well.

It was a good day though and i look forward to helping Trip ability again in the future.

Ship To Shore By Acorn Arts

In September, I became involved with the Acorn Arts group. Acorn Arts was set up 15 years ago with the aim of bringing people with a visual impairment together to enjoy the arts. It was set up to increase social ingagement, and get people involved with other groups. If somebody from the RNIB showed an interest in art, they would be referred to Acorn Arts to increase their confidence, independence and self esteem.

I joined Acorn Arts because i had done art for my GCSEs and wanted to get back in to it again. Plus there isn’t really much around for blind and partially sighted people in Ballymena I felt, so I wanted to travel. When I heard that Acorn Arts were looking for more visually impaired people to do a print project called “Ship to shore” about the maritime history around Belfast, I jumped at the chance.

The theme was a very wide theme. It was hard initially to think about what to do, so the artests from the project kindly took us on to the Barge where the exhibition will be held. This gave us a greater insight in to what life was like for the workers in those days, and how hard it must have been. The heating was broken on the boat, but at the time I thought it had been done for effect. There was even interviews with some of the workers from the ship yard. There were phones attached to the wall, but with the coldness of the room and the shape of the phones, they made me think that the phones were perhaps old shower heads dotted around the ship. I think I let my imagination run away with me there.

Once we had some idea of what we were going to do, we set to work. I had done printing at school, but this was etching in to polystyrene. For this print project however, we made the plates first out of cardboard before covering them in tin foil and rolling ink all over it. It was a fun, but messy experience.

On the 19th of June, the “Ship To Shore” exhibition sets sail on the Belfast Barge for one month only. Please come aboard for 7.00 PM sharp where you will be taken back through a very iconic time for our country. You will learn how the prints were constructed, from the bare plates to the finished, framed pieces as well as meeting the artests involved. There will be nibbles on board so be sure to come along. We hope to insure fair winds for everyone, so have included Braille and large print information about the project. Unfortunately we cannot get it in to audio, but that is why we will be there to talk you through all the stages of the project.

One of the artests who helped us with the project said: “Printmaking was new to almost everyone and I found it interesting that regardless of the level of disability everyone showed their determination to do everything themselves and get to grips with the process. Some of the members actually researched the theme in their own time and brought artefacts to the sessions to share/ discuss, and the guide dog users in the group were keen to use time outside the session to get hands on at the Belfast Barge who were extremely accommodating. Unfortunately there was a level of illness during the project, 2 group members were particularly unwell but one returned close to the end of the project after major heart surgery to create a print for the exhibition. This was a fine illustration of the high level of commitment from the group.”-Claire McGoran.

I look forward to seeing you all at the Barge on Thursday the 19th June. If you would like more information on the Belfast barge, please visit
The Belfast barge website

To find out more.

Far And Wild

Yesterday I went to Crawfordsburn country park with Angel Eyes for something called
Far and wild
Which is an outdoor company who try to teach kids about nature and stuff. They do things for different groups, but recently they have branched out in to the disability sector.

It was a horrible day when I left Ballymena. So horrible, in fact, that after our parkrun, Ushi had decided to stay at home when i went to head out again. She just stretched out on her bed as if to say “I’m not going anywhere”, so I had my cane for company. Right enough, she did get totally drenched on our parkrun.

When we got to Bangor station, there was a festival on. They had live music and people walking on stilts, as well as a steam train. We headed off to crawfords burn from there. There were at least two or three families there which we were quite surprised about given the weather. We were introduced to the instructors who i can’t remember their names, but they were going to be helping us for the afternoon.

We first of all had a very wet walk to a thing called the Night line. This is where you are blind folded and you have a rope which you have to follow. I did a more complicated one of this where you had to go through cargo nets and stuff a few years ago but this was just a simpler version to get us talking to each other.

We then had to walk along the rivers edge until we got to our next chalenge. Normally the little river that flows through crawfordsburn is tiney but yesterday it was really flowing rather quickly. We had to pick up different plants along the way and see if we could identify them through sight, smell or touch.

The instructors had put up a markee for the next part so that was good. We were making a bread called Banuck bread. I think that’s the right spelling anyway. It’s really simple to make. All you need is flour, water and margarine. We all got turns mixing it, and then the water had to be added in slowly. Next, we were all given a piece of the dough which we had to roll out and wind round the end of a scure. We had to make sure all of the scure was covered so that it wouldn’t burn. We then held the scures over little bbqs which had little grills on them. The bread was really nice. The only thing that wasn’t was when a bit of bazzle was put in to the dough and it was so so strong when you bit in to it. We also had fried bananas. I found out later that the far and wild guys opperate a “leave no trace” policy which meant that apart from the markees nobody would know they had ever been there. I think it’s to protect the environment too. So all of the scures were burned on the fires after we had finished with them.

After this, we walked along to the river again and the kids got the oportunity to walk through a really muddy bit in their bare feet. They then got to wash their feet in the stream. I declined that one lol.

By this time it had dried up and was quite nice. We went down to the little beach part in crawfordsburn and the kids had to find something interesting on the beach. The sea was lovely and calm which i was quite surprised about.

We finished the day by getting in to a kisser i think it was called. This was basically what felt like an elasticated sheet which you pulled down over your bum and sat down. It is apparently used to warm people up because the more people you have in them, the warmer it gets because of people’s body heat. We sat and drank warm ribeena and discussed the afternoon. My favourite part was the bread because i had never done that before.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it and we all started heading for home after that. I would like to thank the far and wild guys for their time and i’m glad the weather didn’t spoil it.