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.