Celebrating access to the arts with a new sensory festival

Black and white photograph of manhole cover on pavement with blurred edges to show Marcus' point of view
A photograph exhibited by Marcus Inniss at Moorfields Eye Hospital

Access to the arts is so important, but can often be misunderstood as simply a ‘nice thing to do’ rather than as a fundamental right. Creativity gives us the tools to make sense of the world and articulate our thoughts and feelings, and we’re yet to find ways of making this available to all.

At Sense we’re interested in ways to empower people to find their cultural voice, and we’re doing this through working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to interrogate access to art through the senses.

Open Senses Festival

Smiling man watching accessible film in cinema
Partcipants of the Accessible Film Project experiencing their films on the big screen

Sense is involved with an incredible new festival called Open Senses, which is taking place from 19-21 May in London. There are over 50 events at 25 venues across London. There will be art exhibitions, live events and performances, sensory journeys and walks, open studios and labs, and a ground-breaking symposium.

We’re involved in quite a few ways: as an accessibility consultant, working with others to develop accessible experiences; supporting artists with sensory impairments to create new work for the festival; and exhibiting some of our existing work.

I’m really excited about Sense ambassador Marcus Inniss’ exhibition at Moorfields Eye Hospital. This original work provides a glimpse into his experience of Usher Syndrome – a genetic condition affecting sight and hearing – through photography, film and design.

The condition affects everyone differently but can result in tunnel vision, night blindness and distortions in perceiving colour. It’s interesting to be showing this work in a clinical environment, within a working hospital, and putting those two experiences, of patient and artist, together; it’s creating a dialogue about the creative opportunities that come from seeing or sensing things differently.

I’ll also be visiting the V&A Museum who will be showing a series of films Sense and Kate Dangerfield (PhD student at Roehampton University) have been collaborating on entitled the Accessible Film Project. Last year we received funding from the BFI’s Diversity Fund to develop new ways of creating access to low budget film-making for people with complex needs.

The project workshops have been participant-led and through working with all sorts of wearable and accessible equipment, participants have been creating fascinating films which really open up their world to us. Expect stop-motion animation, drumming and dreamy ethereal landscapes. We also worked with the V&A to develop their sensory backpacks which are available to hire all year round and especially over the weekend.

In addition to all of this, Stephanie Tyrrell (the National Arts Manager at Sense) and I are talking at the symposium on Friday 19 May, about our work and Sensory Arts Practice, and Sense will be collecting at Kings Cross station alongside the performances curated by I=U. There are loads of ways to come and say hello!


The Open Senses Festival is from 19-21 May. Visit the Open Senses website to discover what’s on and buy tickets.

Read more about Arts and Wellbeing at Sense.

Kara Jarrold

Author: Kara Jarrold

Kara is Head of Arts & Wellbeing at Sense. She leads on arts projects that find ways to empower people to find their cultural voice, working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to improve access to art through the senses.

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