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.

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'A wonderful adventure' – the Forest of Dreams goes on display in Cambridge

The leaders of the project, Jenny and Marion
Marion and Jenny leading the way

As the final conclusion to an amazing England and Wales-wide epic project of making dreams more tangible, Kara Jarrold, Sense Arts and Wellbeing Manager, went to show off the brilliant Forest of Dreams to an audience filled with textiles artists and professionals. Here’s her account of how impressed they all were with the work the Sense deafblind artists created.


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CRsea exploration of creativity!

Sense’s Cambridge Resource Centre is an education and day service based on the outskirts of Cambridge, in the village of Knapwell,  reachable through an avenue of mature trees surrounded by farm land. Such beautiful settings have helped inspire the latest round of Creativity@Work projects.

Arts and Wellbeing aficionado at the Centre, Jess Brook, takes us through some of the recent developments in this lovely part of the world. This first installment takes us from snow-filled fields to medieval armoury.

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The ‘Choo Choo Quack Quack’ blog post

Sitting at a train station taking recordings
One of our recordings included going on a train. Everybody really enjoyed it and we recorded some good sounds, fast trains, the train driver speaking and the aeroplanes going over head whilst we waited at the station

For the Creativity@Work project, staff and students at Sense@Keech have been getting very musical of late. They’ve recently teamed up with Matt Lewis and a new music therapist Alex to widen the types of projects they do and what fun they had! Leyanne from the service, with help from Asif, one of the centre’s students, tells us about what they got up to:

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Curious Ceramics: new sensory bags launching at the V&A

bags containing props such as clogs, fan, building blocks
What will you find in the sensory bags?

What do ceramics feel like? What are they made of? What smells would we associate with the ceramic trade? How is a 5 foot tower of china constructed?

Come along to the V&A’s launch of their new sensory bags, providing a multi-sensory insight into the ceramics collection on display at the world-famous museum of all things designed and crafted. The Museum teamed up with Sense and multi-sensory artist Abigail Hirsch to create their first ever resource for children with multi-sensory impairments.

The backpack is full of sensory activities that can be enjoyed by all families, including a musical rain stick, a magnetic drawing board and ceramic touch objects amongst others. Through multi-sensory objects, textures, sounds and smells, children will get to discover curious ceramic objects from China to the Netherlands, learn how they were made and how ideas and materials travelled the world to reach Europe. The pack will be available for free all year round to borrow from the museum’s learning centre.

Bring a picnic and enjoy the fine open spaces of the museum and join us for the new pop-up performance from No Nonsense Theatre with British Sign Language interpretation.

The bag launches on 1st August 10:30 – 14:30, for more details.

If you would like to sign up, please contact Kara Jarrold (kara.jarrold@sense.org.uk) to register your place.

Sensory Photography: the final exhibition!

A photograph of someone almost out of shot, interesting composition
‘There’s Someone’

Over the last few months, Sense has been working on a very exciting project with PhotoVoice, the charity specialising in making photography accessible and whose vision is for a world in which no one is denied the opportunity to speak out and be heard. The workshops delivered by PhotoVoice explored how to make photography accessible for people with sensory impairments and culminated in a public exhibition for Deafblind Awareness Week 2015.

John Kirkham, the assistant day services manager at Sense’s TouchBase South East centre in Barnet, explains why the project was so valuable and enjoyable and what everyone got out of trying photography in a new way.

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What's happening in the Arts & Wellbeing team?

Photo of Material Memories makers at exhibition of quilt
Celebrating the end of a Sense quilting project

Exciting times are afoot in the Arts and Wellbeing camp!

I’ve been in the post as the new Head of Arts and Wellbeing for two months now and it’s high time I updated our wonderful Arts Blog with news about what we’re up to . With three big events launching this week in time for Deafblind Awareness Week 2015, here is a word about some of the work we do and why it’s important.

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Creativity@Work – Market Deeping’s new Garden Project!

Spades resting in a wheelbarrow ready for the next stageAt Sense, we are some way through our Creativity@Work scheme which is all about supporting our staff to use their creative skills in the workplace – bringing new perspectives to the work that they do and engaging those we support. More updates showcasing this fabulous work will appear soon, but for now Mel Barr tells us a little about the project she’s been working collaboratively on with others and shares some sunny photos of the work in progress at Manor Court:

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Weaving with sound

We were very lucky to have guests at a recent Material Memory session who showed us some pretty cool things we could do with weaving. Emilie Giles from the Open University explains what we got up to:

For session 3 of Material Memory, myself and Janet van der Linden from the Open University ran a session with the group in weaving with eTextiles (yarns, threads, fibres and fabrics which can conduct electricity) and other interesting materials. Using a combination of these, a woven swatch can be created that can trigger sound on a computer, just by touching it.

I had popped in to see the group the week before to demonstrate something which I had made, a woven swatch containing an array of conductive and non-condcutive materials. Everyone took turns to have a go with it, stroking, poking and squeezing it to explore how their actions could change the sound produced, using a circuit board called Arduino and an application called Super-Collider.

We began the workshop by exploring conductive materials: some of these being very metal-like, smelling metallic and feeling rough, whilst others feeling soft like regular thread.


The group were very intrigued as to how a soft object such as this could trigger music and spent some time feeling my example piece, and the different textures within it.


As the Islington museum also have a wonderful archive upstairs, we also drew from their collection of photographs of dance halls, theming our workshop around music as we were using the eTextile to trigger different sounds and songs.

 IMG_6707 1

We showed the participants how they could trigger music files with the conductive materials using a circuit board by Bare Conductive called the Touch Board, sparking conversation about songs which they wanted us to find. One participant also brought in some music for us to listen to which her mother used to sing to her.


Before they began their weaving we asked the participants to go over to a materials table and spend some time feeling different yarns, threads and fibres including jute fibre, milk protein fibre, a selection of yarns, unwashed sheep’s wool and merino fibres. One of the participants commented on how the latter reminded her of a cat. They also chose conductive yarn and fibre to go in their weaving too.


Everyone’s approach to the weaving was different, as well as favouring different materials, everyone’s technique differed too.

Some participant’s followed an over and under technique, whilst others went back on their warp (the yarn they were weaving through) before going onto the next part. Some participants chose to include personal materials, such as fabric and ribbon which they had brought in whilst others stuck to the materials which we had chosen.




The group was very focussed through the session but everyone
took the time to observe and comment on each other’s work.


At the end of the workshop everyone had something which they could take away, either as a square or a rectangle – each piece being different.

The current idea is that hopefully the participants can make their final collaborate piece, a quilt, interactive. Something which incorporates the work which they did today and that can trigger sounds which are personal to them upon being touched. We will be involved with this process and look forward to catching up with the group and their progress later on in the project.

Thank you Emilie and Janet for your fantastic workshop – the group were excited to show us what they had made and talk about how much they enjoyed the weaving activity – a definite winner!

Piecing it all together

This week we took some inspiration from our surroundings at the wonderful V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

3 V&A

The museum and its buildings have a long history, as Catherine Freeman from the museum describes here. We’ll be meeting Catherine in a few weeks time, when she’ll be bringing some of the museum’s collection to life during an object handling session that we’re all really looking forward to!

On entering the museum, the mosaic-tiled floor may cause you to pause a while. The story goes that female inmates from the Woking Gaol laid the black and white fish scale pattern that greets you if you look down. You can almost make out the individual contributions; there is a certain absence of uniformity which can be seen across the vastness of the floor, belying the many hands that laid it and adding to the wonderful overall effect of this communal effort. Rather like how the quilt is progressing we think! Continue reading “Piecing it all together”