Archives for posts with tag: visual impairment

As I See It Workshop Leader, Amy Conway, gives us an update on what’s been happening with the project.


As I See It is back with a brand new project! Last year was a busy one for Kathy, Emmanuel, Joe and Frank, our visually impaired tour guides, with two successful projects under their belt. Back in early April, our guides delivered a fascinating, personalised insight into the Gorbals area of Glasgow, and then in June they hosted a community event in Maryhill celebrating Glasgow dancehalls and the city’s enthusiasm for dance, both past and present.


As I See It: Dancehall Experience (Photo by Jassy Earl)


And as if that wasn’t enough, our intrepid participants finished the year with the research phase of their next project which is all about the public statues, monuments and sculptures of Glasgow.

This is obviously quite a broad topic and not specific to any particular area of Glasgow, unlike our past projects, and we have had a brilliant time so far, thinking about the many existing statues in our fair city, learning a bit about how these statues are created, and starting to think about what statues might be missing from the city landscape.


Out and about researching

A few fun facts we have gathered from our research for you:

  • If you’re a fan of cartoons, you might already know that there have been two statues commissioned to celebrate the life of Scottish (Partick-born) newspaper cartoonist, Bud Neill. You may know that sheriff “Lobey Dosser” used to sit astride his two legged horse, El Fideldo, on Woodlands Road until it was vandalised and removed by the council. But did you know that there is a second Bud Neill character, “G.I. Bride”, in Partick Station still going strong?
  • Speaking of other statues that have been removed, Robert Burns used to occupy a prime spot in George Square but has been absent recently to undergo restoration and cleaning.
  • Unfortunately we found almost zero statues commemorating the achievements of women(!), but we were interested to learn that the person most depicted in statue form (other than religious icons) in the world was Queen Victoria! Mind you, she did get about a bit.

We’ve also been lucky enough to receive a guided tour of Glasgow Museums Resource Centre by    3-D Art (Sculpture and Installation) Conservator, Stephanie de Roemer. She gave us an exclusive look at some of the pieces she was restoring at the moment and a glimpse into the challenges that an international conservator faces. She’s also employed by UNESCO so gets to help protect sculpture from all over the world, including in places of ongoing conflict! It was particularly interesting to discover that Stephanie disapproves of the infamous traffic cone on top of the Duke of Wellington’s head in Royal Exchange Square. Whilst some feel that this semi-permanent addition to the statue is just part of the cheeky “Glesca” patter, she feels it is disrespectful to the historical significance of the piece, as well as to the publicly-funding authority that maintains it.

Something that irked all of us more generally about the sculptural landscape, is the lack of accessible statues. Older statues tended to be mounted on a high plinth and were generally out of reach with the result that those with visual impairments were not able to fully appreciate or enjoy them. We acknowledged that some of the more modern statues were specifically designed to be interacted with and touching was by no means prohibited, yet there had been instances where this accessibility had led to vandalism or even theft (most recently a statue in the Gorbals got its foot sawn off)!

Having cast a critical eye over Glasgow’s existing statues, observing the recurring features and different types, our guides are now starting to think about what they feel is conspicuously absent. Who or what are not represented in these public artworks? Glasgow institution and champion boxer, Benny Lynch, has already had a statue commissioned which will be erected in the Gorbals area sometime in the near future, but if you could commission one statue for 2017, what would you choose? This is the question our guides will be looking to answer in the coming months and will work with a local artist to realise their ideas.


As I See It: Statues is created with support from the Big Lottery Fund. Terra Incognita is working with groups across Glasgow to create new statues of people and events that are currently missing from Glasgow’s landscape. These statues will be unveiled at a special event in June 2017. Watch this space for more information.



Theatre-maker Ishbel McFarlane has been delivering some workshops with groups of young people who came to see the As I See It Botanics tour. She tells us a bit more about last week’s workshops at Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre.

During our three days of workshops at Toonspeak we were focusing on making our own tour, and using that to help us tell stories. Though we were using a similar form to the Botanics tours, our tour could hardly have ended up more different!

We started each day with a physical warm up, to get our blood flowing. After I discovered that the participants were keen dancers and gymnasts, on the second day they led us in a bit of a gymnastics warm up. I’m pretty pleased to say that I managed a cartwheel and didn’t embarrass myself. I think that is a win all round.

Toonspeak Group PicAfter physical warm up, we had to do a brain warm up. Like our muscles, our brains can get pretty stuck in the same old ways and we need to stretch them to keep them supple and imaginative. We used a technique from Keith Johnstone, the famous teacher of improvisation – first we walked round the room pointing to things and saying what they were: chair, window, bag, shoe etc. Then we stopped and walked around again this time pointing at things and naming them things that they aren’t: kitten, bus, jam jar, Playstation etc. It’s amazing how that freed us from thinking about things as they literally were.

I had brought a collection of random objects which I arranged under a sheet (because who doesn’t love a reveal?). I set each of the participants the challenge to take three objects and re-imagine them as something else. Some tinfoil became a snake, a box of hankies became confetti, and a cut up toilet roll tube became Golum’s ears. Together they came up with the idea of doing a pet shop tour, so we got out all the objects and they transformed them into different pets. And thus was born Olivia and Sean’s Pet Shop Parade!

The second day was spent making the Toonspeak studio space into a pet shop, arranging the pets we had around the room and making five more pets from Toonspeak’s amazing collection of craft materials and props. The time sped by and when the taxi beeped to pick up our performers, we were all surprised!

Toonspeak SnowyOn the third day we finished making a safety path on the floor with chalk to keep our audience contained (some of those pets are pretty dangerous!) and we rehearsed until the audience arrived. The performers did a fantastic job introducing us to Tilly the Cat (who looked a bit like a wig), and Penny the Parrot (who resembled a steam inhaler), and the ant hill (which reminded us of tissues and tin foil). Everyone was impressed by how polished the performances were, and everyone had their favourite pet. I think Snowy the Owl Who Looks Like ET might have won over all. The performers worked so hard to make the descriptions interesting, and Olivia and Sean did a great job of staying in character as the two owners of a rather remarkable pet shop that has a bear and giant bee with a poster of the queen (bee). I’m glad I finally worked up the courage to hold Sarah the spider…

Thanks to the excellent performers for a fun few days, and to the staff of Toonspeak for all their help organising it. The Olivia and Sean Pet Shop was a true Terra Incognita – unknown land!

Artistic Director, Victoria Beesley, looks forward to today’s As I See It walking tours. 

Today is the day that we are back with a brand new As I See It walking tour.

Since the new year we’ve been working with our fabulous visually impaired tour guides to create a walking tour of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens that combines historical fact with personal memories inspired by the park.

As I write this, the sky is worryingly grey. Based on previous experience it will be chucking it down by the time we step foot in the Botanic Gardens at 2.45pm. However, thanks to John Kibble’s glorious glass palace, this tour has an alternative indoor route that will save us from the summer rain. (Although I will be performing a ritualistic sunshine dance as soon as I finish writing this in the hope that I can work miracles and part the clouds.)

Our Botanic Gardens tour includes stories of cannibal fish, steam train travel, escaped budgies and gardening as a child. The audio of the tours will be available to listen to online at the end of the month. This year Visibility’s Creative Writing Group have also contributed to the project by writing short pieces inspired by parks that we’ll also be sharing.

Kathy and Frank flowersOnce again it has been a total treat working with our four tour guides – Frank, Kathy, Emmanuel and Joe. It is joyful walking with them, hearing their observations, listening to their stories. They are warm, passionate, resilient, bright people. It is a privilege to spend time with them, and I particularly enjoy how much of our workshop and rehearsal time is spent in laughter. So, if the sun doesn’t shine, fear not – the As I See It tour guides can brighten up your week.

As I See It is currently funded by Age Scotland, the Robertson Trust and CashBack for Communities.

The starting point for the As I See It walks.

The starting point for the As I See It walks.

As I See It reaches its conclusion this Saturday with the live walks taking place in Kelvingrove Park.

We asked a few of our tour guides to reflect on the project and to tell us how they’re feeling with less than a week to go until the big day:

It’s been interesting. We’ve got to find out about the history of the park and the rest of Glasgow. I got chance to delve into it and find out more, which was good for me.

I will be a bit nervous on Saturday. You’re always nervous but I’ve learnt to overcome that. I was onstage at one time. I played music all my life. At one point I was part of a musical act that performed at the Metropole Theatre and the Pavilion Theatre. I performed with people like Lex McLean. I was scared when I first went onstage but you got used to it. It was very good, performing every night. Playing music and taking part in all the sketches.

The most important thing is preparation. If you know what you’re going to do you won’t panic. If you panic you’ll dry up and you won’t say anything; your mind is a muddle. If you’re prepared, you’ll know what to say.

We’ll have a good fun day on Saturday.

Emmanuel and Amy

A project like this brings people closer to each other. It makes everybody raise their level of knowledge. What I know and what you know may be very different, but this fuses everything together; our knowledge is for everybody. We take a lot for granted. People pass through Kelvingrove Park day in day out and they don’t notice so many things. But we are helping everyone to look at what is around them and to appreciate it which is very nice. It’s only the weather that might be a problem!

It’s hard when you don’t know anyone but our group is becoming one big umbrella now that we’re walking with each other. We’re all becoming a very good family together. We’ve jumped from friend to family. That’s what it’s all about and I quite enjoy it.

I think we’ll make it as relaxed as possible on Saturday and then everything will be flowing. We’ll make it an enjoyable day out. It’s just a day out for every one of us to enjoy ourselves and we are just lucky some people are coming along to share that enjoyment with us.


Kathy 1st park rehearsal

I’ve never done anything like this before. I was in a play once. I was a Highlander and the others were Jacobites and I wore a kilt. A man’s kilt it was! It was down to my ankles and wrapped around me several times because I was a tiny girl.

It’s been a real joy to be doing this project. I find it most interesting because it just adds to my knowledge. It gives me great happiness. One of my hobbies is studying and to study this is a joy. It makes me so happy and hopefully and prayerfully it will make other people happy when they’re listening to me on the tours. I’m looking forward to a big audience and being able to tell them the major points of what I know. I think it’s going be a good day.

Visit the As I See It website for more information.


For the past eight weeks we have been working with a group of visually impaired volunteers to create a unique walking tour of Kelvingrove Park. This has been a thoroughly enjoyable process, mainly because our tour guides are such a lively, open bunch with a plethora of fascinating stories. But as we’ve walked, talked,  reflected and reminisced I’ve become increasingly aware of how little consideration is given to people with visual impairments and how relatively simple it would be to change that.

I’ve been thinking about:

We’re advertising our As I See It Walking Tours to both sighted and visually impaired people. We need to make sure both images and text use high contrast and clear shapes. Outdoor advertising is a good way of attracting a sighted audience, but will be less effective for attracting a visually impaired audience so we’ll be creating an e-flyer and an audio advert as well to ensure information about the walks is accessible. Our website also aims to be as accessible as possible for people with visual impairments.

The floor
This may seem a bit of an odd one but as we’ve been walking around venues, streets and parks in Glasgow I’ve become increasingly aware of the difficulties uneven surfaces or multi-coloured surfaces can create for someone with a visual impairment. Both of these things create an uncertainty in what is beneath you – is it step, a hole, a slippery surface, gravel? It’s really important that councils make sure paths and pavements are well looked after, and that venues think about simple flooring designs if they want to be accessible.

Cycling on the pavement
I have long been a supporter of cycling on the pavement, mainly because I think (in the absence of proper cycle lanes) the roads are too dangerous and drivers too inconsiderate. However, the As I See It tour guides have several stories of almost being knocked over by cylists on pavements, or at the very least being alarmed at a fast bike suddenly appearing in the little vision they have. If your sight is restricted and you can’t see a cyclist approching, it can be an unsettling surprise to have one whizz by. One tour guide was telling me of an incident that happened last week where a pavement-cyclist shouted, ‘Get out of the way. Are you blind?’ To which he replied, ‘Yes, actually, I am.’

Pelican crossings and bank machines
An odd combination but both a demonstration of how little people with visual impairments are taken into consideration but how big an impact small details can have on their lives. At all good pelican crossings there is a small cone under the box where pedistrians press the button to change the lights. When this cone spins, the green man is on – this helps those with visual impairments, who can’t see the green man, know when to cross. At too many crossings this cone is missing or broken meaning there is no reliable system for visually impaired people to use when crossing roads. This can make the simple experience of crossing a road very intimidating. As for bank machines, one of our tor guides can only access his money on week days when the bank is open. He can’t use cash machines because he can’t see the keys to type his pin number.

Tin openers
That’s right. A simple object that can be found in most houses and which I use several times a week. For a number of our tour guides, opening a tin is a prolongued ordeal. They can’t see if the opener has pierced or latched onto the tin, the metal of the tin bends as they repeatedly try to fix the tin opener onto it… Sometimes it can take twenty minutes to get the contents of the tin out. This is one of many everyday tasks that become more complicated when you have a visual impairment; easier alternatives should be more widely available.

All of these problems could be solved quite simply. Businesses, organisations, venues, councils and individuals just need to take people with visual impairements into account and make small adjustments to their products, services and actions. Simple changes could have a big impact on the lives of people living with visual impairments.

As I See It will be performed in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow on 8th November. For more information visit the website.

As I See It is created with support from Awards for All, Glasgow City Council and the Arches.

Written by Terra Incognita’s Artistic Director, Victoria Beesley.