63-year-old Christine Collins is delighted to showcase her painting in this year's annual art exhibition with the live auction starting on 20 October.
In previous years, the exhibition has been held at our training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton. Due to Covid-19 this year's event has been taken online with the Virtual Exhibition Fundraiser live auction being hosted on eBay. The exhibition includes pieces by our blind veterans as well as some staff and volunteers associated with Blind Veterans UK.
Following the theme of 'Landscape', Christine's entry for the is based on a photograph her son took of a Lake District landscape, completed in watercolour. Christine says: “My eye condition means that I struggle to see large areas at the same time. My central vision is not too bad though so I paint on a small canvas which makes it easier to see and concentrate. Before my sight severely worsened I was really into art but then I lost interest. Blind Veterans UK got me back into it at their Llandudno rehabilitation centre and then set me up with an art station at home. Then this opportunity came up during lockdown and I had to take it.”
Christine entered the RAF in 1977 and spent seven years as a Clerk where she fondly remembers organising flying courses for the Jaguar Squadron. It was later in life at the age of 53 that a genetic condition that she had had since birth, Retinitis Pigmentosa, suddenly revealed itself and caused a rapid deterioration in her sight.
Luckily, she found out about Blind Veterans UK and we have supported her since. She says: “The best thing I ever did was join the RAF as it allowed me to receive support from Blind Veterans UK, who have been absolutely marvellous I honestly don’t think I would have survived without them. I’ve done cookery courses which have taught me how to prepare food safely and been taught how to use a tablet which enables me to stay in touch with friends and family."
Since we first started our work in 1915 with soldiers returning from World War One, the role of art and crafts has been integral to the rehabilitation of its veterans.
From craft skills such as basket-making, woodturning and frame-making in the charity’s early days, to today’s activities of painting, photography, sculpture and mosaic, blind veterans are able to build their sense of independence and develop their creativity.
While once the focus of such training was primarily on the vocational aspects of these skills, blind veterans are now supported in the Blind Veterans UK specialist Art & Craft Workshop to explore the recreational benefits of the arts.
Whether it’s helping to rediscover a skill someone thinks that they may have lost, or encouraging our veterans to try something they’ve never tried before, confidence gained in the workshop often helps to overcome many of the barriers and challenges of sight loss.
“Even during lockdown they’ve set up phone calls with other blind veterans in the local area. It’s great to talk to people in the same position as yourself. It’s seriously scary when you start to lose your sight. But I no longer feel afraid with Blind Veterans UK behind me.”Christine Collins, blind veteran
Other artists' work
“Having the chance to pursue the creative arts is a fantastic way for our veterans to regain confidence after sight loss. This exhibition is a real opportunity to showcase that there really is no barrier for its enjoyment, while also raising much-needed funds for the charity.”Louise Kirk-Partridge, Rehab Lead in the Art & Craft Department