We head to Brighton to see how Blind Veterans UK is using arts and crafts to bring veterans together and fight loneliness.
The art and craft workshop in the Brighton Centre is a hub of bustling activity. It is an inspirational space in which an amazing array of tools and materials sit alongside beautifully crafted artwork. While visitors are always impressed when they see ‘what blind people can do’, the centre is not merely somewhere to make and showcase art.
At the centres run by Blind Veterans UK guests get the opportunity to enjoy art activities designed specifically for those who are blind and meet others who are living with sight loss. It’s a great way of alleviating isolation, not just the isolation of sitting alone at home with nothing exciting to look forward to, but also the isolation that comes with being the only person in a family or community who is dealing with visual impairment.
The Blind Veterans UK team offer a warm welcome and the chance to learn more about the wide range of art and craft activities that have been designed for all abilities, so everyone from the complete novice to the budding Rembrandt will feel at home. Most of those who attend the sessions live locally and visit the centre every week; some are holiday makers who just pop in for a single event – but all enjoy the sense of purpose, community and inclusion that attending a session brings.
For many veterans the workshops organised by the charity are the highlight of their week. For them it is not just an art studio, but somewhere to meet friends and feel part of a ‘family’. The centre is also the place to sign up for a training course. The classes cater for those who enjoyed arts and crafts before sight loss and would like to learn how to adapt their style to accommodate this, as well as veterans who have never engaged in any art activity before and would simply like to learn a fun, new skill.
When you have lost your sight and find you can no longer do the things you enjoyed before, it is easy to find yourself isolated and bored. This is why the sessions organised by Blind Veterans UK teams such as this one in Brighton are so vital to the work that we do. In centres such as these veterans can socialise with people with similar interests, learn a new hobby and meet others dealing with the same day-to-day issues. Above all, they are somewhere where veterans can go rebuild their self-belief and foster a new sense of belonging.