In Frome we worked with people with learning difficulties in partnership with Openstorytellers. Participants were living in different locations in Somerset: Dallimore Mead (Nunney), Northcroft (Cheddar), Street Farm (Draycott), or in their own homes. The mural is installed in Victoria Park, Frome.
The mural is in three sections, based on themes from the workshops:
1. What makes us happy
This section shows the things that make people happy. Some images are based on photographs of people acting out the times they are most happy:
- Being with family and friends
- Running on the beach
Some images are taken from original drawings:
- Swimming in the sea
- Being at home
Other images are used to show what people described through discussion:
2. What we hope for
This section shows the things that people hope for in their lives. Again some images are taken from photographs, some from original drawings. The hopes included:
- Becoming a bus driver
- Performing on stage
- Having a family
- Staying in current housing, with lots of lovely trees.
3. The difficulties we face
This section is against a grey background. On the left there is a picture of a hand and the word 'barriers'. Next to this there is a picture of bus crossed out, with a person standing at a bus stop looking down the road. At the bottom there is a man receiving wages with one hand and giving back his benefits with the other hand. Next to him there are symbols for male and female public toilets, with a wheelchair user crossed out. At the bottom right is a silhouette of a person crouched over with his hands over his ears. At the top right there is a woman with her hands over her face, next to her there is black silhouette with her back turned.
This section shows the barriers that people described in their lives. Again some images are taken from photographs of participants acting out the issues. Some people wished to be recognisable in the picture.
The issues shown include:
- Family and friends are too busy to spend time together.
- Lack of accessible toilets.
- Lack of buses.
- Too much noise.
- Difficulties getting a job due to benefits trap and lack of transport.
People at the bigger residential centres involved in this work have use of a minibus. This makes it relatively easy for staff to get all residents to the same place. It becomes very hard when people follow their own personal preferences. This is increasingly hard as transport and other services are being cut. People living in their own homes in rural areas described particular difficulties getting out. It is ironic that the rhetoric of personal choice is being used at the same time as cutting services.
Creating the Mural
The Opening Event
An official opening event was held to which participants invited anyone they wished to see the work and understand the messages. The event was well attended, with representatives from town, county and national government, as well as service providers, people from other residential centres, friends, family and local community.
Participants sang songs and explained their messages.
Here is a video of the making of the Frome mural, and the opening event.
David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome.
What people said
We had very positive feedback from:
The artwork is a real success, it has a strong message and it's beautiful. It also adds a splash of colour to a rather gloomy building. Please send my congratulations to all involved.
It is very important that those issues were brought up. I do not automatically think disabled access when I plan an event or consider how something will impact on people with learning difficulties or physical access problems. It does need to keep being brought to our notice. Tiresome but the reality of it.
I'll really miss this work. I've enjoyed it so much.
Thank you, I really liked doing it.
I'm so proud of it.
Members of the public passing by
I'll be very proud to show people when they come to the town
Brightens up the area and catches your eye
Good to have in the park
Brightens up the area.
Whoever did it was very clever
Makes you stop and think
Press for the opening event
From the Somerset Standard: