A BA in FA
My background (long ago) is in Fine Art, gaining a degree from Goldsmith’s in 1989 (the same year as many of the BritArt stars). From there I went on to work in the newly emerging field of Desktop Publishing, acquiring experience in publishing houses before going on to work freelance. This was very financially successful and allowed me time to become involved with the Young Unknowns Gallery in Waterloo which eventually led to setting up a business – GOAT art and design agency.
Woops, that wasn’t meant to happen
In early 1992 very soon after the completion of GOAT’s first commission, I went to hospital for a diagnostic procedure on my right hand. Things did not go according to plan and, after much surgery and other interventions, nearly five years later I had the final operation to remove what was left of my hand. I had tried to carry on with the business for several months but it was clearly impossible and I was not able to work at all during this period.
Once my arm was finally stabilised and I had dealt with most of the other problems that had arisen from the years of surgery and opiate dependency, I got myself out of the city. London had become too much and I had fallen in love with the quiet greenness of West Wales. For the first year or so I was busy teaching myself additional skills and catching up with the new technology that had appeared in the five years I’d been in the medical wilderness, most notably the internet and web design.
Women’s Music Festival
I became involved with a local charity shortly before their first event – a music camp – held in 1998. I was ‘volunteered’ to produce posters and programmes for the event and subsequently to write a press release. Subsequently I was contracted under a variety of job titles and also gave voluntary time when funding was not available or adequate. For many years I was the group’s Information Officer, responsibilities covering all printed publicity material for the Festival and other events, the website, and a whole various of other tasks. I managed the festival bookings system, including database design, organised crew for the festival in advance and throughout the festival. I also acted as ‘Disability Access Co-ordinator’, a role which involved pre-festival work on policies and guidelines as well as making sure that the site itself was as friendly as possible for the many disabled women who attended the event. This aspect of the job was highly rewarding and educational.
Disability Equality Foundation
This interest in access led me to seek Disability Equality Training because I wanted to make sure that I was as up to date as possible with the language and terminology and to make sure that the Festival was as accessible as we could make it. It was during my first DET foundation day that I realised that I had the potential and the capability to be a Disability Equality Trainer myself.
I can do that
The next step was to find a way of gaining the further training I would need to become an effective trainer. At first it seemed that there was no such training available, certainly not anywhere near where I lived and I would have to find another way, but then I heard about DETonate. This course was going to be run by Disability Arts Cymru (formerly Arts Disability Wales) to train up ten disabled people as arts specific Disability Equality Trainers. The course was ideally suited to my background and what I wanted to do and I could not believe my luck. Getting a place on the course was no easy matter, high standards were expected and I was very relieved when my place was finally confirmed.
Training the Trainer
The course ran from January to April 2003 and completely exceeded my expectations in terms of the sheer learning and personal development I felt that I achieved during the four modules. I now have enough experience, working with a variety of organisations to feel fully confident with my skills as a Disability Equality Trainer. One participant wrote on a feedback form that it had been “a life altering experience”. That’s what I’m aiming for.
Training the Trainer some more
Since then I have completed ‘Training the Trainer’ courses with two other organisations. The first was a 4 day course in December 2005 with Disability Equality in Education/Scope, with a focus on the newly announced Disability Equality Duty. The second was a one day course with Attitude is Everything, an organisation which promotes better access for disabled people to clubs, music venues, festivals etc. I also attended a top-up training weekend with Disability Arts Cymru to learn some additional creative training techniques.
Between 2006-2011 I worked part-time as Projects Manager for DASH, a Ceredigion based charity organising playschemes and other leisure opportunities for disabled children and young people. During this time I gained Level 4 qualifications in Management from the ILM and NVQ.
Back to Freelancing Freedom
In February 2011 I left DASH to return to freelancing again. I divided my time between Disability Equality Training, graphic and web design (goat.biz) and my hobby/passion photographing the local landscape, my immediate environment and animals. I also got involved with various community and voluntary organisations and was involved in the development of a startup CIC organisation.
The job I always wanted
If I had been asked to invent a job for myself I would have asked to open a West Wales office for Disability Arts Cymru. Little did I know that they had secured extra money from the Arts Council of Wales to employ field officers in West and North Wales. So, when I saw the advert I knew that was the job for me. After interviewing successfully in July, I started my new job in September 2011 with Disability Arts Cymru. The organisation is based in Cardiff but I work as the West Wales Field Officer – it’s a kind of outreach job, meeting disabled artists, talking to organisations, training, supporting groups to develop, whatever I can do to help really. I cover Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire so there’s quite a bit of travel. In 2013 I was accepted to train as a Mental Health First Aid Trainer and have been delivering this amazing, transformative course, all over Wales. There is less call for Disability Equality Training since the Equality Act 2010 took away the individual nature of disability amongst all the other “Protected Characteristics” but there’s still work to do in helping people who are developing groups or events to make sure tat their access is done right from the start, so the training has broadened out rather than narrowed down.
Disability Rights Services
I am also involved with a local organisation called Disability Rights Services who help sick and disabled people with their benefits applications, appeals and Tribunals. It’s kind of scary to be the advocate in Tribunals where so much is at stake for the client but we rarely lose a case and winning is so very satisfying.