A Conversation with Lucie Martin-Jones from West of England Centre for Inclusive Living (WECIL)
I’m Lucy Martin-Jones, I work for WECIL, and we have been involved in Connecting through Culture since before the bid even went in, which was nice, so I was involved in the exploration and discussion around ideas with Helen Manchester. Then, within the project, we provided co-researchers from our community and supported them to engage, and then in the next phase, the design phase, we’ve also been a critical partner…around accessibility really.
Could you tell me a bit more about that involvement in the accessibility side of things?
LM-J: …We were able to talk about how to make the project more accessible right from the beginning; so, just things like ensuring there was enough costs to cover transport and how to make meetings and events hybrid when people are unable to leave their homes, … interpreters and things like that, thinking about timings for activities, locations and then just kind of having an accessibility lens as the development of different projects emerged in the in the second year. So, for example, with the Recycle City project, talking about how we could make that an audio as well as a visual project through the AI, for people who couldn’t necessarily engage with the visual. So, just little things like that and just making sure access and inclusion was in the forefront of everyone’s minds throughout the project. Being involved in a lot of different projects this has really shone through – the feedback that we’ve had from people involved, especially from our co-researchers who are older disabled people, has just been amazing. They felt so included all the way through and not just around physical access but also around ownership and autonomy in the project – that’s come through really strongly …all of that stuff makes a massive difference to how people see their role within something and how they feel a part of it… Going to the showcase event you saw how amazing, how involved, what the outcomes have been for people, what people have produced, where it’s going….I think from my point of view what I learned is it’s been a really good example of a project that’s had sufficient budget, which doesn’t always happen, and that does make a massive difference to what you can do… I think for an organisation like ours when you’re often, like day-to-day, doing a lot of work that’s about helping people survive – whether through financial support, the right care; whatever that might be. So, when it’s doing work that’s helping people thrive in like a creative way or in a social way, it’s just a joy to be a part of.
Do you have any thoughts on impacts around creativity and arts?
LM-J: it’s been really evident to see how that brings people together just even having conversations where it’s not like this (indicating facing one another) it’s side by side, focusing on something else; it creates that space to start having deeper conversations – some of the things that were coming out were like really personal and really deep and really impactful to people….I think it’s a good way to broach subjects about difference in those spaces.
For WECIL, as an organisation, what has the partnership brought?
LM-J: It’s given us good connections with creative organisations within the city and externally, and brought us into spaces that we might not have otherwise been in. I suppose we’ve (previously) worked closely with Watershed and Pervasive Media Studios but then (now) there’s Stand + Stare and other organisations who we probably maybe wouldn’t have been involved working with if we hadn’t been involved in this project…it’s good for us to be able to just demonstrate that we make links with organisations outside of our sector – that’s helpful if we want to go for anything in the future that’s in this sort of like creative industry, creative sector.