Thomas Goldstone is a student at Goldsmiths, studying MA Design Expanded Practice. Thomas (or Tom) was one of our placements holders in 2018. Tom shares his thoughts with us on his experience.
The search for a meaningful placement for my summer term at Goldsmiths was coincidently around the time I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia, at 24, through the university. I studied fine art as an undergraduate in Bristol, and while my practice now leans more towards design through the Masters in London, I still consider myself to be first and foremost an artist. I wanted to use this time to connect with and understand this new, unearthed part of my identity while re-connecting with the arts.
My mission was to find a Dyspraxia/Neurodiverse-supportive environment in the creative sector. Neurodiversity: is the umbrella term for range of conditions, from dyslexia and dyspraxia to tourette’s syndrome and autism, and many others. It is also the concept that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as any other human variation is. Neurotypical, meaning neurologically typical – usual, common, – is therefore the opposite of Neurodivergent.
I see my long-term role as being a facilitator and an enabler of creative practises, opportunities, and events, and through the research for a placement I discovered Shape Arts and Unlimited – the perfect combination of supporting disabled people within the arts sector.
The Social Model of Disability – which informs all the work Shape and Unlimited do – was something I was completely unaware of before discovering Shape Arts and Unlimited and I was not made aware of this by any other kind of institutes, work or education. During the placement I took part in a Disability Equality Training session with Tony Heaton OBE. This not only completely opened my eyes and transformed the way I think about disability and access, but helped me greatly to come to terms with my own dyspraxia by framing it in a positive and empowering context. What stood out most for me was learning about how important language is in relation disability. Sensitive, appropriate and thoughtful use of language has always been an important factor in both my art and design work and so it was extremely inspiring to know people are also working towards these kinds of things.
The main purpose of my role during the placement was to think about welcoming, comfort, and access for the delegate experience at the Unlimited Symposium at the Unicorn Theatre and the Southbank Centre’s Unlimited festival. I have always been passionate about curating, arranging spaces and putting on events, so this was an opportunity for me to improve these skills but more importantly to learn about access and accessibility in relation to putting on events in the arts.
A large part of the placement was spent researching and studying different access documents and maps, and so after doing this, and undertaking the training, I embarked upon multiple site visits to both venues in order to think about and draft up possible access strategies for the key areas. Access and accessibility was something new to me at the time, but now it will always be an essential part of my practice and will inform everything I make and do – including my final major project for the MA.
We used bean-bags, cushions and yoga mats as alternative forms of seating. The bean-bags in particular were a hit across the Symposium and the festival. I am someone who becomes physically uncomfortable very easily and find it almost impossible to concentrate or to learn when I am not comfortable – I feel you can make great decisions and change the world whilst sinking into a large pink bean-bag. Fact.
The alternative seating was used for the main screenings and events as well as for the quiet and resting areas, it was great to see so many people using them. As well as providing physical alternatives for comfort, designated quiet and relaxed areas provided physical as well as mental breaks away from the main events and spaces. As someone who can be overwhelmed and overstimulated by lots of information and sound I appreciated these areas, and again I was pleased to see them being used to good effect. I suggested we buy ear-defenders for people who wanted to be physically involved in the action but distanced from the noise – I saw lots of people using these, they were a success.
During my time here, I learned about how Unlimited and Shape Arts operate, from an arts admin (and Artsadmin…) and practical perspective, as well how has a commissioning programme goes about supporting their artists. I met and worked with many people across different roles and sectors from Unlimited, Shape Arts and Artsadmin, and people from the Unicorn Theatre and Southbank Centre where the Symposium and festival was held. I had the pleasure to meet and work with the two Unlimited international placements Sandie Yi and Nolan Stevens, who flew over from Chicago and South Africa, and Becky and Sonny who were the two current trainees from Unlimited.
When the Symposium and festival, which the placement was working towards, arrived I was exposed to inspiring art, artist, performances and performers while surrounded by an incredibly diverse audience. I feel very proud to have been a part of such an inclusive and diverse programme of events and community, and I can’t thank Unlimited enough for this opportunity – especially Isabella and Jo for all their hard work and support.