• York Rotary

Accessible Arts and Media

Mike Fieldsend reports... Just when you think you have got a handle on what goes in in York in the charitable sector, someone comes along and turns your assumptions upside down. Such an occasion occurred when Kirsty Halliday came to speak to us on November 13th about the work of Accessible Arts and Media, a York based charity working with people with varied and often complex difficulties..

As a Friend of York Rotary, Kirsty’s was already known to some members of the club. However even those who had met her previously must have been amazed as she outlined the incredible range of work Accessible Arts and Media does in the local community.

The power of music in helping those with learning difficulties, dementia, and mental health problems is reasonably well know. However, Accessible Arts and Media has taken this concept and run with it, introducing a wide range of programmes from some that are relatively simple in format – like the ‘Hands and Voices Choir’, through to others that make imaginative uses of technology – such as iMUSE (Interactive Multi-sensory Environment), where movement through space is transformed into musical sounds and physical sensations. Video clips of participants taking part in both these activities were extremely moving.

Although the name has changed over the years, Accessible Arts and Media has been working in York since 1982. Their achievements have been noticed much further afield however. In 1996 they were awarded a significant Lottery Grant to enable them to set up quality recording facilities. Then in 2009 they were nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, followed in 2019 with a nomination for a National Diversity Award. Although they did not win either of these competitions, their national profile was significantly enhanced.

The work of Accessible Arts and Media is, by its very nature, face-to-face and hands-on. Covid brought most of that to an end. Undaunted however, they immediately set up sophisticated on-line programmes using social media to enable live sessions as well as pre-recorded packages. These have received large numbers of viewings. Imaginatively 1:1 singing lessons were arranged over the telephone for those who were unable to access the on-line facilities and, once safe social distancing could be achieved, some face-to-face sessions took place in people’s gardens.

Going forward, Kirsty acknowledged the difficulties of getting back to their previous working model, explain that a system of dual delivery is likely to be required for some time.

This was an inspiring talk and York Rotary is fortunate in having Kirsty as a ‘Friend’. Accessible Arts and Media is a prime example of how Rotary in York can build and develop its ‘outward focus’ to assist with the excellent work being undertaken.

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