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By Heart of England Mencap, Sep 12 2017 02:12PM

Heart of England Mencap opens new garden at Alscot

FROM sensory beds to specially created murals, the customers of Heart of England Mencap now have a new outside space to spend time in and reflect.

A previously disused space next to the charity’s day activity base on the Alscot Estate, just outside Stratford, has been transformed into a vibrant walled garden to be used and enjoyed by the local people with learning disaibilities which Heart of England Mencap supports.

There are pots and borders filled with flowers, as well as raised sensory beds full of aromatic lavender and herbs, all ready to be tended by customers and used on cooking courses too.

The walls are decorated with a series of striking murals, created by Heart of England Mencap customers as part of a special art project. Working with the artist Lucy Bergonzi they came up with their own ideas of what to portray and then got to work using specialist waterproof paints.

The result is a stunning series of 8 pictures, all representing something very different, but with real meaning. There are farm animals, representing the voluntary work customers undertake at Mary Arden’s Farm, as well as murals paying tribute to customers who have passed away – from a New Zealand flag to remember Gillian and her roots, to a Wolves emblem to remember Russell’s love of his football team.

The garden also has a bench dedicated to the memory of customer Robin Vick; a place where his friends can sit and reflect and remember him.

“It’s a really special space which will have so many uses,” Jake Thornton, Programme Manager for Mencap’s day activity service Pathway, said.

“We’ll be able to enjoy gardening here and bring so many more activities outside as well, and it’s also a place where our customers can simply sit outside, to have their lunch, enjoy the flowers and nature, and remember their friends as well.”

Heart of England Mencap is very grateful to a team of teenagers who spent time volunteering with the charity over the summer as part of the National Citizen Service scheme, lending their green-fingers to get the garden open.

Funding from Stratford Town Trust has also been instrumental – funding the art project and murals as part of a £12,695 grant to support day activities.

The new garden was unveiled on Friday (September 8th) at a special Open Garden Morning, where customers, staff and supporters enjoyed tea and cake.

Photo: Heart of England Mencap customers Russell and Brian in the new garden, in front of some of the murals, with artist Lucy Bergonzi

By Heart of England Mencap, May 3 2017 09:10AM

AN ACCESSIBLE book club for local people with learning disabilities has now been launched – with the first event at Stratford Literary Festival hailed a huge success.

The club is being run by Heart of England Mencap, following a fundraising appeal launched at the end of last year.

With thousands of pounds having been raised locally, the charity, which supports people with learning disabilities across Warwickshire and Worcestershire, has been able to buy two bumper packs of Books Beyond Words.

They are a series of picture books specially designed for people with learning disabilities. Some tell fictional stories, while other illustrate and explain scenarios, like a visit to the hospital.

Books Beyond Words are now available to Heart of England Mencap customers across its residential and day services throughout Warwickshire.

And the charity is now opening them up to the wider community too – with the launch of its Accessible Book Club, open not just to customers, but to anyone with a learning disability.

They are welcome to join the new club, which will meet each Friday between 1pm and 3pm at Tyler House in Stratford.

“The idea is to bring people together – whether they are Heart of England Mencap customers or not, to share stories together and chat about any of the topics they raise,” Cath Errington, Fundraising Manager for Heart of England Mencap, said.

“Books Beyond Words are wonderful, and already proving so popular with our customers. They are bright, engaging picture stories, perfect for adults with a learning disability who prefer to read using pictures rather than words. We hope our book club will encourage new friendships and discussions, just as any other would do.”

Funds have been raised across the local area – from a charity firewalk to the Waitrose green token scheme, with support also coming from individuals and Stratford Rotary Club, all enabling the charity to buy the book sets and accompanying iPad applications too.

And the book club received a prestigious launch on Friday (April 28th) with a free event open to all at Stratford ArtsHouse as part of the Stratford Literary Festival.

Mencap staff and customers were joined on the day by Lucy Bergonzi, one of the illustrators of Books Beyond Words.

“It was a fantastic launch – and we are so grateful to the Literary Festival and to everyone who has helped with our fundraising for their support,” Cath added.

For more information the club, or on fundraising to support it, call 01789 298709 or go to www.heartofenglandmencap.org.uk

Photo 1 - Sharing a story - Heart of England Mencap customer Sandra and volunteer Christine

Photos 2 & 3 - Beyond words, the launch of Heart of England Mencap’s Accessible Book Club, at Stratford Literary Festival

By Heart of England Mencap, Apr 20 2017 03:47PM

LOCAL people with learning disabilities are getting a truly unique opportunity to have their story told like never before, with the production of their very own book.

Customers of Heart of England Mencap are spending the Spring working on the project as part of a new Accessible Book Club being set-up by the charity.

A fundraising campaign has enabled bumper packs of special ‘Books Beyond Words’ to be purchased, to be shared and enjoyed by Mencap customers across Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

But in Warwick they are going one further, not just reading the books, but writing one too.

Cath Errington, Fundraising Manager for Heart of England Mencap, explains: “Books Beyond Words are picture stories, perfect for adults with a learning disability who prefer to read using pictures rather than words. Some are fictional while others illustrate scenarios and issues our customers may face, opening-up communication channels.

“At our day activity service Pathway, in Warwick, we’re going a little further than simply reading these books, taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to work with the illustrator of many of them to create our own story too.

“Our customers wanted to create their own book to highlight some of the issues and bullying they have faced as a person with a learning disability, and to tell people a bit more about what a learning disability is, so that people in their local community understand some of the problems they face.”

The illustrator is Lucy Bergonzi, who has been working with customers at Warwick Pathway for several weeks already, helping them to draw their own stories to be compiled into one Heart of England Mencap book, which will then be printed.

The book will take pride of place at Pathway as well as being taken to local schools to open-up discussions about learning disabilities, helping to break-down barriers and tackle any stigma.

“This is a really unique and wonderful project and we are grateful to Warwick District Council for their arts development grant, and to the Friends of Heart of England Mencap for their funding, both enabling this project to happen. Also to Lucy who will be providing her expertise to enable our customers to produce a really professional book filled with their own art work,” Helena Wallis, Chief Executive of Heart of England Mencap, said.

“It will really enable the voice of the learning disability community to be heard – and our customers are already getting so much out of it.”

Mair Evans, Arts Development Officer for Warwick District Council, added: I am delighted that Warwick District Council is in a position to be able to award funding to support this innovative Mencap project, which will not only highlight the day to day challenges faced by those in our community with learning difficulties, but will also be a source of inspiration.”

Heart of England Mencap will be launching its Accessible Book Club at this year’s Stratford Literary Festival, with an event open to anyone with a learning disability. It will run between 1pm and 3pm on Friday April 28th at Stratford ArtsHouse and entry is free. Lucy Bergonzi will also be there on the day.

For tickets call the Literary Festival box office on 01789 207100.

Photo: Illustrator Lucy Bergonzi working on the book with Heart of England Mencap customers


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