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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, Sep 12 2017 02:02PM

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC skills and visions of local people with learning disabilities is getting an international showcase by going on display at Shakespeare’s New Place.

Through The Lens - the culmination of a three-month photography course run by Heart of England Mencap at its day activity group, Pathway – was first exhibited in Stratford back in March.

And now its reaching an even bigger audience - back for a six-week stint in the exhibition space at New Place, Shakespeare’s adult home, thanks to an invitation from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The exhibition launched on Friday (September 8) – and also includes a promotional display for Heart of England Mencap, which supports people with learning disabilities across Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

The photos being exhibited have all been captured by Mencap customers as part of a photography course. Armed with tablets funded by Stratford Town Trust, Orbit Group and Stratford District Council, they immersed themselves in the photographic process from top to bottom.

They chose locations and subject matters, snapped the perfect picture on their tablets and then uploaded, edited and printed their creations ready to be showcased.

The course was such a success it has since been repeated across the charity’s day services in Studley, Warwick, Leamington and Malvern. The exhibition at Shakespeare’s New Place will be rotated, to allow photos from each course to be displayed.

Val Rainbow, Heart of England Mencap’s Arts Co-ordinator, said: “Our photography course was based on different themes to help develop a variety of skills and to make the learning process enjoyable and interesting.

“Over the weeks we visited many outdoor locations and covered everything from windows and doors, to leaves and trees, buildings and architecture, textures, close-ups, still life, flowers and portraits.

“Everyone on the course produced really great work. It was a joy to watch them discover newfound skills – and to see their work now on display somewhere as prominent as New Place is just wonderful.”

Heart of England Mencap and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have forged a strong local partnership – with Mencap customers and staff part of the Access Panel set-up to guide the £6 million transformation of Shakespeare’s New Place.

They continue to advise on both physical access, and on making sure everything from the signage to the displays is accessible to people with learning and physical disabilities.
They continue to advise on both physical access, and on making sure everything from the signage to the displays is accessible to people with learning and physical disabilities.

Emma Birks, Volunteer and Community Outreach Officer at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “We are extremely proud to work with Heart of England Mencap on this photography exhibition. This project enables the skills of young people and adults with learning disabilities to shine through and it’s fantastic that we are able to provide a platform for them to present their creativity to a wider audience. The community board at New Place is a great space for community groups to showcase their talent and we look forward to working with local groups on new commissions.”

For more information on the community board at Shakespeare’s New Place see https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/visit/shakespeares-new-place/community-board/

Life through the Lens is on display until October 20th, upstairs in the exhibition centre.

Normal New Place admission prices apply, with entry free for CV37 residents (with proof of address).

By Heart of England Mencap, Aug 29 2017 08:30AM

LOCAL people with learning disabilities got the chance to compete in their very own sports day this week – thanks to a group of teenagers volunteering under the government scheme, the National Citizen Service.

The volunteers spent two days with the Stratford-based charity Heart of England Mencap this month, planning the big sports day, which happened at Stratford Leisure Centre on Wednesday (August 23rd.)

It saw customers from Pathway – Heart of England Mencap’s day activity service – competing against each other in a whole of morning of fun and games – from tennis to basketball.

Customers were also able to continue their metaphorical journey around the world as part of the national Mencap-funded Round The World Challenge - #RTWC – which sees them accrue ‘miles’ in return for hours of physical activity.

The national branch of the charity was represented on the day by Sports Engagement Officer Faye Dixey.
The national branch of the charity was represented on the day by Sports Engagement Officer Faye Dixey.

Commenting on the success of the sports day, Jake Thornton, Pathway Program Manager, said: “This is the second time we’ve were able to enjoy a sports days thanks to an NCS team and it was fantastic.

“Without the NCS volunteers, the Everyone Active Leisure Centre team and National Mencap’s funding, our customers would not have had the opportunity to experience new adapted sports, meet new people, make new friends and enjoy access to a healthier, more active life.”

Amy McCord, Senior Mentor for the NCS in Warwickshire added:

“We were delighted to once again be partnering with Heart of Engand Mencap.

"Volunteering with Pathway customers provided the young NCS volunteers with life experience they'd have struggled to find elsewhere and has seen them challenge themselves and their preconceptions.

“They were truly inspired by the kindness shown by the Mencap customers to each other and to us.

“The partnership has helped the young people break down barriers and gave them an opportunity to passionately channel their talents into social action.

“The benefit of holding these events not only effects those directly involved with Mencap but also the young people on the NCS programme - by working together we corrode boundaries that pigeon hole different people in society and build a more cohesive community for the future.”

Heart of England Mencap supports local people with learning disabilities, with services ranging from day activities to residential care, operating across Warwickshire and Worcestershire.


NCS volunteer Laura Baskerville with Heart of England customer Glen Merryfield

The NCS volunteers setting up for the parachute game

Heart of England Mencap customer Mo Potter


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