In 2005, a county-wide research project led by two learning disabled adults, explored the issues around barriers to employment for other learning disabled adults. This resulted in a written document which was widely circulated. There was interest, however, in producing this work in a format that was more generally accessible, and the arrival of ArtsPEP provided an opportunity for this to happen in the form of video.In a partnership between the advocacy organisation New Ideas and the creative media company Frontline AV, the written report was developed into a series of powerful individual films. The challenge for Warwickshire County Disability Services was in trying to facilitate a new approach to their clients – becoming more responsive to the views and wishes of the clients working with smaller groups, and supporting the travel of participants across the County.
The project tested out new methodologies and approaches, including using external Arts venues for workshops and meetings, and using creative Arts (such as video and sculpture) as a method and forum for creating a sense of identity and importance for the participants. The use of external Arts providers over a continued length of time was also new, requiring managers and staff to respond to requests and demands outside of their normal remit.
A clear sense of pride and identity developed within the group and many requests were made for more group sessions and meetings as people clearly identified positively with this new element in their lives. The opportunities for personal development were clear, with participants building in confidence, self-esteem, self-expression,and awareness of the world around them. Importantly, also, the artists working with the participants, were struck by the clarity with which those making the film expressed themselves and their goals. Arts, therefore, offered not simply a tool for personal development, but also a medium through which participants can more clearly express / communicate their opinions and ideas.
The films had a very successful launch at the Bedworth Civic Hall in September 2006, with over 200 copies being circulated nationally and internationally. In mid-2007, local MP Mike O’Brien arranged for a number of the creators of In Our Shoes to attend a private visit with Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, to present the films and represent the voices of learning disabled adults.