RBSA are working with Focus Birmingham

Exploring arts engagement for people experiencing sight loss

The RBSA is working with Focus Birmingham, the sight loss and disability charity, to bring art to a wider audience.

The project, funded by West Midlands Museum Development, involves a series of workshops and the creation of a film promoting the work of the RBSA with specific groups.

A session at the Focus centre in Harborne today saw artist and RBSA member Lynn Jeffery join forces with volunteer art group leader Ian Reynolds, who himself has a visual impairment.

Lynn said: 'It has been quite amazing to see people who are exploring a material, but all by touch. Those who have limited sight don't necessarily find it easier than those with no sight at all, but what's clear is that the social interaction is just as important.

'Working in a tactile way taps into memory. Helen Keller observed that it was memory that made all the difference.'

Ian Reynolds, who went to art college and became an art teacher despite his sight loss, added: 'Everyone taking part today seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience - there was a momentum to the group activity. We work a lot at Focus on an individual basis, but there's a lot to be said for group work.

''It gives a different perspective, and the involvement of the RBSA means we have proper clay and will see a glazed and fired result. It's great, having access to more professional tools and materials.

'The people in our art group may be struggling with the emotional impact of sight loss, and it has been proved that there are positive mental outcomes from art sessions where people meet others with a shared experience, and create something.

'I'd recommend the RBSA to other groups. This has been our second workshop session and both have been highly successful. The results justify the efforts put in.'

Charlene Kerr-Spencer came to the session and found working with clay new and exciting. She has experienced sight loss quite recently and said: 'It has been really good to find another way of being creative. It's very important to have input and direction. It may sound crazy, but being blind is dark... and Focus is my light.'

Natalie Osborne, Learning and Engagement Manager at the RBSA said: "We have been lucky to get funding to develop our outreach work. As one of the oldest art societies in the UK we run exhibitions and events at our Gallery through the year.

'But we also want to help people who may struggle to access our shows by providing sessions where they can experience our permanent collection or enjoy making some art of their own at our specially designed workshops and guided tours.'

In addition to outreach workshops, groups can arrange sensory or guided tours of the RBSA Gallery, to get closer to the Permanent Collection and experience exhibitions and events without some of the barriers people may usually face.

To find out more, contact the RBSA by calling 0121 236 4353 or emailing natalie@rbsa.org.uk.  

Ian Reynolds has set up a website for artists experiencing visual impairment called Painting with Sight Loss and if you would like to visit it please click here

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Local MP Preet Kaur Gill visits Focus

What a way to finish off the year with a visit from Preet Kaur Gill MP. 

We were delighted to welcome her to Focus Birmingham where she was able to see firsthand the services we provide and the impact we make in the local community. It was encouraging to see the interactive discussions with RNIB, Guide Dogs Birmingham Mobility Team, Birmingham Sight Loss and local service users led to some comments that helped raise awareness around sight loss and disability and issues affecting this community.

As an organisation that champions people living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham we were very encouraged that Preet Kaur Gill MP will be working to make communication stronger for those who need it most and inviting everyone to share theri thoughts and concerns as well as solutions to her advice surgeries, listening panel and street surgeries which will be launched in the New Year.

If you would like to know more or even attend one of her listening panels please click here

If you would like to get involved with Focus Birmingham either by volunteering, fundraising please email info@focusbirmingham.org.uk. 

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Happy New Year from Focus Birmingham

Seasons Greetings to you all from everyone at Focus Birmingham. We will be closed from Friday 22nd December at 3pm and will re-open 9:00am on Tuesday January 2nd 2018. We wish you all a Happy New Year.

Thank you for your support this past year and we hope that this will continue into 2018 when we celebrate our gold and silver anniversary year. We will be celebrating 2 of our vital services, Focus Day Services will be celebrating 50 years of providing day services and Low Vision clinic will be celebrating 25 years of service to people living with sight loss in Birmingham.

Watch this space for lots of exciting celebrations and ways you can get involved!! Happy Holidays.

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Christmas jumpers are as much a part of the festive period as turkey, tinsel, and loads of presents around the Christmas tree. Click here to learn more

Focus Birmingham specialises in supporting people affected by sight loss or other disabilities. This year we are hoping to go one step further by asking everyone to wear a Christmas jumper on Friday 15th December to raise help raise awareness for those who are living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham. Let us come together as a community to look out for one another at this time of the year and tackle isolation and loneliness, especially those most vulnerable.

“More than 29,000 people in Birmingham live with sight loss, which has devastating consequences. It prevents people from driving and working, it may restrict social interaction, cause isolation, and remove a person’s independence. And it can lead to low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence or depression.

“This Christmas we are asking for people’s support, by wearing their n Christmas Jumper with pride on Friday December 15th. This will help raise awareness for those who are living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham.  This will be a chance to do something fun and support Focus for one day by wearing the wackiest Christmas jumper you can find in all its knitted glory.”

In addition, we are encouraging everyone to take an ‘elfie selfie’ by snapping a fun photo of themselves in their Christmas knit and sending it to Focus via the charity’s social media sites on our handle @focusbirmingham. All posts will be shared to raise awareness as well as to thank people for their support.

So, if you aren’t able to dedicate a day to wearing fun Christmassy jumpers then why not create your own event! Get as creative as possible by putting your own Christmas knit design on a wonderfully homemade cupcakes to share with family, friends and colleagues.”

If you would like to know more about getting involved with Focus Birmingham you can click here or email jasmin@focusbirmingham.org.uk or call her on 0121 478 5239 for a fundraising pack full of fun seasonal ideas.

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Focus Birmingham - Services update

Focus Birmingham would like to advise all staff and service users to stay safe during the snow. If you have any concerns please contact your local emergency services by telephoning 999.

Important Notice: Please Read

Focus Birmingham have decided to close all our service provisions tomorrow (11th December) due to the hazardous weather and driving conditions.

Please follow @UKSnowUpdates or visit your Local Met Office Weather website for up to date information regarding the snow and we hope to be up and running as normal on Tuesday 12th December.

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Better Healthcare Access Report published

Better Healthcare Access for people with visual impairment - Report published

This published report summarises a piece of work completed in Birmingham to help identify and break down barriers experienced by people with visual impairment when accessing GP healthcare services. Work was undertaken by Focus Birmingham and funded by the West Midlands Clinical Networks, NHS England.

Changes that sight loss brings can have a significant impact on many areas of everyday life including affecting a patient’s ability to engage with their GP. We believe that people with sight loss face unintentional, but very real barriers when trying to access primary care.  This may mean that people with VI:

  • are more reluctant to attend routine appointments
  • have poorer quality information to help them manage their health
  • neglect support, meaning chronic conditions worsen unnecessarily

Andrew Miller, Lead Optometrist at Focus Birmingam, said,“Over the last 12 months it has been lovely to work with several GP practices all across Birmingham. It has been really pleasing to see how keen the staff have been in trying to understand and support the needs of people with sight loss.”

To download and read the final report please click here.   If you have any questions or would like to get in touch please go to our Contact Us page. 

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TLC Lottery celebrating 20 years

Three Birmingham based charities have said thank you to local people for helping raise £5 million in vital funds in just 20 years. Focus Birmingham, Birmingham Saint Mary’s Hospice and Acorns Children’s Hospice have received the impressive amount from the TLC Lottery, an organisation which has been supporting the charities since 1997.

Players of the TLC Lottery pay £1 per weekly draw competing for prizes ranging from £10 to £1000 and the money raised after running costs and prizes is split between the three charities.

Lynne Carter, Head of Fundraising at Acorns Children’s Hospice, said: “On behalf of everyone we support at Acorns I want to say a huge thank you to the commitment of the loyal players who have contributed to the Lottery over the past 20 years. Your generosity means we can continue our vital work.

“We have to raise nearly £10 million every year to provide our services, which means not only care for children, but also a network of specialist support for the whole family.”

Hamish Shilliday, head of fundraising at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, said: “The TLC is a fantastic initiative which allows players to have fun whilst raising vital funds for three local charities.

“I would like to thank all the players who have taken part over the past 20 years – with your continued support, we are able to provide expert care to local individuals and families living with terminal illness.”

Jasmin Rana, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Focus Birmingham, said: “The TLC Lottery initiative has allowed Focus Birmingham to provide specialist support and services to people living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham for the past 20 years. We are truly grateful to the contributions made by the players over the years. Thank You.”

The TLC Lottery is holding a thank you and celebration event on 20 October at locations based at the three charities. For more information and to sign up to the lottery, please visit www.tlclottery.co.uk

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Focus hosts Dinner in the Dark at Henry Wong

Ever tried picking up rice or a pork ball with a pair of chopsticks, or chasing a pea around your plate with a fork?  

That is the daunting challenge facing diners at the Henry Wong restaurant in High Street, Harborne, Birmingham, on Wednesday 11 October following an invitation to experience Dinner in the Dark.

The special event, which is in aid of visually impaired charity Focus Birmingham, is designed to illustrate the everyday difficulties facing people with sight loss.

The Chief Executive of Focus Birmingham, Susan Hoath, said: “This is a unique sensory event in Birmingham in terms of a dining experience, so we hope as many people as possible will sign up to have a go at eating a meal while wearing a blindfold.

“It promises to be a really fun event but, of course, it also carries a very serious underlying message of how thousands of people in the Birmingham area cope on a daily basis with visual impairment.”

The owner of Henry Wong, Parm Rai, added: “We’re delighted to be supporting Focus Birmingham by hosting this truly unique event. We are sure that guests will have a fantastic, and interesting, evening while raising much needed funds for this local charity.”

The ticket price of £40 will include a 3 course meal and complimentary drink. Our charity fundraising event will also be hosting an auction, giving you the chance to win some fantastic items, so book your tickets now and get ready for a dinner with a difference!

We hope to raise awareness for those people living with sight loss in Birmingham as well as much needed funds to continue providing our vital services. Click here to book early to avoid disappointment as there are limited places available.  

  • When:                               11th October 
  • Event times:                     6:30pm -10pm
  • Location:                          Henry Wong, Harborne High Street
  • Cost:                                £40 per person

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Focus Christmas Card Competition

Calling all artists, photographers and digital designers! We need your help to design the Focus Birmingham 2017 Christmas Card.

We are looking for an A6 (105 x 148mm) festive card design, this can be a photograph, drawing, painting or digital design, as long as submissions are your own work.

How to Enter:

You can submit your entries via post or email. Please label your design with your name, age, address and contact details in order for us to contact you should you be chosen as the winner.

By Post: Send to Focus Christmas Card Competition, Focus Birmingham, 48-62 Woodville Road, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9AT.

By Email: Electronic entries can be a PDF or JPEG file. Please send these to zoe@focusbirmingham.org.uk and include Christmas Card Competition in the subject line.

Competition Terms and Conditions

1. Entries to this competition must be original work by the person submitting the entry.

2. Entries will be accepted via post or email.

3. Entries will be accepted from children under 18 years of age however written permission from a parent or guardian is required before we will accept the submission.

4. By submitting your entry to us you are agreeing to Focus Birmingham using the picture in our 2017 Christmas card. We will use this to raise funds for Focus Birmingham; the winner will receive no financial gains from the cards.

5. More than one entry per person will be accepted.

6. The winner will be chosen by the Focus Birmingham judging team as the best entry for a Focus Birmingham Christmas card.

7. The winner’s name will be displayed on our website, social media and on the cards when printed.

8. The winner will be contacted by email or post.

9. The competition will run until 5pm on 31st August.

For more information on the Christmas Card competition please email zoe@focusbirmingham.  Best of luck everyone!

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Focus at Sight Village 2017

Focus Birmingham are excited to attend Birmingham Sight Village on 18th and 19th July. Sight Village is a free exhibition run by Queen Alexandra College (QAC), where visitors can find out about the latest technology, products and services available to blind and visually impaired people. Exhibitors from throughout the World take part to showcase what they do and the event welcomes visitors from all over the UK.

We will be at the Focus Birmingham stand to provide more information about our services, and our very own Andrew Miller, Lead Optometrist, will be hosting A Tube With a View, a workshop which will explore the benefits and challenges of using distance low vision aids.

The event takes place at New Bingley Hall, with doors opening at 9.30am. For more information about the event including how to get there, visit the QAC website.

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News Archive

Catch up with the latest news from Focus Birmingham or browse the archive of news below.

Upcoming fundraising events

Would you like to join us and help with future fundraising efforts? Read about some of our forthcoming events: