Artlink has pioneered a unique way of working, the Ideas Team, a laboratory of experimental approaches where contemporary artists explore sensory experiences in partnership with people with profound learning disabilities. These have included adventures in olfactory memory, sound and vibration, time spent immersed in intense colour and pattern. Some remarkable work has resulted from this approach which promotes new forms of collaboration and greater agency; articulating a new and more positive identity for people with complex disabilities within the communities they live. 

This site provides a concise background to the exhibition Human Threads and includes images from a series of performative  events designed to add another ’sensational’ dimension to the exhibition.

Click on the subheadings above to find out more.



‘The huge silk sail in soft perpetual motion gives endless movement to the space, and blends floor to walls, walls to ceiling. I had a sense that there weren’t the perametres usually encountered in other rooms. And if there were, they were far away.

Much of my performance comprised of layering vocal refrains. Recording and looping melodies and sentiments over and over to build a tower of sound. The natural reverb of the exhibition space pulled my words out like threads and yarn and spun them out in every direction, filling the space with a swirling sound.

My silver suit reflecting the light projections through colours and flora and glass, and behind me, those colours and shapes magnified to form a gentle backdrop. But my own giant shaddow was also magnified behind me, and threatening that carefully curated calm as it mimicked my every movement’

WHALE OPERA | The Spatial Opera Company

As part of Human Threads The Spatial Opera Comapny performed Whale Opera, a piece which combines whale song, voice and violin. Spatial Whale Opera is one of the first works by SPO, which has now developed into multiple experimental opera projects, all based on the idea of spatial sound travel.

Spatial Opera Company are a small team of three musicians: Scotland based Lithuanian composer Rūta Vitkauskaitė , Swedish composer Jens Hedman , and soprano Åsa Nordgren.

“Our ‘Spatial Whale Opera’ composition by Spatial Opera Company was created for a very reverberant Miner in Norberg in Sweden. It includes various whale sounds (played by Jens Hedman), and imitation of whale song, as well as operatic arias (Asa Nordgren) and virtuosic violin passages (by myself). We were excited to bring this piece to Human Threads to especially plug our whale sounds into the vibrating floor. On the day, we happened to have so many technical issues with plugging sounds into the floor, that only some minutes before the performance we finally knew it would work! Of course, all came together when the audience gathered, and we started playing the music. Me and Asa (soprano) walked around the space, playing whale sound imitation (I especially liked hiding behind the fume tower, and playing sounds from there). Most of the audience seemed to have gathered on the amplified floor. Coloured in blue, and in the context of whale song, the floor seemed to be like a wave. For the last movement of the piece, Asa and I made an ascending walk, avoiding stepping on people’s heads, while singing and playing more and more dramatically, finishing on the major high pitched chord when we reached the top of the floor. I think the experience for those on the floor was especially powerful – a vibration of deep whale sounds through the floor, and dramatic operatic soprano above their heads. People seemed really spaced out, wobbling out of the venue, after our performance”.
Rūta Vitkauskaitė.

DEEP LISTENING | Rūta Vitkauskaitė and Emily Doolittle

A 45min.deep listening workshop led by composers Rūta Vitkauskaitė and Emily Doolittle. Participants were  invited to sit down or lie down in the space, and be guided to tune into the sounds around them and inside of them.

Listen to the sound bar below to hear what happened

We prepared a few exercises for our Deep Listening workshop with Emily Doolittle. Some singing, some listening, some imagining, and some walking around the space. As we started, it was quite clear we might need to change our plans. Our participants made themselves comfortable on the sound floor, and me and Emily skipped most of the walking around exercises. The exercises asking for attention did not work that well, but the one with repeating words faster and slower seemed to have generated quite a lot of fun! For the good part of the workshop, I personally felt exercises weren’t quite working, or our participants weren’t quite engaging with them. But as we were nearing the end, and left it to free improvisation, listening, and making sounds, something has suddenly changed – one of the participants got hold of the mic, amplifying the floor, and had a very long imitation duet with myself, which engaged the rest of the group. The attention of the group seemed to have setted to the quieter sounds, the floor vibration, each others’ voices: some really deep listening experience had happened just minutes before we resumed the workshop”.   Rūta Vitkauskaitė



Health Inequalities: Learning Disabilities and COVID-19

For people with an intellectual and developmental disability (IDD), the COVID-19 pandemic saw a traumatic loss of routine, activities and contact with family and carers that was hard to understand and to cope with. In addition, the increased risk of dying from the disease is significant for people with IDD, compared to the general population.

Health inequalities banner

This forms part of the LGA’s A Perfect Storm report, published April 2021.

Data released by Mencap in February 2021 in the graph below revealed that the death rate from COVID-19 amongst those with a learning disability rose steeply during December and January. The data refers to deaths of people with a learning disability in England that were reported to the Learning Disability Mortality Review (LeDeR) – although it is not a requirement for deaths to be reported so many could be missed.

The data of COVID-19 deaths of patients with a learning disability from LeDeR and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also shows that in every week since the end of November, people with a learning disability have died from COVID-19 disproportionately compared to the general population. This disparity between the proportion of COVID deaths grew dramatically throughout December and January.

In the graph below, Mencap reveals that COVID-related deaths for people with a learning disability were dramatically higher than the general population in England and Wales (Eight in 10 deaths of people with a learning disability are COVID related as inequality soars).

Proportion of COVID deaths of people with a learning disability compared to the general population. Visit for analysis
Proportion of COVID deaths of people with a learning disability compared to the general population (MENCAP)

Earlier in the pandemic, a PHE report COVID-19: deaths of people with learning disabilities found that after standardising for age and sex, 451 per 100,000 people registered as having a learning disability died with COVID-19 between 21 March and 5 June 2020; a death rate 4.1 times higher than the general population of England (109 per 100,000). However, researchers estimated the real rate may have been as high as 692 per 100,000, 6.3 times higher, because not all deaths in people with learning difficulties are registered on the databases from which this data was taken.

The report found that deaths were also spread much more widely across the age spectrum among people with learning disabilities, with far greater mortality rates in younger adults, compared to the general population. The death rate for people aged 18 to 34 with learning disabilities was 30 times higher than the rate in the same age group without disabilities.

DYNAMIC DJ | DJ Dynamite

DJ Dynamite is one of the youngest members of KMAdotcom, a group of artists with and without learning disabilities. His mobile sound system Dynomobile was built in the KMAartists studios and runs off its own battery. DJ Dynamite plays all over Scotland at festivals and events. He played lots of different music and yes, you were expected to dance!!!

GONG BATH | Daniel Padden

Gong Bath by Daniel Padden was a unique and immersive sonic experience. People could participate or just observe. When you relaxed into it, the special sonic power of gongs, let the soundwaves wash over you. In past workshops at Cherry Road, people connected with the sonic and vibrational power of the gongs. Its both therapeutic and meditative.




This workshop was hosted by Ruta Vitkauskaite, MD of CoMA Glasgow and attended by regular musicians from CoMA Glasgow. The group rehearsed Emily Dolittles’s Gardenscape, where musicians and singers imitated bird songs, and from this they made their own soundscape to correspond with the sounds of exhibition. CoMA musicians performed ‘birdsongs’ by Emily Doolittle within the exhibition.

“I was excited to bring Emily Doolittle’s Gardenscape into the workshop at the Human Threads exhibition. We have played through that score with CoMA Glasgow before, and it was interesting to see whether the score could work with people who do not have an instrument, or do not play in conventional way, or can not read conventional music notation. We had a few members from CoMA Glasgow on the day, and people who are not (yet!) part of our group. Immediate challenge for me was to change my workshop plan to accommodate people with hearing impairment, but as soon as that was adapted, and we started playing music, it all fell into place. My personal highlight was walking around the space of the exhibition, playing bird sounds, and interacting with the sounds that other participants made, including the natural sounds and objects of the exhibition. We also had hand fans, and I walked around making some wind for the audience, – there were families with small children, who especially seemed to enjoye hand fans – they were rolling on the floor with eyes closed, listening to bird song, under the hand-made wind”.   Ruta Vitkauskaite





FEEL THE BEAT | Ubuntu Vibes

A vibrant and exciting piece inspired by West African music and dance, clowning and the magic of feeling the world from a different point. It lifted our spirits and made us smile for the rest of the day.

Ubuntu vibes is an Edinburgh-based group – Raquel Ribes Miro, Beti Mencal and Andy Cooke. All have studied African music and dance for several years. Drawing on their experience, they have been creating and performing dance pieces with live music to delight audiences. Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning: “I am what I am because of who we all are”

FAIR PLAY | Red Note Ensemble – part 1

A playful, inclusive, and interactive sharing of the exhibition through live improvisations performed by Red Note Ensemble inspired by the intricate landscape of ‘Human Threads’. The musicians interacted with artworks and visitors exploring the exhibition, blurring the lines between ‘audience’ and ‘performer.’  This work was not mic’d   The musicals placed themselves next to the different artworks and played in t]repsne to each artwork and the people within the gallery


SUBMERGENCE | Alex South & Becky Milne


Alex (clarinet, bass clarinet, interactive electronics) presented a part-composed, part-improvised set built around the idea of immersion and featuring music by composer Jan Foote inspired by humpback whale song. Alex’s improvisations  attended closely to breath, bodily rhythms and the dark microtextures of bass clarinet sound. This was incredible.  In an email sent from someone in the audience, their response beautifully sums up the event: “I absolutely loved experiencing Human Threads and found the live performance from Alex South, and the full-body reverb through the ramp, very moving.”

Humpback Whale recorded off Mo’orea 25.09.2019

Ellen Garland (University of St Andrews)
Michael Poole (Marine Mammal Research Programme, Mo’orea, French Polynesia)


The build up to Human Threads 

We are always looking for points of connection to find meaning and purpose within what we do. What follows is a series of images and texts which in some way illustrate the build up to the exhibition and the artworks on show. This is all about the people who have informed the artworks, its intention and what happpens when we are more inclusive and open in sharing involvement .

DANCING NEAR FELT MOUNTAIN | Miller Academy of Irish Dance

Four Irish dancers performed, the sound of their dance steps was at the same time recorded and channelled through Wendy Jacobs’ Human Threads exhibit, Felt Mountain. The artwork is a ramp leading to a level platform, which has been specially engineered to carry low frequency sound. Observers experienced the performance, both visually, physically, and sonically, experiencing the artwork in multiple ways.


The story behind the exhibition

an essay from a soon to be published book by Amanda Cachia

excerpt from intro to chapter

For more than two decades, Artlink has pioneered the use of contemporary arts practice as a form of collaborative research with partner Cherry Road Learning Centre in Midlothian, Scotland.1 Through the Ideas Team, an Artlink project, it paired artists and thinkers with individuals within a care setting over a sustained period, creating the conditions for new ideas and influences to radiate from people with profound and multiple developmen- tal disabilities (PMLD) and their carers. In 2015 Artlink and partners began to devise a large-scale exhibition that would bring these insights and sensi- bilities to a broad and diverse public—an exhibition that would celebrate the common threads that make connection between people with complex disabilities and the wider world. The exhibition would provide an oppor- tunity to look at who we are through a completely different lens. Artlink set up a partnership with Tramway, a publicly owned and run arts space on the south side of Glasgow. The immense scale of Tramway’s exhibition space and its utilitarian fabric would allow us to devise an exhibition that was ambitious in size and accessible to the widest range of people. In 2019 Artlink organized some public performances at Tramway to test out some of the principles of the upcoming exhibition. This essay written by free- lance curator and writer Nicola White and Artlink Artistic Director, Alison Stirling traces the development of the challenging road to realizing an exhi- bition that centers on the experiences and interests of one of society’s most marginalized groups. At the time of this writing, work is in production, and the exhibition is scheduled to take place in May 2022

Everlasting by Laura Aldridge & Lauren Gault

The people we work with are incredibly complex, as are all human individuals. We often have to confront the separation that exists between people, and how this can be heightened when someone communicates using their own language or physicality.
Often, this barrier feels thinnest when we are working in the session, using materials and are in a ‘moment’. It’s this space we’d like to extrapolate, exploit, catch and make ‘reside’ in the work. We want to suggest a reappraisal of existing hierarchies within education, art practice and beyond – giving thorough consideration to what we value and why.
We want to recognise the experiential qualities of materials , textural / tactile information held within materials and what that experience looks like through individual eyes and when shared / observed with others. Reevaluating what is ‘within’ by taking familiar materials and refreshing our perspective to reveal overlooked details and experiences.
(ever)lasting will comprise a series of three-dimensional objects which act like ongoing rotating slides, through which our made light source would project and throw(


Project materials / concept drawings or prototypes

The projector is housed within a contained wooded structure which is functional in design but will also feature several textural and sculptural elements. The projector will be on castors for ease of movement, it is also self contained so can be stored as a single unit for ease of transportation. The material filters will be user friendly and easy to change. Spare filters will be stored within the structure.

The work consists of a free standing analogue projector. The projector is modular and consist of; of a light source (high lumen torch), a material filter (heat sealed perspex disks that contain materials and liquids and also objects attached), an internal conveyor belt which rotates the free standing material filter, and a water lens which magnifies and distributes the images created.

In addition to the projector, the work will be installed with two intelligent lights (MAC 250 Krypton – artists own) – these lights will sit on top of two simple complementary plinths to create a suite of objects. These lights will be connected to a surface tablet which will control the programming of the lights.

The screen will be as high as the lighting rig and approx 3m wide .

The projector base is approximately 90cm x 120cm – the intelligent lights will sit on plinths or may possibly be rigged up.

Our piece is very much a dimensions variable, it will respond to the other work.

Preparatory work – Matthew Ronay

The project will consist of approximately 3 “cabinets” that have elongated viewing slits that allow viewing, smelling, or hearing some sort of activity.  Imagine a wooden box, the approximate size of a large double door kitchen cabinet, that is closed on all sides, except for a slit in the front. Inside this box, to use just one example, is a humidifier that accepts therapeutic oils under it’s misting apparatus. Also inside this box is a LED light that is commonly sold as a “ fake tv.” This light is actually several LEDs that are programmed to flicker randomly and replicate what a TV looks like in a room (it is a security device that tricks people outside you home into thinking someone is home a watching TV.) There would also be a small oscillating fan inside this box that would push out this fragrant mist. Other boxes would utilize small sounds or deep base sounds to draw attention to the holes. Even  other cabinets with holes may utilize something small and shinny that moves in an out of the sight line of the hole.  Each cabinet will be slightly different but all will utilize a similar “lure”; a cabinet with a hole from which something draws attention. The height of the cabinets sits on legs.  Each cabinet is at wheelchair level. 

.Project materials / concept drawings or prototypes

The prototype for testing has been made from 1/2’’ MDF but the final will most likely be made from 3/4’’ ply. 

The extended viewing box at the front ensures the viewer is kept at a distance to the surface of the box, the dimensions also ensure that hands cannot be inserted through.

The interior and exterior of all 3 boxes will be black

Each cabinet will sit on legs and will be at wheelchair accessible height. 

The boxes will be placed together or in different sites throughout the gallery.  The work will be fabricated by Leila Smith. 

Wendy Jacobs prep

Human Threads: Wendy Jacobs

As part of her research Wendy worked with participants and  carers at Cherry Road on the Sound Diary Project. Her aim was to ask  questions to carers about the soundscapes that are part of the individual day to day life.  Sounds that we take for granted but are an integral part of the individuals personal soundscape. . This was a journey, observing and exploring what it means to be immersed in listening together and  how to describe sound. Wendy from the beginning placed importance on observing and recording the detail of sounds that in the first instance may appear to be somewhat insignificant. She asked care staff  to track these sounds and try to understand individuals reactions to them, separating sounds from the cacophony of noise at Cherry Road. She asked them to disregard nothing, encouraging them to explore every new possibility. This involved recording the smallest of details,  discussions about how was heard, the experience and feel of sound, sharing personal accounts, of sound Journeys around the centre.  The sounds they unearthed will be part of the wedge soundscape.


The project consists of a wood platform and slope, and a program of live performances. The platform functions as both a seating area and giant speaker. Large transducers attached to joists under the platform’s surface activate the structure and carry the sound of the mic’d performers. Audience members, seated or standing on the platform, “hear” the sound with their bodies. 


Performers may include step dancers, opera singers, cats coaxed to purring by their owners, tuba players, drummers or a chorus of electric tea kettles. For the rest of the time, the platform is programmed to play a recording of the live performances and sounds that have been collated from cherry road and are linked to very particular interests – purring cats, boiling kettles, a coke machine 

The final site for the artwork has not been decided  

Make Space for Everybody by Laura Aldridge

Commissioned Essay as part of Reading In Between the Lines

Over lockdown Artlink commissioned a series of personal narratives written by artists and activists. The starting point for the texts is informed by an issue experienced by individuals with PMLD and their families, e.g. fighting for rights, crumbling support structures, loss. Each writer was asked to delve deeper into a specific issue exploring it from their own experience and unique perspective. This approach allows us to create a space for diverse audiences to ‘read between the lines’ and explore the narrative from their own perspective and form points of connection with the issue it explores; leaving us all more open to establishing creative dialogues that better respond to what challenges us in these exceptional times

Excerpt from Make Space for Everyone by Laura Aldridge

‘In one form or another creativity is what we all have in common. It is a form of universal communication, creating spaces and moments of self-expres- sion in which any individual, regardless, has the freedom to play, experiment, teach, learn, inform, share and make choices.’




Human Threads: Claire Barclay and Laura Spring 

The silk form is now pretty large scale and reaches up to and over a steel beam, taking up a bay and a bit, (a bay defined by the columns). See images. As well as being visually arresting from a distance it creates a kind of tunnel and tent-like form that visitors will be able to pass through. There are a number of different factors that need to be considered in relation to covid safety but the physical experience of being in the artwork is key. The work is starting to connect more directly with the space, the beams the floor the tramlines will all play a part in the artwork. The silk fabric blows organically with the breeze from two floor-standing fans and is quite mesmerizing from all angles.

We will attach some metal rings to the silk, so that they move, scrape and ping off the concrete floor and make different ringing sounds. Stuart has helped us record these sounds that will be amplified and played on an intermittent loop through speakers. We need to be sure about the balance of sound as we need to stay aware that over stimulation could be an issue.

We have an idea of what kind of fans we need to use and how these affect the fabric to make it come alive. A steel mesh box will be constructed to house the fans for safety reasons. The air draft from them will be able to be touched and felt by visitors.

We may also use small microphones within the tramline grooves that will amplify different materials contained within them that make surprising sounds, squeaks or rustles when walked on or ridden over in a wheel chair. We are also considering using UV lamps that may affect the work momentarily. This will become clearer when we test against sound and light sensitivities.

Human Threads: Adam Putman – background

Human Threads: Adam Putman

A structure not unlike a beacon in the ocean, at night, in the fog, or a clocktower that marks the passage of the day. This work started from a wish to connect to people, not with a language of words, but with touch, scent, light and sound. The tower, a 24’ tall tapered wooden frame, clad in plywood sheets will act as a beacon, drawing people towards it.   At intervals through the day, a series of events will occur in or around the tower. For example: the tower may cast a shadow, shine a spotlight, emit a cloud of smoke or bubbles, toll a bell, or simply exude a scent. These events will serve to both beckon a viewer, and invite them to experience other elements within the show in variable and spontaneous ways.  The artist will play with the idea of building anticipation in what is about to happen. 

Devices and wiring could easily be stowed inside the structure and connected to timers so that events can be triggered on schedule throughout the day. In this way, the tower can serve as a time-keeping device. 


The tower 

1 Construction uses 3″x2″ CLS,Clad with 9mm MDF

2 Construction is fixed to floor with 10mm fixings to steel strap at 4 corners

3 Strap is 6mm x 30mm steel L bracket 450mm x100mm

4 it will now be 6 boxes (different to sketches) all 48″ high   Constructed to lock and be internally connected.

Coronavirus and people with a learning disability

To read the whole document click here

excerpt on impact of lockdown

‘A severe decline in behaviour. Frequently walking around shouting and rocking. Sleep patterns completely disrupted and frequent bouts of bad temper and frustration. An almost complete unwillingness to cooperate with caters at
home. High incidence of incontinence both at home and while travelling.”

To read the whole document  click her“After so many months with nothing even this is an improvement and she is happy to be back to a part of what she was used to.”

“As a family we have worked round the clock to minimise a negative impact on our son. But we are absolutely exhausted now but as he is happy and healthy it is worth it.”

“Bored. Frustrated. Exhibited some violent behaviour. Forced to spend too much time with housemates he didn’t choose. After some months became lethargic. Resigned to reduced life.”

“Currently going through transition from children to adult services. Already seeing changes in arranging respite etc.”

“Everything has changed and her mental health has suffered. She has stopped eating and now has supplements from the dietitian. She has lost almost 9 stone
in a year.”

“Less contact with friends, gets bored at home and sometimes frustrated and is grumpier. They eat more out of boredom and have put on weight.”

“Made his dementia worse.”

“Much less social interaction. Individuals now have to organise themselves to meet with friends in public places. This is obviously more risky than meeting at day centres etc (which are closed as they are deemed risky!)”

“She is frustrated at lack of meaningful activity and is not allowed to go to a day service that she used to enjoy, even though it has been open since April.”

“Support staff have to prioritise clients needing 24/7 care; with many staff sick or self isolating, shift cover has been stretched very thin, & shifts cancelled.”

“The impact of not being out of the care home in nearly 18 months has resulted in mobility being reduced, deteriorating mental health, reduced quality of life.”

Adams sketches

In developing the ideas the artist made many sketches. Firstly talking about stage sets and a series of events, all the time returning to the idea of a tower. Adam – Tower A structure not unlike a beacon in the ocean, at night, in the fog, or a clocktower that marks the passage of the day. This work started from a wish to connect to people, not with a language of words, but with touch, scent, light and sound. The tower, a 24’ tall tapered wooden frame, clad in plywood sheets will act as a beacon, drawing people towards it. At intervals through the day, a series of events will occur in or around the tower. For example: the tower may cast a shadow, shine a spotlight, emit a cloud of smoke, toll a bell, or simply exude a scent. These events will serve to both beckon a viewer, and invite them to experience other elements within the show in variable and spontaneous ways. Devices and wiring could easily be stowed inside the structure and connected to timers so that events can be triggered on schedule throughout the day. In this way, the tower can serve as a time-keeping device.


Human Threads: Claire Barclay and Laura Spring 

Human Threads: Claire Barclay and Laura Spring

The silk form is now pretty large scale and reaches up to and over a steel beam, taking up a bay and a bit, (a bay defined by the columns). See images. As well as being visually arresting from a distance it creates a kind of tunnel and tent-like form that visitors will be able to pass through. There are a number of different factors that need to be considered in relation to covid safety but the physical experience of being in the artwork is key. The work is starting to connect more directly with the space, the beams the floor the tramlines will all play a part in the artwork. The silk fabric blows organically with the breeze from two floor-standing fans and is quite mesmerizing from all angles.

We will attach some metal rings to the silk, so that they move, scrape and ping off the concrete floor and make different ringing sounds. Stuart has helped us record these sounds that will be amplified and played on an intermittent loop through speakers. We need to be sure about the balance of sound as we need to stay aware that over stimulation could be an issue.

We have an idea of what kind of fans we need to use and how these affect the fabric to make it come alive. A steel mesh box will be constructed to house the fans for safety reasons. The air draft from them will be able to be touched and felt by visitors.

We may also use small microphones within the tramline grooves that will amplify different materials contained within them that make surprising sounds, squeaks or rustles when walked on or ridden over in a wheel chair. We are also considering using UV lamps that may affect the work momentarily. This will become clearer when we test against sound and light sensitivities.

Tower development – early stages

Email correspondence

1.     Tower – Adam Putnam

A Clocktower, a Belfry, a Lighthouse – not unlike a beacon in the ocean, at night, in the fog… this project started from a wish to connect, not with a language of words, but with touch, scent, light and sound. At intervals throughout the day, a series of events will occur in or around the tower. (It was the initial hope that visitors would trigger these events but, we are rethinking this around issues of health and safety due to Covid-19) . For example: the tower may cast a shadow, shine a spotlight, emit a cloud of smoke, toll a bell, or simply exude a scent. It is the hope that these events would not only beckon a viewer but provide a trigger or a frame around which to experience other elements of the show in a new and interesting ways. (As if it were a giant sundial) My current wish is to construct out of locally sourced building materials on hand, ie. Red sandstone or Brick. Currently I am thinking about a version that can be taken down and put back up with ease. Perhaps a steel framework, filled out with sheets of wood or vinyl or some other composite material.


Dear Adam,

I am finally finding time to do this.
Can you better describe what you think your artwork will be – that way i will flesh it out a bit – putting in the prompts you will need in order to make it  relevant to people with pmld.
at the moment we have ……

1.     Tower – Adam Putnam

The tower will be completely multi sensory, offering sounds, smells, light, touch and possibly lifting people off the ground. It’s a work in progress,  a coming and going as the work needs to form around the people.  Adam is currently working with his team to begin drawings of the actual piece

Would you like to elaborate.?   Can you send me images of your actual work?  I can add in your ideas for the exhibition but oit would be good to have some images that perhaps illustrate the sensory aspects of your work 

Wendy Jacobs wedge with a few amendments

I have been thinking on the inner tube/vibration problem and have another possible solution. I like the idea of using big, fat inner tubes (car, truck and tractor), but not having to depend on them as the primary medium for carrying sound.


I proposed installing a low wooden platform, a dozen rubber inner tubes, and a collection of miced appliances/machines. The sounds from the machines are carried to the platform. By sitting in the inner tubes, visitors can feel the vibrations of the machines through the platform and also (but to a lesser degree) through the tubes. 

The appliances could be scattered throughout the large hall on the ground (washing machine, coke machine) or on pedestals or shelves (electric teakettles). We could also mic working machines in Tramway offices or the cafe, such as copy or espresso machines. The mic cables feed into a mixer, then amps and transducers, all under the platform.

Each machine has its own cycle, including periods of silence. The sounds in the platform would thus be constantly changing, sometimes carrying the sounds of a single machine, or the cacophony of many.

Platform ramps make it possible for wheelchair users to access the platform and experience the sound through their chairs. The inner tubes are themselves not critical for hearing/feeling the sound, but serve the important function of inviting visitors to get down and sit in them (and on the platform).


I asked Greg, my friend at BU who studies vibration, about the balloon/inner tube problem. He says: 

Balloons only work if the internal pressure is high enough. You are prestressing the membrane and hence changing the propagation of waves on it (their speeds). Transmission of sound waves in air to structural vibration only can happen if the structure is easily vibrated.


The following report outlines our findings from a series of events we pit on as part of Nick Caves exhibition in Tramway. 

We wanted to find out what worked and what didn’t in relation to how we could involve people equally.  What would happen when everyone was involved but on the terms of people with pmld.  

Could we create equal ground?  How could we ensure that people with pmld were at the core and who could we work with who would help to push this forward? 

We learned so much 

JENNIFER PAGE COHEN – idea development

For the last year I’ve continued with figurative pieces. They range in size from 6″ to 3ft tall. It will be good to talk and hear what you both are thinking about.

Here are a few images of recent work:

Untitled, clothing scraps, plaster, plaster gauze, fabric collage, watercolor, 6 ½ x 9 x 4, 2020


Untitled, clothing scraps, plaster, plaster gauze, fabric collage, watercolour


Visual Evaluation of Sensational Brass as part of Altered States, Human Threads at Tramway

Visual Evaluation coordinated by Greer Pester and Sally Hackett Sensational Brass By Wendy Jacob

Photos by Anne Elliot

A performance of music and vibration by artist Wendy Jacob, featuring freely roaming balloons and the community band “Brass Aye?”The balloons act as speakers that receive and carry sound you can feel with your fingertips, feet or with your whole body. Unplugged, untethered and unimpeded, musicians, balloons and guests were free to move and bounce amongst each other.

During this event participants were asked to draw their experience as part of evaluation. The following images are excerpts from that evaluation

Sensational Brass by Wendy Jacob

Visual evaluation from Sense Field as part of Altered States, Human Threads at Tramway

Visual evaluation coordinated by Greer Pester & Sally Hackett
Sense Field by Steve Hollingsworth & Jim Colquhoun

photos by Anne Elliot

Part performance, part workshop, Sense Field featured sound, movement, costume, masks and improvisation to alter our sense of time and space.This performance was informed by the interests and insights of individuals with profound and multiple learning difficulties who have collaborated with the artists over a number of years.

During this event participants were asked to draw their experience as part of evaluation. The following images are excerpts from that evaluation

Visual Evaluation of Comfort Zones. Whose Comfort Zones?as part of Altered States, Human Threads at Tramway

Visual evaluation coordinated by Greer Pester & Sally Hackett

Whose Comfort Zones by Robert Softley-Gale

Photos by Anne Elliot

In this discussion-workshop, Robert looked at the ways in which we can stretch our comfort zones and meet those around us in an equitable space.  He discussed how the arts create environments that allow us to share experiences that brings us closer together and how we challenge ourselves to become less divided by removing the boundaries we construct around ourselves.

During this event participants were asked to draw their experience as part of evaluation. The following images are excerpts from that evaluation.

Adam Putnam idea development with Cherry Road

Hi all

Im realizing I might not have responded to some of you directly! THANK YOU so much for taking the time to engage with this idea!  I love all the suggestions/input you gave Alison! A lot of these are in line with what I have been thinking about but it is really helpful as I am fish out of water! I am used to taking my audience for granted and this project is really forcing me to consider my audience in very specific ways! Im going to scan some sketches and send to you guys soon!
Ive been thinking a lot about my time at cherry road as well as yours and everyone’s suggestions and it seems to me the challenge or question is a little bit more complicated than how to simply attract people to the tower but to think through some activities and actions that can happen once at the tower. A big way that I am thinking about this is a relationship between experiences that are both BIG/small or subtle/explicit, LOUD/quiet, etc.much of what I am hearing revolve around tactile input paired with visual or auditory… in close quarters, but can a stimulus from across the room also be effective?
for example:  what would happen if a participant, through interacting with some element of the tower somehow triggered another event in the space. like a bell ringing or a spotlight suddenly turning on… or a cloud of smoke shooting out of a hole in the tower. could an event be triggered from far away that could also be tailored for someone with PMLD? or would that be too subtle?
or does it matter?
perhaps the tower could be thought of as a giant instrument to be “played” that triggers various auditory/visual/textural/olfactory events both near the tower and farther away?
many thanks again!
Begin forwarded message:

Subject: RE:  Questions

The tower has to attract people with PMLD to it.  What do you think will make them move towards it? Describe what it should look like.

What is the tower made of?   If you  touch it what do you think it should feel like.

Just go for it with your answers.  Nothing is too outlandish. Use your imagination



Hi Alison,

Love the sound of this project, I personally find that different ideas for each side of the tower to see what works best in order to attract people.

– So one side I would go with abstract lights i.e. different coloured high fluorescent bulbs that flicker and flash at different speeds and timings. Almost like a xmas tree but with really different colours.

– the next side I would use more sensory materials and different fabrics hanging and stuck to the side of the tower almost like a carpet of curtain sample book but on a massive scale so that the individual could actually encase themselves within the different fabrics and textures.

-side three I would reserve for a more organic feel. I would use materials such as brick and stone, sand and leaves things that individuals will be able to recognise from everyday life all brought together in one side of a tower.

-Side 4 now this is going to sound crazy but….. a black light from the top of the tower and the bottom shining onto a huge bag like creation filled with illuminous liquid that can be squeezed and pressed into different forms. I’m thinking like as if you were too laminate the liquid or something like that so it didn’t all just sit at the bottom. And the liquid would have to show up under black light as highly fluorescent almost like what you see on a crime scene when they use black lights to spot blood stains etc.

Hope this all sounds good

Aaron Newcombe

Cherry  Road


September 23 – October 14th

A season of immersive events aimed at breaking down barriers of difference through shared experience.

In response to Nick Cave’s shimmering installation, and his prompt to use it as an alternative town hall, Artlink has devised a series of interesting encounters. These will focus on how the shared experience of art can honour the human threads that connect people with profound learning disabilities to the wider world and the wider world to them.

For more than a decade, Artlink’s Ideas Team has pioneered collaborative research within communities of care. Ideas and practices have radiated from a small group of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their carers in a Midlothian day centre called Cherry Road. Their responses and perceptions of the world have informed this international programme of events.

Altered States will create radical insights and bodily experiences for an inclusive public, experimenting with sensory stimuli, slow time and differing states of being. Events are open to a diverse range of audiences, to come together within a safe space to investigate who we are through a completely different lens, ultimately discovering what we have in common.

Tickets for the events at the Tramway, Glasgow are free but must be booked. 16+

This programme of events has been funded by Creative Scotland

Details and links below:-

SENSE FIELD, 1PM – 2PM, 23RD SEPTEMBER, 2019. Participative performance by Steve Hollingsworth & Jim Colquhoun


COMFORT ZONES. WHOSE COMFORT ZONES? 7PM – 8PM. 23RD SEPTEMBER 2019. Performative talk by Robert Softley Gale


SENSATIONAL BRASS1 1PM – 130PM & SENSATIONAL BRASS2, 2.30PM – 3PM, 29TH SEPTEMBER 2019 participative performance by Brass Aye?, directed by Wendy Jacob


DEEP LISTENING, 6.30PM – 7.30PM, 29TH SEPTEMBER 2019. Participative performance by Mark Vernon & Daniel Padden


LISTENING WITH OUR BODIES1, 11AM – 12PM & LISTENING WITH OUR BODIES2, 2PM -3PM, 7TH OCTOBER 2019. Participative workshop by Jessica Gogan & Dasha Laverennikov


SPIN, 7PM – 8PM, 14TH OCTOBER 2019. Participative performance by RED NOTE ENSEMBLE.


Inclusive arts

In trying to work through some of the many ethical issues surrounding the creation of an exhibition that to its core is informed by people by profound learning disabilities, we have been drawn to the following book – ‘Inclusive Arts Practice and Research: a critical manifesto’

Inclusive Arts is an important field of creative practice because it can help realise the creative potential of people with learning disabilities and facilitate modes of communication and self-advocacy. The processes involved in producing Inclusive Art may promote new visions of how society might be. This does not mean that Inclusive Arts pursues a singular aesthetic effect or social goal. As the conversations and illustrations of practice begin to emerge in this book, Inclusive Art productions (just like other forms of Contemporary Art) can be beautiful, life-affirming, funny, disorientating, upsetting, ironic, sexual, pleasurable, disturbing, distancing, loving, legible, illegible, or all of the above.

Not all Inclusive Art is considered good art or good socio-political practice. Rather, Inclusive Artwork must negotiate a difficult set of relations with disablism, stereotype, cliché, essentialism, exclusion and voyeurism. As in all artistic experi- mentation, there can be failures……

In a better world, Inclusive Arts would be such an everyday form of practice that it would not need to be given this name; rather, it would be considered an art form that engages with the productivity of difference and the challenges of communication (in its most expanded sense). – Inclusive Arts Practice and Research – Alice Fox and Hannah Macpherson

Working in partnership with people with complex learning disabilities introduces its own very particular set of issues. Issues that in the past have often meant that this group of people are excluded from involvement in the mainstream as they do not ‘ make’ or ‘contribute’ in traditional ways. So, if the actual artwork is of fleeting value to the individual, how can the artwork and its ways of bringing people together, impact on the longer term on the individual and their care structures? Can it challenge preconceptions of ability, questioning current trends in ghettoising people who do not currently conform? How do we value the intimate, intricate and incite full understandings of the world that people with complex learning disabilities present? How do we slow down time and start to watch and listen to each other? And if we ever could, how can we build a greater sense of humanity that is founded on an understanding of what we have in common rather than our differences?

Art in Action

SCAN launches the Art in Action campaign this week to champion the valuable role visual art plays within communities across Scotland – and to call for stronger recognition of this value when it comes to decision-making.

Over the summer recess MSPs will be invited to see for themselves the positive impact of visual art in their constituencies. They’ll be encouraged to share their experience via social media using #ArtInAction – and to make a public commitment to support artists and art in their communities.

Through the Art in Action campaign SCANwill showcase work from across Scotland that shows how artists play an integral role in their communities, creating a shared experience that enhances wellbeing and furthers our understanding of our world.

SCAN director, Clare Harris, said: ‘Culture and creativity are not an add-on; they are part and parcel of how we live our lives. Art facilitates new ways of seeing in a way that’s positive for all of us. 

‘As part of the fabric of our diverse and multi-faceted society, contemporary visual art can feed long-term change within our communities. As such artists should play an integral role in planning for a future vibrant Scotland. We challenge decision-makers to think differently about art – and to recognise its potential by investing in it.’

The Scottish Government’s draft Culture Strategy (June 2018) stated its desire to place culture at the heart of a future Scotland. But the proportion of the Scottish Government budget that goes to arms-length funding body Creative Scotland is currently just 0.2% – and diminishing levels of investment and funding at both local and national level have left the arts infrastructure in a fragile state with artists’ livelihoods precarious.

SCAN recently submitted evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee inquiry on arts funding and urged government and funders to think more strategically around supporting a sector that brings real value to our society. 

In 2017, SCAN worked with Scottish Artists Union and Engage Scotland to launch a Visual Arts Manifesto, which sets out the ambitions for a Scottish visual arts sector that is diverse, properly supported and offers sustainable opportunities for artists and arts workers.

Terry – Ideas Development

By offering Terry choice, interesting things seem to happen – like when we had a bowl of coloured beads and a bowl of plain wooden beads, she choose predominantly the plain beads then she would choose a single coloured bead to add in, then go back to the plain ones – it feels very deliberate (i have even moved around the bowls as she is working to see if her choices are arbitrary, or if it was to do with the position in relation to her hand (she struggles a bit with mobility)  but they’re not – she goes for the plain ones no matter where they are – Laura Aldridge on collaborating with Terry


Contact calls for DWP to drop its pursuit of overpayment of Carer’s Allowance and focus on sorting out the earnings threshold in line with the National Living Wage

Wednesday 15th May 2019

Today MPs on the Work and Pensions select committee are investigating the Department for Work and Pensions’ decision to recover £150 million in overpaid Carer’s Allowance from 80,000 carers.

Some of the families Contact supports have been affected by this and we are calling on the government to drop its pursuit of carers who have been overpaid mostly due to innocent mistakes and the department’s own administration issues.

Una Summerson, Head of Policy at Contact, said: “Instead of pursuing carers for repayment, we urge the Department for Work and Pensions to address the Carer’s Allowance earnings threshold which currently means some families having to choose the lesser of two evils – cut their working hours and lose out on free childcare and Working Tax Credit or keep their hours and lose out on Carer’s Allowance. It is an indictment on our welfare system that carers who are doing so much are faced with this lose-lose situation.”

“We know that the majority of cases of overpayment are due to innocent mistakes such as a carer not understanding how an increase in their earnings might affect their Carer’s Allowance, or is unaware that starting a full-time course of education meant they were no longer entitled.”

Is this truly Britain – a land that spies on sick and poor by Francis Ryan

article taken from Guardian – read full article here

Illustrated by Eva Bee Illustration

In 2016 the Observer revealed through freedom of information requests that out of a million alleged cases of benefit fraud put forward by the public between 2010 and 2015, a staggering 85% were completely unsubstantiated. Last month the Independent reported there had been almost 300,000 public tip-offs on benefit fraud in the past two years that had resulted in no action due to a lack of evidence.

• Frances Ryan is a Guardian columnist

Steve Hollingsworth & Jim Colqhoun – Ideas Development


The costumes we use are an important part of the way in which we try to create a sense of ‘otherness’ in the space. These costumes serve to make the space itself animate whilst removing (for a short period) the presence of us as people, replacing ‘us’ with a kind of mobile ‘extruded’ architecture or extra-organic being. In doing this we hope to give those we work with a powerful sense that the space is endlessly mutable. The costumes will work as both objects in performance and as sculptural elements in and of themselves.

We wish to produce three further unique costumes made by Susie Hunter (who produced the first two) 

New understanding

People with PMLD are some of the most marginalised within society. Unless we change the lens through which we understand them, they will continue to be seen as passive and non- communicative, with the risk that current social care practice will persist in reproducing the status quo. The collaborative work between Artlink, Cherry Road Centre, service users with PMLD and their families is evidencing an alternative future through redefining social care and in doing so, this work is aligning with but also evidences the limitations of current social care policy

Inspiring engagement

‘What you do is provide somebody with something that inspires them enough to be part of it and engage with it and have the curiosity to reach out for more, because if your world is never interesting and always predictable, eventually you will keep your eyes shut and you don’t need to see it because you know exactly what’s going on round about you, you become almost totally desensitised to everything. It’s a kind of learned dis-engagement’.

Liz Davidson – Day care centre manager – Cherry road, Bonnyrigg


The Ripple Effect Report by Dundee University evidences innovative and collaborative work between Artlink and Cherry Road, presenting an alternative vision and future for people with profound learning disabilities. The key themes emerging from the data are Art, Relationships, Time and Learning.  Through integrating art into social care, new ways of working are leading to tangible transformation, improving the quality of life and wellbeing among this group, as well as raising the motivation and enjoyment of social care work amongst practitioners. Read it here: The Ripple Effect Report

Matthew Ronay – Ideas Development

Hi Guys,

Thanks for your patience.

Here are my initial proposals….

And some descriptions in case its unclear what is happening…

I chose to do just six of these for now to get your input and see where it goes…

I have several other ideas as well…But all based on this principle of the pedestal and some objects inside it, on top of it, and some sort of action.

But before I illustrate those I wanted to see if this is something you guys are interested in…


In this pedestal, in which a person can fit, there are two holes cut in the top where two canvas like bag/socks are affixed to the inside of the pedestal. A person can access the pedestal through a small door in the back of the pedestal and fit an arm in one bag and animate the shape.

In this pedestal there is a blue plastic bin liner that its affixed to the inside of the pedestal that can be filled with some paper bits. There is a fan inside the pedestal. When the fan is turned on the bag “ magically” materializes from inside the pedestal, and the light content inside of it is expelled. Next to the hole where the bag comes out is a dyed wooden shape that is affixed to the top of the pedestal that can be touched, smelled, licked, whatever. The wooden shape looks a little like this.

This pedestal, in which a person can fit, is centered around many different sounds. A person fits inside and has a box full of things that make noise. There is opportunity for interaction here. Otherwise it is a pedestal with a hole in it.

This pedestal, in which a person can fit, features a small hole where a person uses a small baster to create a small fountain

This pedestal, in which a person can fit, features a small hole where a person uses a small baster to create a small fountain.
This pedestal features a sculpture that is affixed to the top of the inside of the pedestal. There are two holes on the outside of the pedestal that a person can investigate the object through

This pedestal, in which a person can fit, has a wooden sculpture in a spring and a pipe sculpture that a person inside the pedestal can filter smells through or very quite sounds such a crinkled paper or carbonated water bubbling…



Experiencing time differently:

Erwin Wurm one minute sculptures. All staff to collaborate using the small objects I’ve brought in to create static sculpture of your own bodies balancing or holding some of the objects I’ve brought it.

To slow down time we need to stretch experiences so people have a chance to process- we need to find ways to ’thicken’ time and to ‘congeal’ time, so that people are held. Sound can be a route toward this-not popular music with traditional conventions but by using sound as an element to create ambiences that saturate and hold a person. You can create sounds by experimenting with whats around you and the person you are working with.

  1. Slow walk to sound: move as slowly as possible while listening, try to move imperceptibly slowly across the room. Move as slowly as the hour-hand on a clock for 7.5 minutes. Listen deeply to the sounds.
  2. Blind fold walk….holding hands slowly walk where I take you. What can you perceive now vision has been removed? 7.5 minutes.
  3. Sit down blind folded-listen to the sounds I play and think about how they affect you and how would the people you work with react to them?

Breaking down time in a session using sound:
+ Using the room around you use anything to hand to create a sound. Think about tiny   sounds, quiet sounds, a scraping noise, a teaspoon clinking on a mug.
+ Think about sounds close to the ear and sounds with some distance.
+ Think about large, loud sounds.
+ Change yourself into a performance, accentuate, and exaggerate, surprise and fall over.
+ Continually improvise with what you have to experimental and creative.



In a guest blog for Nuffield Trust, Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive of Mencap, discusses the issue of payments for ‘sleep-in’ care and says that not reaching an equitable solution on it leaves the sector facing an impossible quandary

The first week in November saw fireworks of a different kind for the learning disability sector. After a year of indecision, the Government failed to find a solution to the question of whether or not it would pick up the bill for past statutory ‘sleep-in’ care, and instead introduced a ‘voluntary’ new social care compliance scheme, which has been met by care providers with deep concern.

It may sound dramatic, but the learning disability sector is hanging by a thread. It is the worst crisis in Mencap’s proud 70-year history, and the threat of multiple insolvencies, job losses and thousands of people with learning disabilities losing their homes in the community is sadly very real.

So, what has brought us to this? A retrospective HMRC bill caused by a government change in the rules over how the national minimum wage should apply to ‘sleep-in’ overnight care, used widely across our sector.

When the national minimum wage was introduced in 1999, government interpretation and guidance said time spent asleep did not count as ‘work time’. Instead care workers were paid a flat rate ‘on-call’ allowance, which became the norm across the sector. Local authorities with the statutory duty to assess, and commission essential care, funded this care accordingly. Care workers would only be paid their full wage if woken during the night.

This was the case for around 16 years until two employment tribunal cases challenged that interpretation. Then in October last year, new guidance was issued stating that time spent asleep during a ‘sleep-in’ shift did in fact qualify for the national minimum wage payment. This volte-face triggered HMRC enforcement action demanding six years’ worth of back pay for staff, at an estimated cost of £400 million.

Read full article  here


Over the last decade key health and social care policies including Statutory Guidance to accompany the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 and the Keys to Life 2013 have highlighted the need for practitioners to be more creative. Yet there is little understanding as to how to translate ‘creative’ into social care practice within the context of prevailing social policy drivers of personalisation and co-production. Dr Susan Levy and Dr Hannah Young from the University of Dundee, in collaboration with Artlink, are beginning to evidence the impact of the work of Artlink artists on the lives of service users, on carers, social care practice and the organisational culture of a day centre.

Qualitative data, including observations, reflective diaries and interviews with Artlink artists, Cherry Road Day Centre carers and managers have been collected over a period of six months. Data analysis is currently ongoing. Early findings are highlighting that the work of the Artlink artists with people with PMLD at Cherry Road Day Centre are blurring the boundaries between the arts and social care, opening up a space where care practitioners and managers are learning from Artlink artists. This learning is visible in social care practice and through empowered staff working in new and experimental ways. In essence, Cherry Road staff appear to be connecting with service users at a more personal level, slowing down time to develop meaningful and reciprocal relationships that are engendering a level of agency for service users that is absent in other places and spaces in their lives. In the words of one of the artists,

He has been able to rewrite his narrative … He can’t speak, so through his actions he is generating his own narrative identity, changing it from what’s always been imposed on him … which has been not not not not not. It’s always about the negative. Never about what can we do … and not about learning and really, really looking at people and really engaging with someone, really spending time. And I think the uniqueness of this project is the amount of time we invest… spending time with people and absorbing…. It’s about forming a relationship.

The current Health Improvement Scotland project is exposing the synergy between the creativity of the Artlink artists and ways to work with people with PMLD in a care setting that brings to the fore the visibility of individual agency and enacts the importance of the experiences and learning of both carers and service users. From carers through to management at Cherry Road the artists’ playful, stimulating and responsive interactions with service users are being integrated into practice. This innovative work is uniquely embedding creativity into the working culture of the day centre and transforming the outcomes for service users and carers. In doing so Artlink’s work is problematising prevailing norms around disability and paid carers.


My interest in art, particularly sculpture, was with the to aim to develop a language: a means of communication, sharing and exchange; a way to combine references, knowledge, research and lived experience and express these things through physical materials. For those sources to be ‘held’ somewhere and to be expressed again; to be caught and interrogated, to be felt ‘more.’ It was never meant as a way to be illustrative or to provide a specific, predetermined answer, it was about trying to get ‘closer.’ Film maker Trinh T. Minh-ha describes her approach as ‘speaking nearby’ rather than ‘speaking about’. Trinh posits her works as ‘boundary events’, existing in a zone between labels, a place where new labels might form, dissolve or crossover one another, and which allows her works to evade categorisation. It sits outwith language and into something that can only be described or felt through shared experience. Sculpture especially holds particular power for me: it has a body, it occupies space that you understand through your own understanding of physicality. We all exist in a material body and by sharing space with an ‘other’ borders shift. I find this incredibly powerful.






Containers, collaboration and perception

‘California wow!’ exhibition view at Tramway, Glasgow, 2015.

‘All my work might be about vessels, the idea that everything is contained by something,’ says Laura Aldridge, standing amid ‘California wow!’, her installation in the former transport shed of Glasgow’s Tramway. The statement is perplexing at first, as there’s only one actual vessel on show, Biggest Pot (2015), which was glazed to Aldridge’s design by the virtuoso ceramicist James Rigler (showing contemporaneously in an adjacent gallery). The colours of the la landscape – grape red, sea blue, bleach white – ooze into one another, like the layers of a Tequila Sunrise.

The three plywood structures entitled Large Bodies (2013–15) are punctured by a curved gap that is filled with cushions and, at a stretch, could contain a person. Indeed, I’m tempted to hop inside myself, but am told by an attendant it’s not allowed, which Aldridge confirms. This isn’t a strategy of frustration per se, she says, but a way of encouraging visitors to ‘think about perception’. And it works: looking at the elegant diagonal heft of one pod-like space, I’m suddenly conscious of my weariness, the throb of my feet. Not My Elbow (ix) (2015) – layers of dyed rice held in a plastic cylinder, open at the top but crowned with a twist of bisque-fired plaster – produces the same effect. The conjunction of smooth barrier, exposed surface and the ceramic’s flourish, makes me want to run my fingers through the rice, imagining the hiss of the grains. As in the work’s title, physical sensation is elicited but displaced. It almost amounts to a mild kind of synaesthesia, enmeshing one sense with another, making touch a business of hearing and looking and imagining, as well as of palpable contact. While we’re talking, Aldridge mentions someone she’s met whose vision cuts out if they hear sound of a certain pitch: a participant in one of the workshops she runs for the non-profit organization Artlink, which seeks to find ways to communicate with people with sensory disabilities and learning difficulties through art-making. When Aldridge describes ‘California wow!’ as ‘a conversation through materials’, my mind turns to this.

At Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts in 2012, Aldridge displayed another series of con­tainers: oversized fabric pockets, some fastened with giant pantomimic buttons. Entitled ‘Underside, backside, inside, even’ (2012), the series played around with the spatial expectations of sculpture. (Where’s the back and where’s the front? What’s the core of a work which declares itself hollow?) It also made a physical address: like a gargan­tuan kangaroo’s pouch, each pocket seemed, as in Large Bodies, to want to hold the weight of a human. Even the imposing patchwork fabric ‘banners’ that Aldridge showed at Kendall Koppe in 2012 are charged with a sense of the portable. Initially inspired by the advertisements that hang from lampposts throughout la, they look as if they could be borne aloft in a procession; moreover, when talking about their importance to her recent work, the artist describes the appeal of a form that she could ‘fold up and put in a suitcase and carry with me’.

Read more here


Play features in these artists work with emphasis on the relationships that form through play.  What is important within their work is that the person with complex disabilities directs what happens.

The final art works will unfold over time.  The more they learn from each other, the more people they involve, then the more they will create a radical space for people to  be themselves. Regardless.



Listen here

The idea behind this particular story was to find a way to describe an arts project that involved an artist, an informatics specialist and a man with a liking for music. The man in question had a learning disability, a sight impairment and physical disability, which meant he was reliant on others choosing what he listened to. He listened to Radio Forth a lot. So artist Steve Hollingsworth began creating a sound system which could operate with one simple hand movement, enabling the man to select, for the first time, what he felt like listening to from an extensive library of sounds. The playlist included the man’s mother telling stories, his brother playing cello, the sound of a music box he liked and personalised jingles made for him by Radio Forth.

Together, the artist and the informatics specialist adapted an mp3 player. The sound equipment was installed in the man’s bedroom. It’s his, it’s private and he can listen to whatever he wants, at the touch of his hand.

So how do you write about a project like this? We asked writer Nicola White to write a short story, a fiction from the point of view of the man. What happened to the story is a real testament to the skill of the writer. She turned a short story about a sound project into a sound work itself, creating an inspiring work from an equally inspiring project.

About the Author
Nicola White grew up in Dublin and New York. She worked as a contemporary art curator and as a television and radio producer before concentrating on writing. Nicola has had several pieces of short fiction published in addition to features for newspapers and magazines. She received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2008 and is currently working on her first novel, a piece of catholic noir set in Ireland.

Credits for Audio Production
Written and Produced by Nicola White
Read by Callum Cuthbertson
Music by Stephen Adam
Sound Production by Caroline Barbour


For those of us working in social care, the last couple of years have been the toughest in living memory. From reports revealing the underfunding of services through to deepening staff shortages, it’s hard to see where any help and relief for the sector will come from. Particularly as there’s no end in sight to the government’s spending squeeze.

Despite such a grim backdrop, many of us in this amazing industry remain resolute in our mission to deliver outstanding services to those in need. Times might be hard, but it hasn’t stopped us from asking what we can do to ensure we improve services and the lives of those who need support.

Read Article here


Laura Aldridge has worked in workshops with people with complex disabilities for many years.  She has a beautiful and innate sense of the people she works with.  She watches and listens to the detail that surrounds the individual, slowly encouraging their involvement.

Responses to colour, proximity, touch and scale all play a part in her work.  Its big, bold and immersive.




Benefit sanctions are punishing disabled people for the sake of it
by Frances Ryan

The government’s cruel rhetoric is that with enough ‘tough love’, people too ill to get out of bed can hold down a job. Sanctions don’t work

Four years ago, I wrote about the death of David Clapson. Clapson – a former soldier and carer for his mum – had his benefits sanctioned after missing one meeting at the jobcentre. He was diabetic, and without the £71.70 a week from his jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) he couldn’t afford to eat or put credit on his electricity card to keep the fridge working where he stored his insulin. Three weeks later, after suffering a severe lack of insulin, Clapson was found dead with a pile of CVs next to his body.

The Tory blueprint: fund a cruel system, not the disabled people it punishes

I found myself thinking of Clapson this weekend when I read the findings of a groundbreaking study into the treatment of unemployed disabled claimants in Britain. The four-year study by academic Ben Baumberg Geiger in collaboration with the Demos thinktank shows that since 2010, disabled people receiving state benefits have been hit with a staggering 1m sanctions.

Read more here





Frances Ryan in the Guardian Dec 2017 

‘The Conservatives have repeatedly promised and failed to drive down unemployment figures while tightening eligibility and making cuts to out of work sickness benefits.’
Look closely enough and recent announcements reveal the two faces of Conservative disability policy. At the end of last month, Penny Mordaunt, the former disability minister and new international development secretary, announced the UK’s first global disability summit. To fanfare, Mordaunt positioned Britain as a global leader in disability rights, pledging to help other nations “tackle the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fulfilling their potential.” Then the same night, buried at 10pm, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released its long-promised plan to address this country’s ongoing disability unemployment crisis.

Read more here


The beginnings of sensory environments. Artists Steve Hollingsworth, Jim Colquhoun, Laura Aldridge and Laura Spring play with Glowdoodle developed by Eric Rosenbaum at MIT.Glowdoodle The idea is that artists work together with small teams of specialists to begin to create sensory environments for people with profound learning disabilities.  With expectations lowering as a reulting of cuts to services, it is even more important that we raise the bar.  Ensuring that the most vulnerable and those that support them have continued access to opportunities of the highest quality.


Artists Laura Aldridge and Laura Spring asked Old School Fabricators to redesign a space within a Day Centre which would be more relevant to people with profound Learning Disabilities. They worked with the artists, individuals with complex disabilities and their care staff and came up with the following ideas.

Here are their ideas…..old-school-ideas

ADAM PUTNAM – early ideas

dust spiraling in a beam of sunlight -inside a woodshed long gone.

light through a window, (a beacon?) like a bell ringing in the distance

these are all stills from recent videos, a video from 6 years ago and a photograph from 20 years ago

perhaps all are spaces where doing and being done to get confused. a place where abandon means not knowing where your skin ends and the floorboards begin. (also reminds me of a beautiful moment in proust where the young narrator is peering through a crak in the blinds at the bright outside world and it is almost as if darkness becomes a place of vision and sunlight offers only blindness)

we have spoken of magic lanterns, light projections and possibly fragments of architecture. but what if we perhaps use the language of cinema as a starting off point? to be specific, the language of staging. I currently teach a class where i assign freshman students a month long assignment where they start with a simple pairing, a sound and smell for example. to this, each week, they must add more pairings. I am particularly interested in getting them to come up with irrational, or non-diegetic sounds and pairings. (for example: a door closes but you hear the sound of a thunderclap or a teaspoon rattling a teacup)




sound/prop/gesture/lighting effect

sound/prop/gesture/lighting effect/smell


i wonder if there might be someway that this could be turned into a practice or strategy or way of collaborating with someone who senses the world in an intrinsically different way????

perhaps a set of instructions could be passed back and forth somehow- the end result being a staged performance, a film or a series of props… not necessarily in that order.








TITLE IMAGE: Gary making sculpture at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital, August 2013. Photo: Claire Barclay ( note this is the close-up image of hands)

Place: Instituto Nise da Silveira, Engenho de Dentro

We are lying, eyes closed, on the floor in a circle, holding hands and with feet touching. We feel the weight of objects on our chests, and as we individually start to make sense of this experience we wonder if these objects are sacks filled with grains or powder as they slump and settle into the contours of our bodies. We hear a rustling sound before we feel the cool smoothness of perhaps polythene bags filled with liquid. A taut jiggling sensation is perceived by our skin as the bags are pushed and pulled over our limbs, torsos, hands and feet. These ‘relational objects’1 are moved around our bodies by the will of another person who decides how and when to leave them resting on our bare arm or clothed leg. Our acute awareness of the cool pressure very slowly diminishes as our senses become used to the oddness and our conscious selves begin to stop making sense of this experience. Objects are touching bodies, bodies are touching bodies, objects are touching objects. We are letting go and allowing our vulnerability to be replaced by trust. Feeling our physical connection with the material objects and the people we are touching. Not only on the surface but deeper within us.

This therapeutic experience, inspired by the work of Brazilian artist and art therapist Lygia Clark, continues to be used within this hospital in Rio to help people with schizophrenia.2 We are privileged to be able to experience it first hand, and we wonder how work of this nature might inform our thinking around touch and material agency as a form of exchange and vehicle for care?

Within care institutions, we often see ‘touch’ being systemically compartmentalised to serve medical purposes. Bodily contact with objects and people can be intimidating or even disturbing, depending on methods of introduction. The sensitive touch of emotional care has to emerge organically, where it finds opportunities. Often the most powerful instances of care that we experience within these contexts are not clinical but motivated by moments of friendship and empathy between individuals, whether patients, service users, staff, ex-patients, artists or visiting family members. These usually involve touch, the comfort of a held hand or an arm around a shoulder.

Artists can introduce other forms of therapeutic touch through creative engagement in hands-on making and sensory experiences. We see curiosity and personal expression emerge through the joy of forming malleable soft clay, the surprise of transferring a drawing into a printed fabric pattern, the embroidery session that relaxes the body and enables calm and focus. Through physically transforming materials we are exploring their potential to trigger sensory and emotional responses and relationships between forms of making and methods of care.


Place: Cherry Road Day Care Centre, Edinburgh

Donna is drawing with fluorescent pens on a medical worker’s white coat that she is wearing. I am asked to wear the coat so that she can draw on the back. The drawing is expressive and immediate and Donna is passionate about the activity. She holds my arm at the wrist while she draws colourful spirals along my arm. The feeling of her drawing on my back and arm is therapeutic, like a kind of massage, and I realise that there is a form of exchange happening. I tell Donna how nice it feels and she smiles a big smile and makes a thumbs-up gesture, as she does frequently. The resulting design on the coat looks impressive under the UV light, but it is the process of exploring and making together that is the most important thing.

Artlink artist Laura, is projecting coloured light and moving patterns onto fabrics suspended above Carol’s body. Carol is following the images by moving her head and eyes. Due to Carol’s profound physical and mental challenges she has much less ability to communicate her thoughts and feelings and Laura has to trust her instinct when working in such uncertain circumstances. Carol’s disabilities mask her intelligence and she seems very aware of her vulnerability and lack of control over many aspects of her everyday care. Laura is respectful of this and introduces experiences to Carol carefully. Today she explores singing to Carol while massaging her hands and feet. Physical touch seems to help make creative ideas accessible and the two are intertwined within the experience. Laura sees the importance of developing a sincere connection with Carol over time through observing her responses to different sensory stimulus.

During each session Carol’s responses are very subtle and only those responsible for her care are able to acknowledge these small but sometimes momentous reactions: a hint of a smile; the movement of eyes attempting to follow an object or someone’s smile within her line of vision; an abrupt shifting of a hand or a gasp or squeal uttered.

This work would have no benefit or meaning if not carried out long-term and in such a personalised and sensitive way. Laura has worked with individuals at Cherry Road over many years, slowly and incrementally developing relationships with the service users and discovering their unique personalities through one-to-one interactions.

We intentionally make ourselves vulnerable as artists when working intuitively with unpredictable situations like these. We do this in order to better understand an individual’s needs and specific contexts, and to develop trust. We are able to create non-hierarchical relationships, often experimenting and participating rather than directing. By making ourselves vulnerable and working around existing institutional structures, artists can create moments of empathy and anarchy that allow personal creative expression to flourish and provide alternative modes of communication and exchange.

How might we find ways to value and talk about these kinds of exchange that are experiential and leave little visible trace for others, despite profoundly affecting those involved in a lasting way?

Place: Royal Edinburgh Psychiatric Hospital

Figure 1 Gary and Claire, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, August 2013. Photo: Trevor Cromie
Gary and I are sifting through an array of materials that I have brought to the ward, including wood, plastic and metal fragments, and remnants of cloth, hessian and leather. Gary selects a piece of blue foam as the ideal addition to his current sculptural form. He carefully cuts and combines this with the other elements by binding together using wool and thread that constrict the foam and give it a body-like appearance. Gary is a young man with a serious brain injury who struggles with continuity of speech and thought. We communicate in our own way using an alternative sculptural language of sorts that we have developed over a number of sessions working together. We have become able to understand each other’s thinking in terms of the task of making these artworks. As the object transforms, new references are continually triggered in Gary’s mind. The sculpture is like a physical manifestation of his disrupted or random thought process, but within our creative process this is a positive. Gary and I both enjoy the surprising paths this process enables. There is creative freedom here that allows Gary’s unique sculptural ability to thrive and produce these compelling forms, simultaneously figurative and abstract. I feel an affinity with Gary’s objects and my own approach to making sculpture, and we are both learning from each other through the collaboration.

If these kinds of sharing experiences help create genuine moments of connection that are valuable in the care of vulnerable people, how can these approaches inform institutional structures? Is it important to foster unique alternative forms of communication in order to evolve better individual care? If we understand sanity as self-recognition, might moments like these help people involved with giving and receiving care to know themselves better and celebrate their individuality?

Place: Colônia Juliano Moreira, Jacarepaguá
Figure 2 Pedro showing his sketchbook, Atelier Gaia, October 2017. Photo: Claire Barclay (there are two images to choose from)
Pedro is standing in the gallery in front of a substantial series of abstract paintings that he has produced at Atelier Gaia art studio within the Psychiatric Hospital. These related works explore radiating lines and stripes and strong colour combinations. He talks about them formally, describing the experience of colours transforming when placed next to other colours. He is curious about this and likes experimenting with these colour interactions in order to better understand their dynamics. He points out elements that he would like to change and we get an idea of what motivates Pedro to keep producing new versions to add to his painting series. His works are energetic and alive and he is excited to share his work with us.

The next time we see Pedro he is being thrown into a cell within a derelict asylum by a fellow patient, Arlindo. Arlindo’s performance draws on the traumatic experiences he had as a teenage patient within the asylum decades ago, before reforms led to its closure. This performance is raw, brutal, uneasy, humorous in moments and revealing. Arlindo moves between us from room to room, slamming heavy cell doors and fumbling with keys in locks. Some audience members avoid possible interaction and edge away as he approaches. We each respond to his work depending on our own reference points and reactions to the performance and the stimulus of the space with its barred windows, cold steel and damp concrete surfaces. The ambient sounds and smells merge with echoes of Arlindo’s aggressive shouts and hopeless mumbles of this vivid interpretation of his own memories.

Figure 3 Arlindo’s performance, October 2017. Photo: Claire Barclay
(or could use the great photo that was sent on what’s ap of the performance )
We are affected in different ways by the works of these patients and the degree of meaning that the work has for them. We are moved by the care they extend to us within a unique situation, and their keenness to communicate despite our naivety regarding their particular experience. Their work communicates to us in an immediate and human way, and in that moment transcends our cultural differences. We can’t fully understand, but we appreciate the invitation from these individuals to make a meaningful connection, a connection that has relied mainly on sensory communication and forms of translation rather than conversation. During our short time in Rio we have begun to develop alternative forms of creative communication based on exchange and shared learning rather than conventional hierarchical structures. Despite visiting people and places with real challenges, this experience has been inspiring and life affirming and helped inform our own thinking around methods of care.

1 ‘relational objects’ is the term used by artist and art therapist Lygia Clark for the objects used within the therapy she developed in the 1970’s to help people with schizophrenia.
2 ‘Rosácea’ is the title for the Clark inspired experience interpreted by Gina Ferreira and presented as part of the project Art, body and sensibility hosted by the Museum of Images of the Unconscious.


Sensory experiences: another language to learn Laura Spring – text for Rio


Sensory experiences: another language to learn
Laura Spring

There were moments in Rio when we were invited to participate in more intimate and sensory experiences; these were some of the most powerful exchanges for me. Surprising exchanges that captured unexpected raw emotion – an invitation to stand together in a circle around a series of objects (a stone, a burning candle, a glass of water and a lit incense stick), eyes firmly closed, a voice speaking gently in Portuguese, another voice drifting in and out of my ear translating words into English: ‘Think of your mother, think what she’s doing right now, think of the meal she’s preparing…’; ‘Think of your grandmother…’ Tears immediately slipped down my face upon hearing these words, my eyes were closed and the voice carried me off to another place. I thought of my mother and cried, in a roomful of people I barely knew the week before.


Another invitation – this time to lie down on a circle of mats that had been positioned on the floor. We lay down, our eyes closed, hands held firmly at first and our feet touching in the centre of the circle. As time passed by, our grip relaxed and hands became loose in each other’s, but contact was still there. The time passed at a speed I couldn’t quantify, objects were rolled, brushed, squeezed, scattered and dragged gently over our bodies. My senses were alert but I felt calm and relaxed. I felt complete trust in what was happening to me and soon objects that had felt heavy, felt weightless. My senses were shifting, heightened, and yet I felt completely at ease.

These exchanges resonated so closely with the work I and other artists do with Artlink. Back in Scotland, at Cherry Road Learning Centre , Claire and I recreate the Lygia Clark workshop. Artists and care workers lie in a circle, objects are rolled, brushed, squeezed and dragged. The effect is the exact same. No language just calm, relaxing sensations.

Fig 2. Alistair and ball, Artlink Workshop, July 2017. Video: Laura Spring

On a weekly basis I make invitations and exchanges with the people I work with at Cherry Road through objects, sound, light, texture or touch. There’s a moment when I hand Alistair (a service user) a round, shiny metal ball that makes a soft ringing sound as it moves in the palm of his hand. Our heads are close, we’re sitting cross-legged opposite each other on the floor. I put the ball on a mirror on the floor and he picks it up. He moves the ball and it chimes as it rolls gently around the palm of his hand. I remain silent, watching and listening to the movement and sound of the ball. Then he looks up, his eyes lock with mine and for a moment we’re there together, experiencing the sound and texture of that ball.

Fig 3. Isla laughing, Artlink Workshop, November 2017 Photo: Laura Spring

Isla is in hysterics. The most hysterical laughter I’ve ever heard from her. We’re playing loud pop music, lights are flashing and Lauren (another artist) is tickling her face with a brush. Isla’s laugh is infectious, we’re sitting on the floor in front of Isla in her wheelchair, she makes big belly laughs and it’s impossible not to join in.

It’s always hard to capture the intimacy and importance of these moments in words. It might seem so simple – a gentle brush on a face, a UV pen drawing over someone’s body, a ball jiggling in a hand, a slurping noise made nose to nose – but they’re all incredibly powerful moments of communication. Regular language doesn’t seem relevant. We create a new language together through trial and error over months and years of working together. I’m always learning from the people I work with, I never know what to expect from session to session, a bit like my experiences in Rio. I had no idea what to expect and language wasn’t always important because some communication doesn’t require words. There’s always another language to learn


Kevin. Fran and James – initial ideas for Moments We Collide

We will create a piece of work where the aim is not to culminate in an end product or an object intended for view by a passive spectator, but where the process is more important than the outcome.

This work will explore different ways in which changing the environmental and interactive conditions (e.g. turning the lights off, standing still, whispering and being close) can elicit feelings and affect relationship.


For the exhibition we propose a work in two parts: 1) an expanded or durational encounter involving ourselves, people with PMLD, their support staff, and artists Harriet Plewis and Nicola Singh. For part 2 this encounter will be translated for a non-PMLD audience as a result of the artists, working as ‘playful invigilators’, creating environments and interactions designed to evoke different ways of perceiving and interacting with the gallery space



As Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble, Red Note is renowned not only for its virtuosity but also for its voracious enthusiasm for challenging work. As part of its quest to reach underserved audiences, Red Note recently collaborated with Artlink, Edinburgh’s ongoing programme ‘The Ideas Team’, established in 2005.
The Ideas Team projects support unique arts practices shaped by the interests and lived experiences of people with profound learning disabilities. By positively challenging the often very limited expectations of individuals, it seeks to bring together families, musicians, care workers, artists, engineers, designers and people with profound learning disabilities to share their knowledge and shape high quality work which is both thought-provoking and relevant.
As a result of delving into the minutiae of individual responses, from the sound of a coke machine to the blink of an eye to the thrum of a cello, the work started to uncover a view of the world probably never experienced before.
Artist Miriam Walsh already had an established relationship with Cherry Road, and explains the inception of the project:
“I started working on Artlink‘s Ideas Team just over a year ago, supporting American artist Wendy Jacobs’ to work with care staff to collate sounds on her Sound project. My remit was to encourage care staff to observe, describe and collate sounds which drew the attention of the people they worked with. We called this work ‘Sound Diaries’. Our aim was to create a landscape of sounds informed by the individuals responses to incredibly detailed and fluctuating sounds which formed their everyday. Over time, we explored sounds which might have seemed small or even insignificant, and as a result all of our understanding evolved. We began to learn from each other, through sharing this detail and a whole new sensory world filled with unending detail has been revealed.
Using the Sound Diaries approach as a springboard, Artlink Edinburgh invited Red Note Ensemble to Cherry Road to take part in and deliver individual performances informed by the individuals’ existing relationship with sound.

It was a bit of an experiment to see what would happen over a series of four visits. Key to Red Note involvement was the preparation and the material gathered by Miriam, quite simply, they had to ‘hit the ground running’. She explains how this worked in practice:
“to prepare for the musicians I worked with staff at the day centre creating personal sound profiles gathering information about the types of sounds (pitch, tone, tempo, rhythm etc.) which seemed to have some resonance with the individual.
“I shared these sound profiles with Red Note to give them some insight into the people with whom they’d be sharing their music. The intention was to ask the musicians to look at the detail of how they play sounds with the possibility that they might be able to uncover new sounds or ways of playing that become an interactive rather than passive experience for both musician and audience. As the sessions evolved the sounds have become conversation pieces, gestures and improvisations – the click of a tongue, the swirl of the flute in response – the start of an intimate conversation through sound.”
The musicians quickly recognised that a heightened awareness of an audience changes the way in which a performer engages with them; and a willingness to respond to this musically makes the beginnings of an active collaboration, rather than simply a passive listening experience. This acute attention can ideally offer both parties the opportunity to uncover perspectives they may never have experienced before. Red Note flautist Ruth Morley found the process of consciously tuning in to and responding to their audience made the sessions deeply affecting:
“Sharing music and sounds in the sessions at Cherry Road has been moving, funny, perplexing and at moments bizarre. Playing a ‘personal concert’, improvising, moving around rhythms and melodies and trying to connect, changing what we play depending on the response, playing to people whose response is always fully available, unmediated by social politeness and convention we are trying to read responses and create a dialogue. We’re trying to read a facial expression, a head movement, the level of body tension, a vocal sound, and play something that connects. The response to our playing has been euphoric, angry, contented, confused, surprised, excited, relaxed…and more.
“Some memorable moments have been watching Donald’s response to our first ‘performance’. He seemed to travel with the music, following the shapes of the phrases and the shifts in harmony. His face was a picture of emotions as he listened, it was amazing. The first time we played to Joe he was quite agitated, he was not having a good day, but as we played his movement slowed and he became quite still and calm. When we stopped playing his movement began again. The second time we played to him he danced in circles, giggling as he span around. After we stopped playing, he stopped spinning and sat down (probably to let his dizziness subside!)
For Red Note cellist and Artistic Co-Director Robert Irvine, the experience was one which stripped away the conventions of a standard performance and engendered a direct link between performer and audience. He reflects:
“This is a music-making experience for us that is completely without any of the nonsense surrounding the strange world of classical contemporary music. It feels very, very direct to have the opportunity to play music to people in an environment of total honesty. This opportunity to play from the heart to the heart is such a good experience for me on lots of levels. We know the music is being ‘heard’ without any other layers of context getting in the way. Sometimes the music is loved and enjoyed and sometimes it is rejected. There is no pretence at Cherry Road. We should all learn from that”.
For both Ruth and Robert, playing at Cherry Road is raising fundamental questions about how they communicate and relate to music, why musicians play and why we all need music; how we listen and respond to it and why live music has such an effect compared to recorded music. As Ruth says:
“It’s big…! Life can get in the way of communication – we’re busy, tired, stressed, scared of what will happen if we let ourselves connect. We’ve all experienced those times when music seems to bypass all conscious systems and get straight to the core of us. We need to be ‘available’ for this to happen”
So how can Red Note’s musicians carry what they’ve learned through these collaborations into performing work elsewhere? For Robert, the questions raised and lessons learned will sit at the core of his performance practice:
“The experience for me at Cherry Rd feeds into my approach to performing in all contexts. As musicians we must always be sure to question the validity of every concert, workshop and lesson we give. This project reinforces the core values of music as a human interaction that is beyond and irrelevant to words”.




IDEAS THAT BEND is the umbrella title for a series of collaborative interventions which took place at Cherry Road Day Centre.(Its such a good title that we have borrowed it for the whole programme!) The term comes from our desire to create artworks that respond to, develop with, and grow around the people they are created for. Through our experience of working with people within the centre, we have come to realise that we need to work with materials, ideas and objects that are flexible and fluid – we want to work with things that open out, things that change, things that grow – heavy objects that clutter the room just don’t do it. WE WANT IDEAS THAT BEND – we need to be able to play. We want to work in an open ended, responsive way, and we want to involve and include as many people as we can so the people that use the centre have ownership of what is produced and what is experienced. We have developed three artworks for potential development within the centre.  Click on ideas-that-bend to see the work .


For exhibition in 2020, Jacob will construct an undulating platform/ramp accessible to all bodies, where visitors can listen to embedded speakers playing a collage of sounds. The sounds, curated by service users of the Cherry Road Day Center, draw upon the center’s ambient hums and vibrations as source material.




Cat cushions

Popkalab seem to have created the perfect Fiona Moyes cushion without even knowing her…couldn’t believe it when I saw this!

‘This cushion has 10 different sounds of cats trapped inside it. The cats can be heard when you press it. It also vibrates when the cat purrs…’ WOW!


As well as this amazing cushion, they’ve also created some other incredible reactive textiles including bomber jackets that light up in response to the sound around them, shoes that record sound and play it back and a hammock that can be ‘played’ whilst sat on… we think they could be a dream collaborator for the project…



watch this film to see how it works

Lauren Gault – work in progress

Lauren Gault is one of the artists we are working with on the Ideas Team project and she recently came into the wednesday session with a prototype of something she had been working on to see how the service users interacted with it. Here’s a few photos of Donna interacting with one of the square shaped moulded plastic objects that Lauren brought in. She filled it with water for this session, but it’s exciting to think how this can be built upon by adding coloured dyes, oils, objects etc. We also played around with lights shining through the water…

FRAN & KEVIN -initial ideas for Moments We Collide


It is important in every workshop we offer, that we put the individual first.  We go out of our way to make sure that they have a great time and that people get to do what they want to do. It takes time to get this right and when we get it right, it’s amazing.

When we placed P’s workshop in a local community centre, P’s first act was to switch off the lights.  So a lot of the workshops are in the dark.

“These workshops are all about P’s time to explore, develop, push ideas forward. He is incredible, he directs what we and his support workers do. Different kinds of interactions/encounters result from changing how we move around the space and the different kind of objects we use. It’s quality time because we are all invested in exploring alternative ways of working and it feels good.

When we were bouncing agility balls around P, they were bouncing in different ways and in unexpected directions. P was sitting in the centre, providing a focus/catalyst for this activity, he was laughing as balls bounced around him and as we scrambled to catch the balls.”

Fran Nobilucci & Kevin McPhee – Wednesday Workshop & Ideas Team


black cubesdownload

Yesterday we had a meeting about one individual, who we will call GEE.  Artists Kevin McPhee and Francesca Nobiluci have been working closely with GEE, getting  to know him, building trust  and exploring areas of interest. GEE tends to be on his own, he doesnt work with others and whilst seeking out company he tends to quickly reject when it makes him anxious. GEE makes things out of cardboard. Mostly objects and characters from Dr Who.  Our aim is to identify with him, an object to make which could become a pod and support him to interact with others as part of the process.

So yesterday we arranged a meeting with David Cherry, president of the Glasgow Doctor Who Society.  We wanted to explore the potential of making an object around his interest in anything Doctor Who.  Hence the expert.  It proved to be one of these meetings where lights come on and bells start ringing, if you know what I mean.

Here are Kevins notes from the meeting………..

Some cube thoughts from today

I think this clip sums up how I feel when I first come across a new creation by GEE. What is it?  How can I relate it to a reference within the Dr Who universe? How do I make sense of it within my own references and interests? Since my knowledge of Dr Who is limited that what I liked from today was that David is fulfilling the role of Dr Who in this clip, the one who is helping us translate and identify these objects.

I’m still unsure of what the purpose of these cubes are or what they do but I think it is ok for me not to understand this. What I find interesting is this was a example where GEE and I made something together. It was me that chose the cube as a three dimensional form to make, thinking this would be something relatively easy to construct and knowing that GEE is competent and methodical in his approach so we would find a way of assisting one another to build it.

Now that I know from David that there is a connection to Dr Who this makes me understand that within that moment of making that cube together is more than just an example of two people working together to make a physical object but that GEE and I created a (conceptual?) space together which was invested in both our interests (unknowingly for me at the time but  GEE  knew what was happening).

What I like about these cubes (sorry I’m hung up on these cubes) is that they can exist statically or come together to create a bigger construction. They exhibit the potential to exist as a module. They could contain hidden technologies that have different functions dependent on the shape that is created, that they could be intelligent and contain power. That other people could relate to these objects without necessarily having any Dr Who knowledge.

At the meeting today I also thought that we were all units that came together to create something bigger for GEE. That all of us sitting around that table play an equal part in helping create a narrative, dialogue, physical objects etc for GEE and in a way while yes this object/pod is for GEE that we can’t really separate ourselves from the final outcome because we are all part of GEE’s universe.

Cue Dr Who theme tune.

Ben i cause & effect – Laura Aldridge



More experimenting with Ben today. Thinking on from Steve’s work that he does with Ben – Ive started making random objects/propositions that have a kind of purpose. Ben seems to understand that he can have an affect what we are doing, that if he hits something,  it will make a noise, move something

I tied a wooden hoop to a piece of ribbon, which I then tied to a symbol  – if I held the symbol out, Ben would hold out the hoop – the two objects connecting to make a sound, a vibration. Its totally analogue – but it feels positive for Ben to be active within the session –  as the temptation is to let things wash over him and for him to be passive.