The first round of Utopia magazine distribution is about to start in early May.  We have joined forces with the Variant Magazine to share distribution.  As part of the distribution we have included a letter in the Variant Magazine ………

Utopia Magazine Issue No.1Taking another tack

Ive worked with Artlink in the area of learning disability and the arts for the past 25 years, and been personally involved for way longer than that.  In that time, Ive watched education turn somersaults, healthcare pass the buck and social services run round in circles, stood by as new ways of working and new terminologies became fashionable and then suddenly become outdated and smirked as new and almost similar approaches couched in a different vocabulary, take its place.  Throughout that time, I have had the honor to be around the most amazing activists, people who have fought for the rights of people with learning disabilities, people who have really made things happen. 

I’ve seen it all before but perhaps not quite like this. Services hacked to pieces; greater stress placed on families as their support systems are eroded; families with homes under threat as a result of changes to housing benefit.; benefits axed with little understanding of impact.    We appear to be going backwards to a time when you were ‘bloody lucky’ to get anything at all.

Rather than continue to be negative, I want to take a slightly different tack. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to occupy myself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis, I want to up expectations, raise the bar. In times like these it is so necessary we need to up the ante.

Artlink have recently published a magazine called Utopia.  An upbeat look at what should be.  In it we look at a series of ideas for objects and ways of working, which would benefit people with profound learning disabilities.  We promote alternative ways of understanding what is being said to us, taking time to look at the detail, to understand the individual, deciphering what is being said through the twitch of an arm, flicker of an eyelid, tilt of a head.  

It is vital that we continue to find ways to understand the distinctive needs of people who are often excluded from society, as in doing so, we respect their right to be included. It is only by focusing on the detail of the individuals needs, and working to remove the barriers they face, that people with profound and multiple learning disabilities will be given the respect they deserve.

Utopia proposes that we put our heads together, concentrate, cross disciplines, use our imagination, think creatively, to find ways to ensure that people with high support remain valued.  Ultimately respecting differences and valuing people for who they are.

For more information or if you would like to join in the discussion then please write to

Utopia is available at selected sites throughout Scotland

Alison Stirling



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