Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Interview with VI Talk

I was kindly asked to take part in an interview with VI Talk for their audioBoom channel before Christmas. The interview covered many aspects of my life including my illustrations as the RNIB's Young illustrator of 2014, campaigning work, recent match to my Guide Dog and the training we would be undertaking throughout December, as well as my aspirations for the future.

You can listen to my interview below via the embedded player. I have also provided a transcript underneath.

VI Talk Interview

We talk to Kimberley all about the wonderful and inspirational things she does for the RNIB, Henshaws and various other organisations and we wish her luck as she starts
training with her first Guide Dog.


VI Talk: We would like to introduce Kimberley Burrows who is currently the RNIB's 'Illustrator of the Year' amongst other things. So, hi Kimberley!

Kimberley: Hello! 

VI Talk: HI Kimberley!

Kimberley: Hi Jo!

VI Talk: Do you want to start off by telling us a little bit about yourself, I know that you have many accomplishments - which we are hopefully going to cover all of them! Can you tell us a little bit about your background? You obviously are visually impaired...

Kimberley: I am, yes. I've been visually impaired all of my life. I was born as a premature baby with Congenital Cataracts but those weren't noticed until I was 4 years old so my optic nerves never developed properly and they had to do what they could with the cloudy vision that I had. So when I did have the Cataracts removed at Great Ormond Street Hospital, in London, I only had 10% vision in one eye and just a little bit of light perception in the other.

Since then, I lost my confidence a bit and it's only recently that I've actually started to achieve things thanks to the help of Henshaws Society for Blind People and also the RNIB. I do various things with both of those - for example, I'm the RNIB's 'Young Illustrator of the Year' for 2014, I have a work placement with Henshaws and I'm also a volunteer and fundraiser with them and with the RNIB I do a lot of campaigning and I'm a Co-Chair of their young person's campaigning network, called Envision. It's an acronym and stands for the English Network of visually Impaired Spokespeople for the Improvement of Obstacles Nationwide! I'm the only person that remembers that as I'm the one that came up with it!

VI Talk: Oh wow!

Kimberley: So I do campaigning as well and I also do a lot of blogging. I run my own blog and also do contributor blog posts for Henshaws, Living Paintings, and the Huffington Post. I think that's a brief overview of everything!

VI Talk: So if we start with being the RNIB's 'Young Illustrator of the Year', how did that come about?

Kimberley: Because I did the campaigning stuff first (in October last year I went to the Houses of Parliament with some of the campaigning team and some of them learned that I was interested in art and illustration) when it came to the time in November that the magazine were looking for their new illustrator and columnist, one of the staff members forwarded that information onto me and I then had 4 or 5 weeks to complete my piece, get that sent off to enter the competition and it wasn't too long, probably 4 or 5 days, that I received a response that I won the 'Young Illustrator of the Year' and would continue to do 6 more pieces throughout the year - so that was brilliant!

VI Talk: That's really exciting!

Kimberley: Definitely! I was so, so happy!

VI Talk: So what does that involve as part of that role?

Kimberley: Every 2 months I was given a different theme to work with. I had 6 pictures to do altogether, for the 12 months, which would be different themes such as; support at the time of sight loss or achievements and goals for the year, and how you've built up your confidence and skills. So I was given a very vague theme and then had to plan which colour palettes I wanted to use, which imagery to use and then I'd sketch some ideas and get the final one drawn. I had a deadline and had to complete before then and when it was e-mailed off I would share the illustration on my blog and on my Twitter.

VI Talk: So that must be quite difficult as a visually impaired person, particularly having very little sight, the concentration and everything must be hard.

Kimberley: Absolutely, yes!

VI Talk: How do you go about doing that; in small stages?

Kimberley: Yeah, thankfully I was given a good deadline where I had about a month and a half to complete each one and it does take me about a month to complete just one piece of A4. So everyday I would just work at it because I can only focus for 15 to 20 minutes at a time so I can only concentrate for a little bit and build it up, as you said, and get it completed and sent off.

I think it's all down to organisation as well; I definitely have to do a lot of organisation of my different equipment and tools. Everything has to be Brailled, like my pencil crayons, paints, watercolours and chalks, so I can know which mediums are which and also which colours are which! I have, in the past, put the wrong colour somewhere and had to try and make it work! I wasn't able to see the colour properly and just had to go with it. So there are surprises with my visual impairment but you've just got to work with it!

VI Talk: You said before that you do a lot of campaigning and you've recently been in Brussels, haven't you? Do you want to tell us more about that?

Kimberley: Sure! Myself and another person from the young person's campaigning network that I'm a part of, Envision, were personally requested to go to this event - myself because of my interest in social media and technology, and the other young lady because she's originally from Spain and is very good with languages. So it was in conjunction with the European Blind Union and they set up a two-day event at European Parliament in Brussels called a High-Speed Bling Date event. It was where MEPs, journalists and researchers are matched to their 'dates', who are blind, and we would then demonstrate some of the difficulties that we face - using interactive objects to show them how hard it is to use LED and touch screens, manufactured goods and services, websites and apps.

VI Talk: Wow, that sounds really interesting!

Kimberley: It was, it was fantastic. I was so glad that I went! It was a really wonderful event and hopefully we did showcase that we really need a strong European Accessibility Act.

VI Talk: Yes, awareness is so important isn't it?

Kimberley: It is, yes!

VI Talk: So, really exciting this bit, you were recently nominated for an award, weren't you?

Kimberley: I was! With Henshaws Society for Blind People.

VI Talk: And you got the award, didn't you?

Kimberley: I did! I'm so happy I just couldn't believe it. I was told that I was nominated for 3 of the awards on the night but then I found out that I wasn't actually the finalist for those awards - but then the big surprise of the evening was that I was a finalist for the main award of the evening, which was the Gillian Lawrence Award, and as soon as they read my name out that I'd won I just burst into tears. I just couldn't believe it! I was so happy and everyone was just so wonderful; I couldn't stop hugging everyone! It was just fantastic to be recognised for everything that I do for Henshaws and all of the achievements and how much I've changed as well. About a year and a half ago there's no way that I would have even been able to do this interview! I was so shy and so reserved and now you can't shut me up!

VI Talk: You also just about to embark on a completely new venture next week. Do you want to tell us about that?

Kimberley: Yes, definitely! So excited! I have just been matched to my Guide Dog, she's tiny, tiny, tiny as I'm tiny myself. She's absolutely gorgeous, she's called Tami and she's a gold Labrador-cross-Retriever. I got the news 2 days before my birthday, and I got to meet her the day before my birthday - so it felt like the best gift ever. We start training next week on December 1st. She's my first Guide Dog and I'm just so excited for this next chapter of my life to start being more independent, going to places on my own, and using public transport. I just cannot wait!

VI Talk: Aww, it's fantastic - so exciting when you get your first dog!

Kimberley: I know!

VI Talk: I've had mine just 4 years and it's a completely new way of life. It opens so many doors. So, will you tell us how you get on in a couple of months?

Kimberley: Absolutely! I don't mind at all. I'm so enthusiastic about Tami and I love her to bits already. I can just tell it's going to be an amazing partnership and she's certainly the dog for me! So I'll definitely keep you posted!

VI Talk: Aww! Definitely do, we'll have to do an update when you've worked with her a little bit and see how it's going on. You can tell everybody what it's like to have a first Guide Dog. There will be people out there who will be umm-ing and ahh-ing as to whether it's the right thing for them.

Kimberley: I'd say definitely go for it! You don't know until you try and it can only do good things for you - so definitely give it a go!

VI Talk: Aww, you sound so excited!

Kimberley: I am really excited!

 VI Talk: You were telling us before we started recording that you also have started working with the survivors of the Holocaust?

Kimberley: Yes, it's for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and it's the next project that I'm working on in my illustrating career. Obviously i's the end of the year and I'm no longer the RNIB's Illustrator of the Year - they're now running the contest for the new one, so I've already had quite a few offers to expand my career and start doing some other different projects.

One of the e-mails I received was from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and I had the opportunity to Sabina Miller who is 92 years old from Poland, who now lives in London and has done since the War ended. It was just an incredible opportunity to speak with someone so inspiring and so positive! We did that meeting so I could then translate her story into an illustration to then be presented and exhibited at an exhibition in London. This will be on the Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January, so I'm in the process of getting my piece finished now. I believe that Stephen Fry has just joined the campaign while he met with another survivor, so he's really spearheading it and getting a lot of media attention.So it's quite exciting, definitely!

VI Talk: That's brilliant! So, what does the future hold for Kimberley? As if you haven't got enough on your plate! But what are your goals and what do you see for the future for yourself - because you're still very young!

Kimberley: This year has been absolutely crazy but I've loved every minute of it! I've been so busy every day, there's been something different and I love that variation that I've got. So over the next few years, definitely continue with the campaigning with the RNIB, continue with my illustrating because that's my passion, continue writing - whether it's through blogging or writing columns and who knows what opportunities could arise, continue my work placement, volunteering and fundraising for Henshaws; they've done so much for me and I want to give them everything that I have to say thank you, train with Tami and graduate with her, and take over the world with her!

VI Talk: Do you know something, if you said you were going to I think I'd believe you as well! So if people want to follow your take-over of the world, how can they follow your blogs or things you're posting?

Kimberley: On Twitter I'm @Glittered, and if you'd like to follow my blog I do post about once a week  - sometimes more, and I'm gleamed.blogspot.co.uk. Thank you so much for your views, I really appreciate them!

VI Talk: That's brilliant Kim! It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you and you are so inspirational and I'm sure anybody listening, any youngsters, will be so inspired!

Kimberley: Aww, thank you! Thank you very much!

VI Talk: And follow your dreams, I guess! Go for it and we'll watch out for when you take over the world!

Kimberley: Thank you very much, thank you!

I would like to thank Jo and Michael for the lovely interview!

You can visit the VI Talk websiteFacebook groupFacebook page, Twitter and AudioBoom to keep up-to-date with the latest discussion, information and support for visually impaired and blind people.