Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Please Help Me to Study
at Leeds College of Art!

I recently applied to the Leeds College of Art after visiting the university during their Open Day event in June. I fell completely in love with the place and the enthusiasm and friendliness of the staff and students! As a blind artist and illustrator it quickly felt like my "home" and somewhere where I belonged. Naturally I wanted to apply as soon as possible, had a sighted Student Ambassador to help fill in my form there and then, and I had my interview yesterday afternoon.

Both my application and interview were met with such positivity and enthusiasm from my tutor and I seem to be the ideal student! However, as the Level 2 course I want to study for the next year is not funded by a Student Loan, I am having major funding and accommodation issues. Accommodation with the college itself would have cost over £5,500 to stay in student halls, for just the year alone, and this is something I simply cannot afford.

After some research and discussing the issue with college staff, "host" families were recommended to me where my Guide Dog and I would be able to stay in a safe and friendly home environment with a family willing to rent out a room to a student studying in the area. The cost is much more affordable, at £22 a night, though this will still cost me £2,950 for the year of my part-time course studying 3 days a week. The course itself is not covered by a Student Loan, as I previously mentioned, so this is something I will be paying for myself. Just as with my severe sight impairment, I won't let these obstacles stop me from studying, enjoying what I love so passionately and achieving what I set out to do!

As sight-related charities and the college itself are unable to help me with funding, I am now taking matters into my own hands and have created a GoFundMe page - where I have already received a generous £185 in kind donations from friends and anonymous donors! The fundraising website was brought to my attention by a friend and I thought I would give it a try as my final plea for help as all other avenues were unsuccessful. 

I want to share a little bit more about myself for those who are unfamiliar with my sight loss story or may be visiting my blog for the first time. I was born as a premature baby suffering from underdeveloped optic nerves and Congenital Cataracts that weren't noticed until I was 4 years old; meaning that it was too late to do much to save any useful sight I could have had if it was detected earlier. After a childhood spent at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, constantly commuting from my home city of Manchester, having various operations and procedures I now have only 10% central vision in just one eye and light perception in the other.

Despite this, art has always been my passion from the very beginning; from having my operations and being delighted at having coloured pencils and crayons to look forward to in the playroom at the children's hospital, to my first day at Primary School heading straight for the easel rather than playing with the other children. Art continued to me my favourite subject throughout school life and I achieved an A* in my GCSE's in 2005!

Last year, I won the RNIB's Young Illustrator for 2014 competition reigniting my love for art and illustration. Every 2 months I produced an illustration for their Insight Magazine, based on different themes that tied into the magazine as a whole, and received media attention for winning the award. I was featured in the Manchester Evening News and Salford Advertiser newspapers as well as onscreen on ITV News and Granada Reports and online through various blogs and the Daily Mail Online website. More recently I can be seen in the August 2015 edition of Marie Claire as part of their "You'd Never Guess That..." feature explaining my dream to become an illustrator of children's books despite my severe visual impairment.

Since completing my run as the RNIB's Illustrator of the Year, I have also been involved with other projects, such as; designing the front cover of the UK Scouts magazine's Get Active! supplement, creating a Christmas Card for Henshaws, and being a part of the Memory Makers project in partnership with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust illustrating the story of Holocaust survivor Sabina Miller. Last summer I also had the opportunity of creating a birthday composition to celebrate John Lewis' 150th birthday which was displayed in their cafe at the Trafford Centre and I exhibited an illustration for the One Man's Vision exhibition displayed at Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

Now that I have some experience in the field, working with charities and organisations, it is now my aim to build up my qualifications at the specialist university Leeds College of Art; beginning with a Level 2 course to familiarise myself with the college, the tools available to me and the work that is required, before moving onto Level 3 (A Level) and a Degree in either Fine Art or Illustration.

Any help you can give, either by sharing my blog post or giving a kind donation, will be very much appreciated. I am extremely grateful, thank you! You can donate by clicking on the button below.