Photo exhibition with powerful message set to tour libraries

This story was published 28 October 2022

Determined work by a volunteer group has helped those living with disabilities overcome loneliness and integrate into society around Skipton, with their latest venture now set to reach a wider audience across North Yorkshire.

Beverley Wright with photos she has contributed to Photo Voices.

Members of Exclusively Inclusive have been working for several years to organise a variety of regular social events for those who would otherwise face the prospect of loneliness and isolation, whether as a result of disability, mental health or other life experiences.

They have recently completed a new project called Photo Voice. The group’s members have used poignant images to tell the story of the discrimination, isolation and other issues they have faced.

The objective was to use visual images as a means of expression, rather than relying on the spoken word.

The images, titled The World As We See It, were on show at Skipton Town Hall earlier this year and a touring exhibition is now to go on display at libraries across the county, starting at Harrogate on 3 November.

The exhibition has been developed as a partnership between Exclusively Inclusive, ourselves and Craven District Council.

Future dates have yet to be confirmed, but in January it is expected to open in Pickering, followed by branches in Filey, Catterick, Stokesley, Selby and Northallerton. It is possible more dates will be added during 2023.

Katie Peacock, of Exclusively Inclusive, said: “The group was set up several years ago by volunteers who recognised the size of the barrier created by loneliness for some people in the community.

“Since then, a lot of work has been done to remove that obstacle, to promote inclusion and to try to make sure everyone has access to what most would regard as an ‘ordinary’ lifestyle.

“Myths, false perceptions and prejudices still exist and the group invited Chris Chinnock, from Our Creative Connection, to facilitate a Photo Voice project as a way to challenge those issues.

“Using images rather than language offers a fresh way to do so and has allowed people to express themselves in a way which is just as eloquent as words.

“We are delighted this has been recognised and is now to be seen by more people.”

One of the photographs is by Christopher Porter who used the catchphrase ‘labels are for jars, not people’ which appears on the jar he is holding in the photograph.

Exclusively Inclusive evolved from the idea that loneliness was the only barrier which prevented those with disabilities from enjoying an ‘ordinary’ lifestyle.

It resulted in a varied programme of social events emerging, to provide opportunities for social integration and outlets for people’s creative instincts.

Photo Voice provided an opportunity for the group to share what is important to them, including negative experiences such as prejudice, loneliness and isolation as well as positive experiences and to tell their story through a medium other than spoken words.

The result is an evocative and thought-provoking collection, which allowed those involved to express their emotions – and to encourage those who view it to see disability and the impact it can have, from a fresh perspective.

Our executive member for health and adult services, Cllr Michael Harrison, said: “We have worked with Exclusively Inclusive on many occasions and have always been impressed by the results they achieve.

“Photo Voice is an important piece of work and we are really pleased to have been involved in creating a video record, which will be a very useful asset to us in the future.”

Chrys Mellor, the general manager of North Yorkshire’s libraries, said: “This exhibition had a great impact in Skipton and we are really pleased this amazing work will now be seen by a wider audience across the county.”

The initial exhibition at Skipton Town Hall was staged in conjunction with Craven District Council.

Cultural services manager at Craven District Council, Danielle Daglan, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to showcase this work, which attracted a lot of interest.

“It deserves the attention it received and the cultural services team in Craven are really excited to be supporting the development of this work. We are sure it will be just as thought-provoking for people in other areas as it has been in Skipton.”