Carlton Day Centre

Carlton Day Centre is a Cumbria County Council managed day service for people with profound and multiple learning disability.

Through the Harraby Art Group project (funded by Cumbria County Council) we have worked with some amazing participants.

Michael: Age 71

Michael took part in a short course in weaving and felt making. He immediately recognised the dyed sheep fleece and tools used for frame weaving. When the four shuttle table loom was introduced he knew how to use it.

He then went on to tell us that he had been trained as an apprentice weaver when he left school.

From further conversations with Michael it became clear that he had probably not used a loom for over 40 years. None of the support staff from the centre had any idea of Michael’s past history. This was a revelation to staff.

On completion of his weaving he pronounced it “exquisite”.

After finishing the course Michael was insistent that he wanted to come back, again this was the first time that he made a definite choice as to what he wanted to do.

The next block of workshops enabled him to explore shadow puppetry and building up narratives.

He was very clear about the character of the puppet that he created. He was a Viking that was invading England. He talked a lot about historical facts; again this was a complete surprise to the support staff.

When reflecting about the work that he had done: He said that He wanted to do more puppetry, enjoyed trying new things and really liked getting out of the centre. “I enjoy this group, I get plenty to do.” On seeing his shadow puppet on the screen he pronounced it as “excellent”.

The support staff felt that the work had allowed Michael to improve his communication skills, confidence and that he had developed a real pride in what he had achieved. That they had learned a lot about his past life and that he could reflect on it.

Thomas: Age 26

(no verbal communication, minimal hand movement, tunnel vision.)

Thomas initially joined the group to do print making, but made very clear signs of distress. It was discovered that he has tunnel vision and found the smell of paint unpleasant and didn’t want direct physical contact (any attempt to place a brush or roller was pushed away). It was decided that it was inappropriate for him to come to the print sessions.

It was decided that the final 8 week block of workshops exploring shadow puppetry and music might work for Thomas.

Straight away Thomas was far more relaxed and began to interact with sound and light. A sound artist worked alongside him and made recordings. When the CD was played the following week he recognised his own sounds. As the shadow puppets began to take shape he responded more, following the shapes on the screen. He also demonstrated recognition of voices. He was relaxed and confident.

The Support Staff:
“Thomas doesn’t like physical contact, but he has definitely engaged with the light and sound. There are very subtle needs and often get ignored at the centre because it is so busy. Because it’s quieter in the workshop setting, he can tune in. At the centre he escapes by going to sleep, here he’s awake, active and listening.”

Staff comments overall:

  • This work is giving people new opportunities to communicate and express themselves; they’re doing the work themselves.
  • The art work produced is respected by everyone.
  • The process encourages self expression, enjoyment.
  • The workshops have definitely developed communication skills.
  • Working out of the centre in a different environment is key. The Service users can start something and then see it through to completion.
  • There’s continuity here, learning to work as a group. Gelling together – it’s very important.
  • Jean (participant) has a very structured timetable at the centre, here it’s more flexible and as a result she’s more relaxed.
  • There are no negative attitudes here and that leads to much improved behaviour management.
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