March 24th, 2022 – People with a visual impairment from Laois are currently being offered Sightless Cinema online radio drama workshops, for the first time. The programme takes place over the next three months, and is funded under the Disability Participation and Awareness Fund by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, supported by Laois County Council and the Laois office of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI). Sightless Cinema is a tailored arts participation and collaboration initiative created by theatre artist Ciarán Taylor, and has been running since 2014. It offers creative opportunities for people with a visual impairment, empowering them as active contributors to cultural life through the medium of creative sound.
Ciarán Taylor says: ‘In the workshops we explore how to tell stories through sound in a relaxed, fun way, and people are surprised at what they can achieve working together.’ One of the Laois workshop members Mary Dunne says ‘I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s really so funny, listening back to what we record. It’s a great outlet’. Another member Seán Byrne adds ‘It’s great, there’s plenty of laughter, and you meet other visually impaired people. It gets your thought processes going, thinking about sound in a new creative way’. Marian Murray from Mountmellick says ‘The online audio workshops are very inclusive and accessible for blind people, because you can do it from the comfort of your home.’
Since first piloting online workshops in 2020, Ciarán has run the virtual workshops for Meath, Carlow and Westmeath. The workshops take place on the Zoom platform with audio only used, and include the option of dial-in for those without internet capacity.
The workshops focus on various aspects of devising, writing, and performing radio drama. The emphasis is on developing the creativity of those involved, facilitating the group to collaborate on creative audio projects, and introducing the tools to realise them in production. The productions can be broadcast on radio or podcast, but are primarily intended for presentation at Sightless Cinema events, where blind and sighted audience gather in a cinema for a shared experience of listening to the recordings, and live performances.
The Laois programme is an introduction to the possibilities of creative audio. It is hoped that it will generate interest and demand for further artistic opportunities for people with a visual impairment.