Attenborough Arts Centre is the University of Leicester’s arts centre, with a studio theatre; art studios and purpose built contemporary art galleries. The gallery has a dedicated Learning and Outreach team that create programmes to engage people, including dedicated work for people with SEND.
John (Owen) Berkavitch, the Creative Writer, brought a package of skills that were a unique fit for the programme. With a background in theatre, performance and creative writing, he was able to determine how to perform feelings, even those complex ones, such as ‘curiosity’. As a visual artist he understood the role of galleries, materials and visual processes as communication aids. Finally, as an event producer, he was able to stage poetry slams in the school, with non-verbal people.
John worked closely with pupils on a one to one basis, supported by teaching staff, helping them to create their own visual poems.
The children were all very different with complex levels of needs, so pre-visit activities were led by the Creative Writer and teachers and tailored to the requirements of each pupil. Pupils visited AAC in small groups of six to eight at a time. They engaged with tactile tours, thematic props and a range of exercises covering a cross section of sensory engagements.
The team needed to manage physical and learning access, ensuring that all of the young people were comfortable with all staff.
John introduced the exhibition using words and images in Makaton, imprint3 and facilitated creative responses using Eye Gaze Edge systems and Language Acquisition through Motor Planning for children with ASD.
AAC created a public exhibition of the visual poems, along with Makaton versions. A launch event was held for pupils, teachers and parents, with pupils who were largely non-verbal taking part in a slam poetry session.