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The Swan Blog- Issue 2. Our First Visit

Lisa Marie Houghton-Reade, Developmeny o-ordinator, Orchestra of the Swan

We join Lisa and the Swan Players for their first visit to Priestley Smith Specialist School in Birmingham.

Date: 1 June 2021


Our First Visit 

Last academic year I arranged a project with Priestley Smith Specialist School in Birmingham. I confess I was a little nervous of meeting the visually impaired (VI) pupils there the first time my colleague Sue took me over.  I imagined they’d be a lot better at coping with their VI than me, but quite the contrary happened, and I felt relaxed and confident in the school. 

All the staff were very friendly and supportive, the children were fascinated by my white stick and eagerly enquired why I was carrying one.  They were all very interested to find out that I’m blind, as I don’t think many of them have met an adult living with a severe sight impairment, who has a job and had come into their school.

“I imagined they’d be a lot better at coping with their VI than me, but quite the contrary happened.”

Swans in Training

Before the project started four of our players received training on working with the VI from Professor Adam Ockelford.  They then led initial instrumental lessons for upper primary schoolchildren at Priestley Smith, where all students are VI and many have additional learning or physical difficulties.

This culminated in a sharing performance before Christmas 2019, where the VI pupils all played an instrument or sang for their watching peers, staff and families.  In the spring term our players returned to lead compositional exercises and improvisational explorations with secondary school students. 

Our players’ work with the older students of the school was interrupted by Covid-19, but two new student compositions were recorded and filmed. We now want to expand this project to include more VI young people in Birmingham. I’d like to become a mentor for them, so please watch this space for more details of our invaluable work with the VI.


Next Issue: Lisa talks more in-depth about the training the Swans received.

Read Our Last Issue Here.

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