[image of a universe with the pupil of an eye in the centre]
Dark City Podcasts are a series of interviews by veteran blind broadcaster Alan Dyte, with members of the visually impaired community, made in Bristol between October 2018 and April 2019
Interviewer: Alan Dyte – Alan was educated at the Bristol Royal School for the Blind – class of 1948 – and City of Bristol College. Alan is well known for his long standing role as a producer and reporter for BBC Radio Bristol from 1974 – 2003. Now retired he continues to be active and involved in many local initiatives including the Bristol Blind Bowling Club for which he is the chair, and producing and presenting on BABBERS radio programme on Uijima, a weekly broadcast run by and for Bristol elders.
Optometrist: Amar Shah – Amar is an Optometrist and practice owner of Boots Opticians, Keynsham. He is chair of the Local Optical Committee and has had numerous involvements with sight loss charities both nationally and locally. He helps with the Living with Sight Loss programme that is run via RNIB and recently became a trustee with Vision West of England. When he is not working, Amar enjoys spending time with his young family.
Information on each of the interviewees is published below as podcasts are made public.
18th July – click here for Dark City Podcast 6
Podcast 6 interviewees:
Theresa recently ran the London Marathon! She took up running after losing sight and grown to love it. She started in 2017 for the first time by going along to the VI Runners Bristol group, set up by Colin Johnson. She used to love watching the marathon on the TV. The group is great for meeting people and getting outdoors. They meet up at Ashton Court in the summer to go for a run and meet back in the pub for a drink after. The group recently completed a 24 hour Cotswolds relay run – first time camping for some people. This was amazing to do together as a team (and running at 3am was an experience!!). They completed over 100 miles together. She also does voluntary work, learning braille, learning guitar with Jeff Daniels.
Theresa has Retinitis Pigmentosa. She was diagnosed on her birthday in 2017 and found it difficult to accept for a long time. She started counselling to help her through it and sought out other kinds of support. Life seems so much brighter now that she has found the support she needs and learnt to accept her eye condition.
Holly is a dance artist and movement practitioner who initially trained in theatre. Her teachers are mainly somatic practitioners and contact improv teachers. She usually work in the field of dance and VI and improvisation. Holly has taught performing arts at an RNIB college for VI students and also dances with Jamus in TouchDown Dance. Her biggest creative influence possibly Suburo Teshigawara who was the first choreographer she worked with. She is also very touched by a VI dancer called Indra Slavena .
Holly also recently took part in a kinship workshop with Thomas Goodein, which sparked an interest in being with the natural landscape. Holly was born with retinal abnormality.
27th June – click here for Dark City Podcast 5
Podcast 5 interviewee:
Alun Davies – Alun is the engagement manager for the Thomas Pocklington Trust, a charitable organisation who work to identify and meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people across the UK. He has particular responsibility for developing the West of England’s first Sight Loss Council, following the success of other Sight Loss Council’s across the UK.
Sight Loss Council’s are made up of volunteers who are themselves blind or partially sighted. Members work to tackle local issues, working with public private and voluntary organisations to improve and support their services and make them more accessible.
Alun became totally blind in his teens due to a rare genetic anomaly and has spent his life advocating for disability rights as an activist and politician. In this podcast Alun shares the journey his life has taken up to this point, and how two of his greatest pleasures have been and continue to be listening to music and reading.
Known by many in Bristol for his time as a city councillor this interview offers a rare insight into Alun’s story.
6th June – click here for Dark City Podcast 4
Podcast 4 interviewees:
Lou Lifely – Lou became a VI person 25 years ago as a result of Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy . Within a year of diagnosis, Lou had completely lost the sight in her left eye and had only 25% of her sight remaining in the right.
Lou had been a nurse but then retrained as a Counsellor and a Massage and Aromatherapist. Lou has volunteered with the RNIB for 10 years in various capacities, helping others and getting inspiration from the wonderful people she’s met. Live music and singing are two of her greatest pleasures. Lou has been a member of the Riff Raff choir for 6 years, attending as many gigs and concerts as she can, from Classical right across the musical spectrum. She used to do a lot of dance but now enjoys Zumba and Aqua Aerobics several times a week.
Lou’s chosen creative inspiration is the Riff Raff Choir singing George Ezra!
Nikki Durston – Nikki’s eye condition is Retinitis Pigmentosa. She wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her early 40’s but looking back, can see that the signs were always there. She likes karaoke, cinema, pub grub and socialising with family and friends.
Nikki also reads a lot of fiction, mainly sword and sorcery type fantasy, and has taken part in a number of amateur dramatic companies – mostly small parts on stage and she directed a pantomime about ten years ago. Nikki has always enjoyed creative writing and writes comical poems, including re-writes of song lyrics. She has chosen to share her own creative inspiration, a poem called ‘Over there”.
9th May – click here for Dark City Podcast 3
Podcast 3 interviewees:
Dougie Walker – Dougie began his career on the stage at the age of 5 in a pantomime and has wanted to do nothing else since! He was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease and Keratoconus at the age of 17. Primarily a comedian and comedic actor Dougie has been performing with improv troupe Racing Minds for 8 years. They have taken shows to the Edinburgh fringe, and toured around the UK and internationally. ‘Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised’ is an improvised adventure show and The Wireless Podcast is an improvised 1950s style radio play with 4 series available on Soundcloud. Click here if you’d like to listen to it. He started producing solo, scripted work about 4 years ago. His first three shows were one-man sketch comedy, and his latest show Of Christmas Past is a comic play. The inspiration he has chosen to share is called Lemonade by Ivor Cutler.
Lilly Griffin – Lilly is a well known figure in Bristol, seen regularly at events, clubs and meetings about town. She is not letting her impressive 96 years cramp her style! She has long loved flower arranging and has chosen to speak about this as her creative inspiration. Despite developing macular degeneration in later life she continues to make flower arrangements for her own enjoyment using touch, smell, shape and her impressive encyclopaedic knowledge of plants.
18th April – click here for Dark City Podcast 2
Podcast 2 interviewees:
Barrington Chambers – Ever since he was little, Barrington looked up to his Grandma and Grandad, his aunties and uncles and dreamed of playing music just like them. They advised him not to follow music as a career as it didn’t bring in much money and encouraged him to continue with education. So Barrington became a mechanical engineer. Since having to give up this job due to sight loss through Glaucoma, music has become his main focus – reggae in particular (the music of his family through the ages). He started the Bristol Reggae Orchestra 10 years ago with others. The orchestra plays extensively including at Bristol’s Harbour side festival each year, St Paul’s carnival, the Colston Hall, Southbank in London. His creative inspiration is unsurprisingly music, reggae in particular and he has chosen – ‘Treat The Youths Right’ by Jimmy Cliff. You can find out more about the Bristol Reggae Orchestra here.
Marc Gulwell – currently activities and development officer at Vision West of England which is a relatively new sight loss charity that was formed in April 2018 to provide services and opportunities for blind and partially sighted people across the Bristol, Bath and Gloucestershire areas.
Marc has a rare condition called Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) and lost his central vision 12 years ago, almost overnight. He is a blind sports pioneer founding the Gloucester Growlers VI cricket team. He is now bringing the same can do attitude to his role in Bristol starting VI cricket, football and tennis clubs in Bristol. Marc also writes comedic blogs on blindness. You can access these blogs here.
28th March – click here for Dark City Podcast 1
Podcast 1 Interviewees;
Sally Rodrigues – Sally contracted Uveitis as a child and is now blind. Always a keen sportswoman, Sally has enjoyed various experiences of sailing, starting off on large yachts with the east Anglian sailing trust and working her way down to dinghy sailing. She has been the blind national sailing champion since October 2016 and in March 2017 was chosen to represent the GB squad at the International Match racing sailing competition in Salerno, Italy and is a team GB Gold and Silver medallist from Beijing Blind Sailing Championships. Sally is a registered relaxation therapist and a keen cyclist. She is passionate about music and in the podcast shares a piece that has inspired her; Fingles Cave by Mendelssohn
John Vickery – John was born with congenital cataracts and nystagmus. He latterly also developed glaucoma associated with type two diabetes. He is Treasurer of Avon Sports and Leisure club for the Visually Impaired, is a member of Bristol Blind Bowlers and helps run the Greville Smyth Bowling club in South Bristol. John spent 40 years employed at the Bristol Royal Infirmary [BRI] as a telephonist, was branch secretary of NUPE and UNISON trade unions and also staff side chair of the joint unions for 34 of those years. The last nine years at the BRI John was employed full time as a union rep. John is a keen writer of doggerel verse and enjoys poetry of all kinds. In the podcast he shares a poem by an old friend, Bryony Carr.
Sound recording: Lloyd Bedwin – Lloyd is a severely sight impaired individual (SSI), who has for a number of years worked for the Royal National Institute Of Blind People (RNIB) as an Assistive Technology Specialist and Information Communications Technology tutor.
A keen musician, Lloyd also facilitates and organises musical events in his local community. He believes in sighted and visually impaired people learning together and from each other and has developed a unique Guitar course designed to be equally accessible for both sighted and visually impaired pupils, that he has been teaching since Autumn 2018.
Sound design and engineering: Chris Turner – Chris was born with the eye condition retinitis pigmentosa. His sight deteriorated throughout his teens and early 20s and he went from making computer art, drawing, painting to wondering how he could do more with sound and music production. He finds that the same sort of influences that got him painting when he was younger still inspire him now; abstract scenes, sense of space, light and dark, movement, science fiction, humanity’s relation to technology…
He currently works teaching and advising visually impaired people with and about assistive tech. To do things like reading with a smart phone; use a PC when you can’t see the screen; use GPS and travel apps. Technology is as vital to him as it is to those he teaches to use it.
PECo theatre producing team Emma Hughes and Rachel Aspinwall.