Credit where it's due

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
Helston Community College and the West of England School

"As you go along this path you will find long slender leaves brushing against your legs," says the new audio guide for visually impaired visitors to the Barbara Hepworth gallery and sculpture garden in St Ives, Cornwall.

The guide was produced by experts: Year 10 students from the West of England School and College for Children with Little or No Sight in Exeter, in conjunction with Year 10 and Year 12 students from Helston Community College.

The idea of using students to produce the guide came from Tate St Ives education officer Bridget Crowley. Although the sighted and visually impaired students were wary of the collaboration, they soon realised they could work together.

And there was a lot of work. The project required numerous visits over three months to put together and record detailed descriptions to enable blind and partially sighted visitors to find their way around the gallery's 50 sculptures, indoors and in some precarious outdoor settings.

"They had to be very detailed: saying where there were steps and handrails," says Crowley. "Each student did some research on Barbara Hepworth and then for complex pieces they did as many as three descriptions."

For West of England student Trahern Culver, 15, who has very little sight, making the audio guide was part of his first ever visit to an art gallery.

"I found the layouts quite challenging to describe," he says. "The sculptures gave me the impression of someone thorough and stylish. I think they are timeless."

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