Jonny Cotsen– I have been campaigning for many years to try and get John Wilson, Deaf arts practitioner and consultant to curate and lead a BSL tour at one of our brilliant museums/galleries. John is one of the most experienced Deaf curators in the UK and for him to come to Wales to led the Artes Mundi exhibition at the National Museum, Cardiff was fantastic!
John Wilson– I was really pleased to be given this opportunity to come to Cardiff for the Artes Mundi 8 tour. Getting out of London and being able to share such an important and fascinating cultural event with deaf people in a different part of the UK was a privilege and a delight! I really believe that Deaf-led events with British Sign Language (BSL) the native language of Deaf people as the only medium of communication. They deliver such a lot for deaf people who feel confident that they are coming to something which they will understand and, what is more, has been organised specially for them. As a result some will come to a museum for the first time ever.
John Wilson– This event felt even more special for two reasons. Firstly the exhibition was for the largest art prize in the UK – I am not aware that any tour of such an important event for contemporary art in the UK has ever been organised for deaf people. It also provided an opportunity to open up contemporary and more abstract art to deaf people which, to be honest, is not a subject many will have felt able to approach before. I congratulate National Museum, Cardiff for organising this. What is more, I would like to thank Melissa Hinkin, Exhibitions Officer, Artes Mundi for doing such a wonderful job of setting up and organising the BSL tour.
Jonny Cotsen– The event took place two weeks ago and sold out pretty quickly. My background and passion is visual arts and to see this happening in Wales was a personal dream for me. I have been to hundreds of exhibition tours and I usually only understand about 20-30% of what is spoken, for this tour I understood 100%. I think having a Deaf curator makes a bigger impact because of the language they use and it resonated with a Deaf audience. There was a real mixture of people in attendance; some have never been to a museum before, some attending liked Art but have limited opportunities to see an accessible tour, some just wanted to see John. The feedback was really positive and I hope to bring John back more for more BSL tours in other museums around Wales.
John Wilson– Being profoundly deaf I am always well prepared for problems when getting involved in projects like this, only because people do not understand my communication needs or how best to make events accessible to deaf people. Of course, I had none of these problems with Melissa, and it was real pleasure to work with her. Thanks are due too to Jonny Cotsen who I know has put so much effort personally into campaigning for deaf access to museums and galleries in Wales. He sowed the seed of this and we need to say thank you to him. On top of that I was able to be part of such an important cultural event and a wonderful exhibition. It has been a cultural highlight for me and I am not sure it will be surpassed in 2019!