Evaluation of the audio description event

Aims Were these met?  Improvements / actions
To “have a go” at audio description Experimental approach – inviting writers Involve more visually impaired writers
To be creative and have fun Creative writers

Participants and writers said it was “enjoyable”, “fun”, “brilliant” etc

Several descriptions the same artworks to give different viewpoints
To improve access to works in the gallery “They made the paintings come alive and it was a great way to describe the art to the visually impaired.” BSL interpretation for further layers of accessibility
To bring visually impaired and sighted people together Yes. Good balance, with only slightly more sighted people


Informal, friendly atmosphere


“I could feel a real sense of community among us all, writers and audience. Like we were on a bit of an adventure…”

Ensure sighted people don’t dominate discussions through facilitation.

Manage numbers through invitations or through timetabling the event differently (fewer descriptions / longer event / drop-in / descriptions running concurrently etc).

To show that creative audio description is of interest and engages a broad audience Yes – responses and engagement of visually impaired and sighted people Consider making it a public event
(but aim for balance as above)
To get people talking about art and about accessibility Yes – as above

“There is a curious tension between writing about art and writing/performing for access which has got me thinking”

Use social media to amplify discussion
To produce guidelines for audio describing artworks


Writers found these useful and had clearly referred to them https://sortitout24.wordpress.com/
To pilot a low-cost approach that could be easily replicated Yes – focus was on delivering live event, as research participants valued presence of people in the gallery more than technology An exercise for local writers’ groups e.g. libraries’ writing groups.

Low cost meant that high quality recordings were out of scope

(290 words)


See also my report of the event: An adventure in audio description report (pdf 1.22MB), which appears on an earlier blog post.


And a Presentation Gill Crawshaw gc269357 LAUMACUP705 (pdf 1.07 MB) given to the MA Curation Practices cohort at our end of year symposium at Tate Liverpool.





The writers and their chosen artworks

Brian Lewis, Eleanor Snare, Emma Bolland (2018), Matthew Bellwood, Peadar O’Dea and Terry Simpson were the writers who rose to the challenge of creating and reading a description for my event on 19 July. Their varied styles and approaches to the task resulted in a wonderful selection of descriptions. They engaged the audience’s emotions and intellect with witty, clever and moving readings, which included stories, a letter and a poem. Writers not only described the artworks, but included political and historical context, information about the artist’s life and work, and their own interpretations.

The artworks that the writers chose to describe were:

  • Maples Demolition, Euston Road (1960) by Frank Auerbach – Brian Lewis
  • The Remains (2007) by Roger Palmer – Matthew Bellwood
  • Movie (2015) by Hilary Lloyd – Emma Bolland
  • The Convent Garden (1878) by Francis S. Walker – Peadar O’Dea
  • The Bridesmaid (1883-85) by James Tissot – Eleanor Snare
  • Retribution (1858) by Edward Armitage – Terry Simpson.

IMG_7227Brian Lewis’s detailed examination of an abstract work showed how much was represented in this painting of the pulling down a furniture store in London: Maples Demolition, Euston Road. Through the context of the artist’s body of work and the post-war period, we discovered how the layering of thickly applied oil paint reflected the subject matter and the period. Brian’s use of directional navigation to guide us round the picture was appropriate and effective. The tactile qualities of this work were not lost on us, even though we were unable to touch.

DSC00595Meanwhile, Matthew Bellwood told a fascinating tale of Botany Bay and its links to Leeds. A contemporary work in neon, quite minimal and stark, the layers of The Remains were revealed through research – into the artist’s other work and previous exhibitions, the woollen trade and industry of Leeds, the meaning of words and names, Captain Cook’s voyages, and the erasing of Aboriginal culture in Australia. A complex description arose from a deceptively simple installation. We made discoveries of our own, centuries after Discovery sailed.

EmmaIn the same gallery, showing contemporary works in the collection, Emma Bolland found her route in to her description of Movie through the letter form. This set up a conceptual dialogue with the visitor. Her description was an interrogation of what it means to see or to look at things differently, for gallery visitors to have different perceptions of artworks – from the artist, from other visitors and from curators. In addition, the bright daylight in the gallery all but obscured the moving image element of this installation, a fact that Emma wove in to her description, musing on what is and isn’t visible.

PHOTO-2018-07-19-17-43-38Peadar O’Dea, with his story of an agnostic Mother Superior, challenged by a novice in The Convent Garden, had introduced disabled characters, “… because I just like to write about disabled characters. I thought: Why not?” And why not introduce a fleeting bluebird, if it improves the plot? Playing around with timelines and describing the poses of the characters “as if caught in a painting” was inventive, introducing humour and playfulness. The painting was originally created to prompt viewers to make up stories. The stories we tell today may be very different from those imagined by the artist.

An art gallery with Victorian pictures on dark red walls. Several people stand around

One of the research participants had suggested that poetry is a good way to bring paintings to life. That was certainly the case with Eleanor Snare’s poem which accompanied The Bridesmaid. She wrote from the point of view of a messenger boy who appears in the foreground of the painting, chosen because he is the nearest person to the audience. Her beautiful poem described the scene with longing and wonder. This proved that a good description need not include every last detail in a picture – that would be boring and difficult to follow. Instead, Eleanor cleverly revealed key details through the observations of the boy.

Terry Simpson chose the mammoth Victorian painting Retribution. Such a significant and well-known (loved?) presence in the gallery seemed an appropriate ending to the event. It’s certainly a controversial picture, painted at the height of the British Empire.
Heroic Britannia is PHOTO-2018-07-19-17-43-46

shown exacting revenge on the Indian tiger. The painting in fact represents a shameful series of events provoked by Britain’s savage treatment of the people of India. Terry was able to put this into context and give a contemporary interpretation. Conflicting feelings arose from this work: condemning the injustice of empire while admiring the representation of a strong woman, “A Victorian super-heroine”.

In the discussions that followed the readings, participants were enthusiastic about the descriptions, which they felt had been effective in bringing the artworks to life and awakening the imagination. People picked out phrases or sentences that they particularly liked, or styles that they felt were evocative of a mood, scenario or historic period. Reading the drafts of the descriptions before the event, I had been impressed with the high quality of the descriptions, as well as the varied styles.



Armitage, E. (1858) Retribution [Oil on canvas]. Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds.

Auerbach, F. (1960) Maples Demolition, Euston Road [Oil on board]. Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds.

Bolland, E. (2018) ‘Silvery, Silvery’ Emma Bolland – Artist, writer, 3 August.Available at: https://emmabolland.com/2018/08/03/silvery-silvery/ (Accessed: 3 August 2018).

Lloyd, H. (2015) Movie [Digital film with sound, fan and fabric]. Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds.

Palmer, R. (2007) The Remains [Neon]. Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds.

Tissot, J.J. (1883 – 85) The Bridesmaid [Oil on canvas]. Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds.

Walker, F.S. (1878) The Convent Garden [oil on canvas]. Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds.

Looking closely: audio description event, Leeds Art Gallery 19.7.18

The story tellers made the paintings come alive and was a great way to describe the art to the visually impaired (participant at event).

This was the “instance of curatorial practice” I organised as part of the MA Curation practices. An experiment with audio description: I invited six writers to create an audio description of an artwork in Leeds Art Gallery and to read it out to an invited audience made up of blind and partially sighted, and sighted, people.

Four people stand in front of a large abstract painting
Discussing Frank Auerbach’s painting with Brian Lewis

The planning paid off, it was a good event, largely thanks to the wonderful descriptions that the writers had produced. The works they covered:

  • Brian Lewis – Maples Demolition, Euston Road (1960) by Frank Auerbach
  • Matthew Bellwood – The Remains (2007) by Roger Palmer
  • Emma Bolland – Movie (2015) by Hilary Lloyd
  • Peadar O’Dea – The Convent Garden (1878) by Francis S. Walker
  • Elly Snare – The Bridesmaid (1883-85) by James Tissot
  • Terry Simpson – Retribution (1858) by Edward Armitage.
Terry Simpson prepares to describe Edward Armitage’s Retribution
Poet Elly Snare mid flow, bringing Tissot’s The Bridesmaid to life

I’d made a few last minute changes to my plans, because I got wind that a few extra people, as well as those invited, were going to turn up. While it was exciting that a lot of people were interested in the event, extra bodies posed some logistical issues. I decided to split the group into two. Each group would hear three descriptions each rather than all six. This worked OK with careful timetabling and by drafting in a friend to help out. The added bonus of this approach meant there was more time for questions, discussion and taking a close look at the artwork.

Five people stand round in a bright art gallery, listening to a woman reading
Emma Bolland reads her text about Movie by Hilary Lloyd

The descriptions, which included a poem, stories, a letter to the viewer, historical contexts and personal viewpoints, were all brilliant, from their different approaches. There were appreciative comments from participants and writers and everyone seemed to enjoy the event. The descriptions were effective in bringing artworks in Leeds Art Gallery’s collection to life, and in getting everyone there to look more closely at the art.


I’m gathering more feedback and will do a proper evaluation of the event. For now, here are some photos.


Huge thanks to all the writers and to Leeds Art Gallery for letting me hold the event there, and to education officer Amanda Phillips for her support.

Links to audio recordings

Emma Bolland: https://soundcloud.com/emmabolland/silvery-silvery

Peadar O’Dea: https://soundcloud.com/gill-crawshaw/peadar-odea-reads-the-convent-garden/s-QOPGR

Eleanor Snare: https://soundcloud.com/gill-crawshaw/eleanor-snare-reads-poem-the-bridesmaid/s-YY7JX

Terry Simpson: https://soundcloud.com/gill-crawshaw/terry-simpson-describes-retribution/s-mCXe4




Assets not deficits

In my research, I aimed to identify assets that visually impaired people bring to curation within the gallery space. I therefore took an asset based approach to the research, within the framework of the social model of disability. The starting point of this approach recognises that visually impaired visitors to the gallery have strengths or assets to bring. Tapping into these strengths could offer curators and galleries opportunities to innovate and to improve the experiences of visually impaired people along with other visitors.

This approach has been (heavily) adapted from a type of place-based community development, known as ABCD or asset based community development (Nurture Development, 2017), but in this case applied to the community of people with visual impairments.  When realised fully, ABCD provides a structure for local communities to come together to identify, link up and use the assets that they have, categorised as: individuals’ capabilities; local associations; neighbourhood institutions; physical assets; exchange between members. The task of development workers, community leaders, connectors and activists is to support this to happen in order that those communities can draw on their own strengths to solve problems they face (McKnight, 2016). The essence and spirit of ABCD, of drawing on communities’ strengths, was a useful tool which informed my research.

Asset based approaches do not ignore or deny barriers and inequalities that communities face. But by focusing on strengths, communities can tackle these barriers more effectively.  While the social model of disability has a focus on barriers, accessibility and discrimination, an asset based approach enables attention to also be given to disabled people’s capabilities. Although I took care not to describe blind and partially sighted people as somehow “special” or having unusual powers. Rather people’s lived experiences can be valuable assets in curation.

In his research into blind people’s experiences in art museums, Hayhoe writes that ‘We are now on the edge of a new form of the post-deficit model of blindness’ (2017, p.43) . This idea is important if galleries and museums are to move away from thinking of visual impairment as being purely about deficiency or loss, as Candlin claims they often do:

… disability was understood as being an impairment or lack that as far as possible needed to be made good through the other senses, and so touching functioned as a substitute, albeit an inadequate one, for sight (Candlin, 2010, p. 124).

Going beyond the ‘post-deficit model’ that Hayhoe identifies, an asset based approach offers one way of better understanding, valuing and including the experience of visually impaired people in galleries and museums.

Finally, the very title of Georgina Kleege’s book More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art (2018) tells us that visually impaired people can indeed enrich art. She calls for a reassessment of blindness in relation to wider society and culture:

If we abandon the notion that blindness can only diminish, damage or destroy identity, and adopt instead the idea that the experience of blindness, in all its varieties, can in fact shape and inform other facets of personality and personal history, we will move towards a more genuinely inclusive society. (Kleege, 2018, p. 13).



Candlin, F. (2010) Art, Museums and Touch (Rethinking Art’s Histories) Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hayhoe, S. (2017) Blind Visitor Experiences at Art Museums. London: Rowan and Littlefield.

Kleege, G. (2018) More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McKnight, J. (2016) ‘ABCD: Origin and Essence’ Nurture Development. Available at: http://www.nurturedevelopment.org/blog/abcd-origin-essence-john-mcknight/ (Accessed: 13 June 2018).

Nurture Development (2017) About Asset Based Community Development. Available at: http://www.nurturedevelopment.org/about-abcd/ (Accessed: 14 March 2018).

The joy of risk assessments

A necessary part of any event. I am using a form provided by Leeds Art Gallery which helpfully includes information from previous assessments so I can adapt it. Some risks e.g. causing offence, unruly behaviour, may be minimal! It’s designed for many eventualities.

But need to factor in any additional risks in the gallery for blind and partially sighted people. All the participants hate freestanding barriers!

Things to consider / include:

  • Welcome and introduction – include practical information
  • Moving around the gallery
  • Furniture – use of folding stools, need to make sure they aren’t obstructions
  • Keep the numbers fairly small so we can hear
  • Avoid noisy areas for descriptions e.g. top of stairs
  • Don’t use electrical equipment
  • Some people might not want to be photographed
  • Ask a friend to be a guide and look out
  • Ask people to arrive in good time
  • Check the descriptions for any potentially offensive material!

Progress report

Yesterday the MA Curation Practices cohort – full and part time – updated on our progress. I didn’t quite manage to keep within the requested 200 words, but here’s my summary.

Visiting Leeds Art Gallery with blind and partially sighted people: informing an asset-based approach to curating

Literature review:

  • Many reasons for visiting galleries
  • Rights issue
  • Intellectual and emotional meaning
  • Deeper relationship with art than sighted people?
  • Hirose: ‘Tactile learning will change the museum, and the museum will change society!’
  • Kleege on audio description: ‘a literary / interpretative form with infinite possibilities’
  • Hayhoe: ‘…, experiences of visitors who are blind can teach those with sight about the importance of the exhibit, as the narrator and as a repository of our subconscious human evolution’.

Research findings:

  • As above!
  • Having people around who will guide, talk to you, explain, answer questions
  • Emotional connection: Art is a good medium for expressing emotions, feelings, relationships, particularly difficult emotions (Paul)
  • Touch – definitely
  • Getting close – barriers really annoying!
  • Audio description: don’t need training, enthusiasm, fun
  • Doing things differently = good for everyone.

Practical curated event:

Half a dozen writers will prepare and read a description of an artwork in Leeds Art Gallery’s collection at an event in the gallery 19/7. Audience = mixture of sighted and blind & partially sighted people.

Prepared guidelines for describers.

‘Abandon the pretext of objectivity. It is impossible and besides the point’ (Kleege, 2018).

‘I wouldn’t worry about trying to get things right straight away, what is more important is to have a go’ (Partington, 2017).

‘We were drawn into it, they explained it, the way it was lit, the brightness, the colours, it came to life!’ (Brian, 2018).

Curated project proposal: creative audio description

I am planning to hold an audio described event in Leeds Art Gallery in July.

I will be inviting about six writers and poets to write an audio description of one of the works in the Gallery’s permanent collection, then read it to an audience made up of of visually impaired and sighted people.



  • visually impaired people I’ve spoken to so far use audio description regularly – for TV and theatre, but little experience in gallery. One person who had experienced it thought it was marvellous
  • some recent advice about audio description, including advice from visually impaired people themselves (Cox, 2017, Partington, 2017), urges galleries to have a go at audio description, have fun and be creative, rather than worrying about getting everything perfect straight away. Kleege (2018, p. 121) goes further and urges describers to ‘abandon the pretext of objectivity’.
  • not too onerous a task for writers to create one description – I’ll draw up guidelines, and ask them to cover the basics while encouraging creativity.


  • To experiment with audio description
  • To be creative and have fun
  • To improve access to works in the gallery
  • To bring visually impaired and sighted people together
  • To show that creative audio description is of interest and engages a broad audience, not just blind and partially sighted people
  • To get people talking about art and about accessibility
  • To produce guidelines for audio describing artworks
  • To pilot a low-cost approach that could be easily replicated e.g. working in partnership with writers’ groups.

(The picture shows an audio described event at the Royal Academy).



Cox, L. (2017) ‘Creative Audio Description’ in Shape Arts Ways of Seeing Art. London: Shape Arts pp. 14-18.

Kleege, G. (2018) More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Partington, Z. (2017) ‘Panel discussion’ at Bridging the Gaps: Exploring the link Between Art and Audio Description, 24 February. London: Tate Modern. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/
 (Accessed: 27 April 2018).

Listening to what blind people say

Blind and partially sighted people are at the heart of my research – both primary and secondary.  As artist and consultant Zoe Partington (2017) said during the symposium at Ways of Seeing Art:

Make sure blind and partially sighted people are at the centre of what you do.

My primary research involves holding discussions with individual visually impaired people, whilst walking round Leeds Art Gallery. I’ll also have chance to visit a few local groups of visually impaired people.

In my secondary research of books and journal articles, plus online material, the people with the most authority and authenticity are blind and partially sighed people themselves, not surprisingly as they have the lived experience. Here are some of the academics, writers, curators and artists who have caught my attention.

Kojiro Hirose of the National Museum of Ethnology, Japan, has pioneered touch in museums. He developed ‘essential manners of touch’ (2013):

To handle objects gently
To appreciate objects unhurriedly
To have a dialogue with objects exerting your boundless imagination and creativity.

By paying attention to these three elements, museums can enhance the learning experience of all visitors.

Georgina Kleege is one of the leading scholars in the US on blindness and visual arts. Her most recent book, More than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art (2018) covers many aspects of blindness and visual art, including how it has been represented; the work of visually impaired artists working today; and accessibility in art galleries and museums. Her insights into audio description are particularly useful for my project.

We suggest that tactile information about works of art could add to everyone’s understanding and enjoyment (Kleege, 2018, p. 71).

Carmen Papalia: one of many exciting  blind artists practising today. His work is about accessibility in public spaces, and how we move through and perceive those spaces. Much of his work is performative or participative, encouraging people to use non-visual perception. Best of all, his work is definitely playful and often hilarious. I love Mobility Device (pictured), where he navigates along streets, his white cane replaced with a marching band, giving sound clues for obstacles.  The Touchy Subject (2013) was his provocation at The Guggenheim in New York. Participants were led round the venue by a member of staff, with their eyes closed, so they experienced the gallery with non-visual senses. Note that the gallery, rather than the artworks, was the object of these tours, therefore skirting the access versus conservation debate.

Each visitor to the museum sees and understands things differently, and brings a valuable lens to the art experience—although these perspectives are not often acknowledged as relevant ways of knowing (Papalia, 2013).

Zoe Partington is an artist and consultant with tons of experience of working with galleries and museums across the UK and around the world. She’s committed to making sure that museums and galleries offer the same standard of service to all visitors, but is practical and encouraging in her advice.

That is what I, as a disabled person, am constantly campaigning to make – interpretation that is fundamentally creative and can be integrated from the outset rather than becoming an afterthought, and which aids sighted as well as blind and partially sighted audiences (Partington, 2017, p.5).

What do these people tell us? That listening to blind and partially sighted people, and learning from them about accessing and seeing art, will benefit all visitors to the gallery.

As Georgia Krantz (2014) at the Guggenheim wrote about working with Carmen Papalia:

A teaching method that favorably serves one particular audience may well play an instrumental role in serving another. The confluence of different voices and areas of expertise in the exchange of ideas generates programmatic innovation and refinement.



Hirose, K. (2013) ‘Research on Methods of “Touching the World” —The Aim of the Exhibit Area of Tactile Learning in Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology’ Disability Studies Quarterly, vol 33 no. 3. Available at: http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/3743/3245 (Accessed: 3 April 2018).

Kleege, G. (2018) More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krantz, G. (2014) ‘How Do You See a Museum with Your Eyes Closed?’ Guggenheim. Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/blogs/checklist/how-do-you-see-a-museum-with-your-eyes-closed (Accessed: 17 May 2018).

Papalia, C. (2013) ‘A New Model for Access in the Museum’ Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 33 no. 3. Available at: http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/3757/3280 (Accessed: 25 April 2018).

Papalia, C. (2013) Mobility Device [Performance] Santa Ana, 1 June.
Available at: https://carmenpapalia.com/2013/06/01/mobility-device/ (Accessed: 17 May 2018).

Partington, Z. (2017) ‘Panel discussion’ at Bridging the Gaps: Exploring the link Between Art and Audio Description, 24 February. London: Tate Modern. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/
(Accessed: 27 April 2018).

Partington (2017) ‘What is Audio Description?’ in Shape Arts Ways of Seeing Art. London: Shape Arts pp. 4-7.









Thinking about audio description

An earlier post mentioned how I’d been turned on to audio description. Of course it’s an area of interest, but reading more about how it is developing in terms of art has got me hooked. Audio description i.e. spoken description, either recorded or live, of visual images or objects, is well established in theatre, cinema and television (although not universally available). Now it is developing in terms of visual arts and sculpture.

Blind and partially sighted people I’ve spoken to so far haven’t experienced audio description in a gallery or museum, but regularly use it when watching television, or at the theatre.

People are dotted about in a bright exhibition gallery. On the left is a bright sculpture comprising 4 walking frames on a round turntable. In the centre a white display board with text and images.
Exhibition at Shape Arts & Tate Exchange Ways of Seeing Art event, 2017

Ways of Seeing Art booklet coverThere are some great resources, written (Shape Arts, 2017; Fisher, 2017) and online (Partington, 2013; Sensing Culture, 2018; Shape Arts, 2017). I particularly like the videos that Partington produced for the RNIB’s Opening Up Creative Culture project (2013) and the booklet Shape published, Ways of Seeing Art (2017) after their workshop series at Tate Exchanges, under the same title.


Some key messages I’ve picked up:

  • Have a go, don’t worry about getting it right first time
  • Collaborate
  • Involve blind and partially sighted people
  • State the obvious
  • Describe the impact of the artwork, the wow factor
  • Have fun, be creative!

Zoe Partington‘s name keeps cropping up. She’s a consultant and artist who’s done loads of work with museums around the UK and the world, and is brilliant! I’ll contact her next.

Meanwhile, I’m mulling over how I might use this new learning …



Clarke, J. (2007) ‘Standard Techniques in Audio Description’, Joe Clark: Accessibility, Design, Writing. Available at: https://joeclark.org/access/description/ad-principles.html (Accessed: 10 May 2018).

Cox, L. (2017) ‘Creative Audio Description’ in Shape Arts Ways of Seeing Art: Exploring the Links Between Art and Audio Description. London: Shape Arts pp. 14-18.

Giansante, L. (no date) ‘Writing Verbal Descriptions for Audio Guides’ Art Beyond Sight. Available at: http://www.artbeyondsight.org/mei/verbal-description-training/writing-verbal-description-for-audio-guides/ (Accessed: 10 May 2018).

Fryer, L. (2016) An Introduction to Audio Description: A Practical Guide. London: Routledge.

Partington, Z. (2013) ‘Opening Up Creative Culture’ [Video series] Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnviddUNHn5ynIPAXO6x5EQ (Accessed: 27 April 2018).

Partington, Z. (2017) [Panel discussion] at Ways of Seeing Art, Tate Modern, London, 23-26 February. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/ways-seeing-art (Accessed: 27 April 2018).

Sensing Culture (2018) Audio Description. Available at: http://www.sensingculture.org.uk/resources/audio-description/ (Accessed: 30 June 2018).

Shape Arts and Tate Exchange (2017) [Workshop series] Ways of Seeing Art, Tate Modern, London, 23-26 February. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/ways-seeing-art (Accessed: 27 April 2018).

Shape Arts (2017) Ways of Seeing Art: Exploring the Links Between Art and Audio Description. London: Shape Arts. Available at: https://issuu.com/shapearts/docs/shape_2017_tateexchange_book_final_ (Accessed: 10 May 2018).

Ways of Seeing Art

I’d filed a reference to this Tate Exchange and Shape Arts event from February 2017 in my “other” section, something of interest but not in my key documents list. I’d skimmed the information on the website: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/ways-seeing-art  I noted that the event was about audio description, clearly of interest to me but not the only approach I’m interested in.

Following a proper look yesterday, I’ve reviewed my thinking and moved this resource up the list. Particularly useful was the filmed recording of a panel discussion (pictured below) about audio description. The whole event was organised in partnership with Shape Arts, one of the UK’s main disability arts organisations, controlled by disabled people.

Six people sit behind a table with a screen behind, audience in front.

I learned a lot from the contributions of Zoe Partington, a consultant with a visual impairment who has worked extensively with galleries and museums. Dr Louise Fryer, a teacher of audio description at University College London, also provided lots of insights. Interestingly, both exorted galleries, curators and even artists to be creative about audio describing, to have a go and to experiment:

It’s about bringing galleries to life for everybody including blind and partially sighted people … Have fun! Use description in a fun, creative way to get people through the door. (Partington, 2017)

It’s always good to hear from people who use a service themselves, and in the Shape discussion we hear from visually impaired people who both use and produce audio description. A strong message for getting it right is to work in partnership, with blind and partially sighted people at the centre.


Partington, Z. (2017) [Panel discussion] at Ways of Seeing Art, Tate Modern, London, 23-26 February. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/ways-seeing-art (Accessed: 27 April 2018).

Shape Arts and Tate Exchange (2017) [Workshop series] Ways of Seeing Art, Tate Modern, London, 23-26 February. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/ways-seeing-art (Accessed: 27 April 2018).


Fryer, L. (2016) An Introduction to Audio Description: A Practical Guide. London: Routledge.

Partington, Z. (2013) ‘Opening Up Creative Culture’ [Video series] Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnviddUNHn5ynIPAXO6x5EQ (Accessed: 27 April 2018).