“This book demonstrates beautifully that people with learning disabilities have rich and textured emotions and experiences. I love this book. It made me cry, laugh and wish. Read it, and then think about how surprised you are.”
– Keely Charlick, the Chief Executive of Sunnyside Rural Trust
The launch of The Memoir Garden was a wonderfully celebratory occasion. We all dressed up in our finery, the poets walked in on a red carpet, the Ivy House Activity Centre in Berkhamsted was festooned with flowers and bunting, and girls from Abbott’s Hill School served us wonderful food. The launch was attended by guests of the poets, and all those who had been involved in the project. We were especially privileged to host Peter Cotton, who designed such a lovely book cover.
Keely Charlick, the Chief Executive of Sunnyside Rural Trust, gave a wonderful speech in which she claimed that people with learning disabilities are often seen as ‘less’ – as a burden, simple, childlike and worse. In order to overturn these preconceptions we must listen with the heart and honour the stories of those who have all too often been silenced or dismissed.
These themes are central to The Memoir Garden – a poetry collection that documents my yearlong Arts Council residency. I collaborated with participants from Sunnyside Rural Trust – a wonderful social enterprise that trains people with learning disabilities in horticulture – creating poems made up of their words and reminiscences.
Each of the poets has shown great courage and commitment by sharing their stories and breaking taboos.
The Berkhamsted Gazette included a lovely article on the launch, and they filmed me talking about the background to the book.
All proceeds from the The Memoir Garden will go to Sunnyside Rural Trust. You can buy the book from me in person for £4.99, through the post by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, from Waterstones in Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead, and from Sunnyside’s shop on Two Waters Way.