New RSA Fellowships support six to unleash their creativity

Ewan McInnes blog

Scotland’s most ambitious advocates for social change have been recognised in the first ever RSA Fellowship awards for people with learning disabilities.

The initiative led by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) in partnership with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has awarded RSA Lifetime Fellowships to six people with learning disabilities after a nationwide search. The award winners were announced (Wednesday, 18th May) at the ‘Celebrating Success’ RSA Fellowship Awards at the George Hotel, Edinburgh, as part of Learning Disability Week 2016.

The 2016 RSA Fellowship awardees include:

• Cameron Morgan, visual artist, Falkirk
• Leanne Clarke, author / playwright, Lochgelly
• Ross Inglis, piper, Dundee
• Maria Lauder, community activist, Coldstream
• Adam Sloan, dancer / choreographer, Glasgow
• Ian Stones, campaigner, Inverurie

Applications for these new Fellowship opportunities were open to anyone over the age of 18 in Scotland with creative ideas to achieve social change. The new RSA Fellows represent such diverse interests and passions as: visual arts; developing social and campaigning groups; choreography; creative writing; and teaching music. All of them are ambitious for change, not just for themselves but for other people with learning disabilities in their communities and across Scotland.

Chris Creegan, Chief Executive Officer, SCLD, said: “As an RSA Fellow, I know first-hand the incredible benefits and transformative potential of the Fellowship. Our search for six new Fellows aims to encourage a change in attitudes. We know that having a learning disability is no barrier to creativity, entrepreneurship or a desire to make the world a better place. Society’s attitudes to learning disability can be, though. We’re excited about celebrating the success of our competition winners and about working with them to realise their creative potential to effect social change in Scotland.”

Jamie Cooke, Head of RSA Scotland, said: “Working in partnership with SCLD to involve people with learning disabilities in our Fellowship network has been a great experience for RSA Scotland. The mission of the RSA is to enrich society through ideas and action and the ideas presented by these new Fellows will make a real difference to their communities. We’re looking forward to developing the partnership and supporting our new Fellows with their ideas.”

The successful applicants demonstrated that they had unique ideas with real potential to change lives across Scotland. Leanne Clark, a writer and playwright from Lochgelly in Fife is among the cohort of new RSA Fellows. Leanne plans to write a book documenting her life to share with health and social care professionals, academics and other people with learning disabilities. Leanne hopes that her publication will influence future practice and provide a source of inspiration for people in a similar situation to hers.

Commenting on the award she said: “When I got the phone call about the RSA Fellowship I was so excited and proud of myself. I’m looking forward to making new friends in the RSA so they can help me to make my dream of writing my book a reality.

“I would like social workers, lecturers at my college and others outside of college to read my book. I hope by reading what my experience through life has been they will be inspired.”

Ross Inglis from Dundee, is an experienced piper who wants to teach people with learning disabilities to learn the instrument, form a new band and register with the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association. Ross said: “I love playing the pipes because it is a traditional Scottish music instrument and a lot of people are enthusiastic about it. This year I decided I was going to form a new pipe band, with the help of Pipe Major Derek Potter, to give others the chance to learn the pipes and drums.

“My family and friends were very proud to hear the good news about my Fellowship. It’s going to be amazing.”

As well as the induction of the new RSA Fellows, the awards dinner also featured an inspiring talk from renowned writer and producer, Peter Bowker, who produced hit TV show ‘The A Word’ and the BAFTA award winning film, Marvellous. The drama is based on the inspirational true story of Neil ‘Nello’ Baldwin who, despite being wrongly written off by society for his learning disabilities, led an exciting life filled with noteworthy achievements.