Audiovisability: the project that drove my creativity

For three months last year, I was an artist and writer with Audiovisability, supporting their research and development (R&D) project funded by Arts Council England.

The project revolved round deaf Para-dressage rider Laurentia Tan, a multi-medal winner who has been competing in Paralympic and global sports events for ten years – and yet has never won gold. It came about due to her growing frustration over barriers to participating in individual freestyle, the only dressage test set to music.

My role was to shadow her in a variety of ways – online discourse, information-sharing meetings, interviews, flying to Cologne for a weekend – and combine that with my own research and development, eventually writing a report accompanied by my own drawings. The result can be viewed here, with a shorter version on Disability Arts Online here.

Laurentia has cerebral palsy. It was for that reason – among others – that Audiovisability’s creative director, Ruth Montgomery, invited me to take part. I am, after all, a parent to a child with cerebral palsy who has explored that road through my blog and my Kindle book, My Daughter and I, which can still be downloaded from Amazon UK. Besides Laurentia and I had been wanting to meet for years – almost since my daughter Isobel was diagnosed at age one in 2010, just after the sportswoman had entered competitive dressage.

Audiovisability therefore facilitated a precious moment where, Laurentia paid us a personal visit and lent Isobel her latest silver medal, won at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, to wear for a photo opportunity. I can’t overstate how significant this was for my child’s self-confidence, for her younger non-disabled brother to witness this, and how proud I felt that day.

Meanwhile Ruth sought to both bring the R&D to a wider audience through a variety of creative disciplines, with music at its core, and use it as an unique opportunity for the artists to build on existing skills and expertise.

So not only did Laurentia boost her music literacy through a combination of music lessons and collaborative discourse – but as one of the contributing artists, addressing a subject that I knew very little about enabled me to spawn a new writing language; which in turn, also pushed my drawing into a more innovative, almost allegorical style.

Given the almost polarised demands of the two strands – bombarding my mind with structural, grammatical thought for long periods of time (even when taking a coffee break!), and then switching to freeform drawing – it was possibly the most challenging and intensely creative task I’d taken on.

Nevertheless, it provided an invaluable opportunity to drive both forms of creativity to new places, transforming my art and my writing as a whole. This new development will be crucial in realising an ambition that I have of producing illustrated children’s books in future.

I am privileged to have worked alongside such a wonderful bunch like the Audiovisability crew, and I look forward to more collaborative work with them. Indeed we are planning for workshops, funded by Decibels, to take place at the PACE Centre in Aylesbury later this year, which will explore similar dressage music themes with their students.

May I extend deep thanks and appreciation to Ruth Montgomery, fellow musician and producer Eloise Garland, sound designer Chris Bartholomew-Fox, German dressage coach Volker Eudel, film director Louis Neethling and most of all, Laurentia Tan and her mother Jannie, for their kindness, patience and time.

My Daughter And I – e-book launch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
6 March 2014

MELISSA MOSTYN LAUNCHES FIRST E-BOOK

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WENDOVER, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE – Following the popularity of her blog, The Mostyn-Thomas Journal, Melissa Mostyn will be launching her first e-book, My Daughter And I, on Thursday 24th April, 2014.

The book charts the developmental progress of Melissa’s daughter and first child Isobel, who has cerebral palsy and associated disabilities, right from the day of her birth up to the present day via blog posts drawn from the Journal, and includes chapters that were never published online.

“The point of my blog was to help me make sense of what was happening to Isobel,” explains Melissa. “At the time there was so much going on I couldn’t absorb each new piece of information properly. But I had to find a way to keep moving on, so I could be strong and be there for her as her mum.”

What makes My Daughter And I unusual is the fact it is written from the perspective of a deaf person.

“I am pre-lingually deaf,” says Melissa, “and have no memory of having hearing. So I cannot say I have a hearing loss. I had worked with people with disabilities before I became a parent, so I probably brought a rather divergent attitude to the table.”

Melissa is open about the fact that she blogged primarily for her own benefit: “Of course I was reaching out. That’s what you do when you find yourself very isolated in your own personal turmoil. But what I didn’t expect was the response my blog would get.”

Indeed, soon after starting her blog, Melissa found herself receiving messages of support from people she didn’t think would have much interest: childless people, adults with disabilities, parents of non-disabled children, members of the Deaf Community, people whose parents had disabilities of their own.

“My readers came from all walks of life,” she says, “which, in retrospect, shouldn’t be that surprising perhaps.

“When I look back at those posts, I realise that somewhere in there is an universal message that they can all relate to, and I think it’s to do with the human condition and what it’s capable of in times of adversity.”

Personal circumstances prevented Melissa from continuing the blog, but she wasn’t prepared to give up.

“I became a single parent of two very young children fairly recently, and was too busy to keep blogging,” she explains. “However, by then I had three years’ worth of material to draw from; material that I’d worked so hard to write. I couldn’t let this go to waste.”

Hence the idea of the book. “Not only that,” Melissa continues, “but Isobel was still evolving. There was a concurrence between her child development and her evolving disabilities, ensuring there was no knowing what to expect, and I had to keep adjusting as we went along. The new chapters in the book is a way of reinforcing the sense of a continuing journey.”

Although the book’s title purposefully highlights Isobel’s starring role, Melissa stresses that it also explores the broader family dynamic: “I cannot deny the huge impact Isobel’s disabilities have had on the household as a whole. Building in the arrival of her baby brother Benedict, and the areas of interest I developed afterwards, was just as important a way of showing how we all adapted to being a deaf and disabled family.”

My Daughter And I is self-published. Its launch on Kindle will be celebrated with a small event by invitation only in London on the same day. Press enquiries can be made to themostynthomasjournal@gmail.com

My Daughter And I: a story about child development, parenting, love and disability, out on Kindle 24th April 2014.

In advance of the book’s release, The Mostyn-Thomas Journal will go offline on 6th April 2014.

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