The Paisley Disability Resource Centre actively promotes independent living through various leisure, social, educational and employment activities and services. It aims to be a welcoming, supportive and inclusive place, where people come to socialise and network, as well as taking part in activities.
In this second of two episodes, Michael McEwan speaks to Jim Thompson, the web design and movie maker co-ordinator, as well as Duncan Tomlinson, a participant in the activities.
Michael Now on part two of our special series called "Inside The Resource Centre", I went along to speak to one of the participants of the group, Duncan Tomlinson, and he takes part in the movie makers group, but first up, we spoke to Jim Thompson. Now Jim Thompson is the co-ordinator for the movie makers and the music group, and he told us more about what happens.
Jim Hello, my name's Jim Thompson and I do the movie makers and web design group from the Disability Resource Centre.
Michael And tell me what's involved in the - well, first of all - the movie maker?
Jim The movie makers group, everybody learns the basic skills of editing video. So it can be not just sort of cutting bits of video, but adding audio, adding transitions, that sort of thing, titles, and then putting appropriate music in the background, and one of the main objectives of the movie makers group is to highlight access problems that anybody reports to us and try and get that resolved for those people by going out, filming it with our mobility scooter power chair, manual chair, putting a copy onto YouTube, giving a copy to the relevant agency and hopefully that gets the situation resolved.
Michael So whose idea was it to set up the movie makers in the first place?
Michael Yours. So how long ago was that? Was that a long time ago?
Jim Yeah, it was initially when I was doing outreach from the college. I was at a Disability Resource Centre and basically we were just doing video editing skills and I thought, wait a minute, we could actually utilise this. So it was probably about eight years ago that we started actually doing the movie makers and going out, and if any individual or group reported access problems to us, that's when we would then go and film that. So it could be anything from lowered pavements to steps leading up to their house, anything like that at all we're going to film it.
Michael And how do people get in touch with you if they've got an access issue?
Jim They can either do it through the Disability Resource Centre or through the Renfrewshire Access Panel, and they would pass that onto us and then we can go out and film it and give the material to them.
Michael So what's the feedback been like over the years that you've done films? What's the feedback been like from the people that you've made the films on behalf of them?
Jim It's been very, very positive feedback, because one of the things that I've found is that a lot of agencies genuinely don't realise that what they're offering can pose an access problem to people. So when you make them aware of that, they're actually quite willing to come and come up with a resolution in some way or another. So we have had very positive feedback from a lot of people.
Michael Can I now go on to speak about your music group, because you don't just run one group, you run a few groups here at the centre. So tell us what's involved in the music group?
Jim Right. Well the music group, that runs Wednesday morning at the Beechwood Community Centre, and it's got eight members. There's three come from Cherrywood and there's five come from the Anchor, but that's eight from a pool of approximately twenty-three or twenty-four service users, and these are people with complex learning difficulties and very limited mobility and really no speech ability either. So what it's about is engaging them through music and through interaction, and why I make it the eight people is because I've found - because I was running groups a bit like that from Reid Kerr beforehand - I found that if you went below eight, people could be quite self-conscious ...
Jim ... and if you go above eight there's too many for you to be able to interact effectively with them. So it was eight, and what I do is I connect my laptop to a monitor.
Jim The monitor has a photograph of each person on the right and there's a little button on the left, and we'll click through till we come to the person whose turn it is to listen to their music, and we click on the button on the left and that speaks on their behalf - the synthesized voice. It says, "Hello, my name is and I like listening to", and then we'll play their music.
Michael I think the whole kind of disability and confidence goes kind of like hand in hand because I don't know about you, but when you start working with people with physical and learning disabilities they're very shy and not very confident ...
Michael ... and you see a bit of a difference you know like five weeks' kind of thing. Would you say that you find a difference with the music group?
Jim Oh, aye.
Jim Without a doubt, and we've had very, very positive feedback ...
Jim ... from the support workers that come down, because those eight people need usually seven or eight support workers with them. So we've had very, very positive feedback from all of them and from the people that run the Anchor and Cherrywood itself to say yeah, and you can actually see the people coming out of themselves after a few weeks. They'll lose that self-consciousness, they get engaged and social interaction.
Jim A very valuable thing that very often they don't get, particularly the Cherrywood people because that's residential.
Michael Mmm. I suppose it's like making confidence but also you're meeting pals as well •
Michael ... and like when you leave maybe the centre or maybe at the weekends you can go out with them.
Michael So is it different people that you work with or is it the same eight people?
Jim No, not at all, and that's what I was saying, although the numbers are eight it's actually from an overall pool of approximately twenty-four people.
Jim So you never really get the same eight two weeks in a row.
Michael In a row yeah, it depends yeah.
Michael I take it they like it and stuff, yeah?
Jim Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Some of them are up dancing and the support workers are very often surprised to see them do this, and there's two of them now - and this is something they'd never done before - during the group once it's their turn - and I know the kind of music that engages them - put that on nice and loud and they actually come forward, and I can turn the keyboards into essentially a drum machine, and bang, bang, bang, off they go playing the keyboard as well. We keep the structure the same. I always make sure the table layout is precisely the same, we start at the same time, everything else is in the same place. So they've got that security of structure, and then you can start to break the structure down by doing a wee bit of this, improvising a bit of that, but no, unfortunately you would never be able to take them beyond there.
Michael Mmm. So you've spoke about the music group and the movie makers, and you also do web design as well ...
Jim I do, yes.
Michael ... so tell us a bit about that and what's involved and who's involved.
Jim Right. Well, in the afternoon here at Engage Renfrewshire - in the Access Panel offices again - we do a web design group. Members who do the movie makers group in the morning but there's also some people come specifically for the afternoon, and what we do there is - so it's about showing people how to register domain names, how to link those domain names to free web-building facilities the likes of Wix, and then how to integrate photos, texts, animations, all of that stuff. So they've put together the likes of the movie makers website - moviemakers.org.uk - and there's a DRC newsletter website again, which is drcnewsletter.org.uk. So we work on things like that on the Thursday afternoon, and one of the people that comes in the afternoon ...
Jim ... he's now actually set up his own website ...
Jim ... and he's able to integrate photos, he's able to integrate animation, he even a few weeks ago integrated the jigsaws that we've been starting to do - the online jigsaw facility. So it really annoys me when people come here and they learn how to do things and then they go away and do it themselves, you know what I mean?
Michael Yeah. So again it's about confidence as well, because you might not be confident at the beginning to build a website but within two weeks of coming to you and you support them, they can show you stuff instead of you showing them stuff, but I suppose that's a good thing to see?
Jim Yeah, totally. Yeah. It's lovely when you see people coming on in confidence, because I do know somebody that was - or in fact still is - in the movie makers group, and he was actually quite phobic about going on the internet, and now he loves going on the internet and doing his own stuff on there, so that's great to see that turnaround that you can get in people ...
Jim ... when it's an irrational phobia and they get the confidence then to be able to go on and do it.
Michael Okay, thanks Jim. Nice speaking to you, a very busy man.
Jim My pleasure. Absolute pleasure.
Duncan My name's Duncan Tomlinson. I'm a member of the Access Panel. I go to movie makers on a Thursday. I also go on a Wednesday, I do photography, and we do lots of things, we do animations, we go out in the summer and take lovely photographs of the countryside and things like that. We get out and do it, but in the movie makers we go out occasionally and help people that have got access problems to get to one side of the road to another, or when there's an obstacle in people's way where they can't get in and out with their wheelchair.
Michael Yeah, aye. Yeah. So tell me about the photography group that you're in.
Michael What's involved in that?
Duncan Photography, we just had a big exhibition which was held in the Tweedie Hall. We had about four or five hundred people come on the opening to have a look around to see what we had done, and we got great praise from the press as well. It was all over the papers. So we are out there doing things. In the summer we go out and we go places and take lots of photographs of the countryside, and we have a brilliant time when we're out there. Sometimes we go for a wee coffee or we're out all day we stop and have lunch. We either have a packed lunch or we find a nice wee caf• to sit in and have a wee chat before we go back to taking our photographs, and then we go back to the centre and then we take all our photographs and put them onto Mary's hard drive which she keeps for the photography group.
Michael So why do you like coming to the centre?
Duncan At first I didn't like the DRC. I said, "The DRC's not for me."
Duncan And I went once and said, "I'm not going to go back there", but my wife said to me, "You're going back to try it again", ...
Duncan ... and then when the second time I was in there it was absolutely fabulous. I've made so many friends in the DRC, which is unbelievable. I've got people that can't speak properly but they come to me and they want to sit down and try and talk to me, I try to listen to what they're saying and pick them up, and I get on well with most people in the centre - the young, the old, you name it. I get on with most people in the DRC and I'm used as rent-a-mouth occasionally to go out and talk to people, take interviews and things like that, which I thoroughly enjoy. We have quite a good time.
Michael And I take it you've met - well you've spoke about pals - but I take it it's about confidence as well, because maybe the reason why you didn't want to go to the centre was because ...
Duncan I didn't feel I was disabled at the time.
Michael Right, okay.
Duncan When you go in there you say, "Oh, this is not for me, I'm not disabled", ...
Duncan ... but eventually it clicks and you say, "Oh, I can't wait to get here."
Duncan It's been absolutely fabulous. Honestly, you're like that. Everybody's like that when they go into the DRC at first.
Duncan "This is not for me." If you ask any other people they'll tell you the same, but once you've been there a couple of weeks that's you hooked.
Duncan I mean, it's the amount of activities to learn at the DRC that, I mean, I think there's more activities in there than anywhere else.