Annual Conference 2020

Well, we did it! We hosted our first ever online conference!

We may not have been together in real life, but we certainly felt like we were together in spirit for a truly inspiring three days.

The image above shows an artists sketch of the Visionary Online Conference 2020

The image above shows an artists sketch of the Visionary Online Conference 2020. Fourteen faces can be seen in their ‘Zoom Boxes’ on screen, alongside the Zoom meeting controls. The mystery artist from MySight Nottinghamshire has captured the faces of conference delegates throughout the three day event. The sketches show people dancing, speaking from the heart, twiddling their hair, nodding off and most commonly, with big smiles! A huge thank you to the artist!

Catch up on workshops and key note speeches you missed on our YouTube channel here

Catch up on presentations and resources from selected workshops here:

We wanted to start our wrap up of the conference by saying a huge thank you to all those that made the event possible…

A huge thank you!

Thank you to all of you who attended, presented and shared knowledge and experiences. It is clear from the feedback we have already received that the conference still provided an important chance for you to feel part of a wider and supportive community. It also signified a call for action, change, positivity, creativity and collaboration – and a recognition that together, we can keep getting better at what we do.

From the Visionary team – we also want to thank everyone who made the conference possible, in particular the Thomas Pocklington Trust, whose support makes the whole event possible. We would also like to thank our award sponsors Guide Dogs and Wilberforce Trust for supporting our diversity workshop.

Congratulations to our incredible award winners!

Winner of the Visionary Connect Award

Sight Support Hull & East Yorkshire
Inclusive fitness and running programme

Sandra Ackroyd, CEO commended Roy Turnham who has led this project and said: “All of us at Sight Support Hull & East Yorkshire are delighted to have been shortlisted in two of the Visionary award categories and to have won the ‘Connect’ award category. This award is a great recognition of the hard work of our staff and our partner organisation ‘FitMums & Friends’, another local charity, who we work very closely (‘connect’) with to deliver this project for the benefit of blind and partially sighted people. The project is a huge success and sees sighted volunteers support people with visual impairments to participate in fitness walking, running and other physical activity to improve physical health and mental wellbeing as well as developing lasting friendships along the way.

Winner of the Visionary Develop Award

Kirklees Visual Impairment Network
Developing services to build a virtual community

Claire Drake, Volunteer and Events Co-ordinator said: “We are really proud as an organisation to have been shortlisted, never mind to win! We are a very small charity so to get national recognition is something we never dreamt of. The staff team would like to thank our fabulous volunteers for embracing a new way of operating and also our service users who have got to grips with the ‘virtual’ world so that we could continue to support them throughout 2020.”

Winner of the Visionary Share Award

iSight Cornwall
‘ReVision’ – Developing and sharing a remote low vision service

Carole Theobald, CEO, commended Shannon Smith who, when the pandemic hit, led the adaption and immediate development of this innovative approach to delivering low vision services remotely and shared this openly with Visionary members. Carole said, “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won the Visionary Share Award. Thank you to everyone who voted for us!”

Winner of the Visionary National Partner Award

Esme’s Umbrella
Working with local sight loss organisations to raise awareness of and support of Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Judith Potts, Founder said: “Winning the Visionary National Partners’ Award last Friday was a total shock – as you would have heard and seen! I owe a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who voted for me, but I was not able to answer all your lovely messages on the Chat box on the day. When I began my campaign five years ago, I knew nothing at all about the sight loss sector. It’s charities, clinicians, ECLOs and ROVIs were all a mystery to me but through the support I have received from all of you, I have managed to bring Charles Bonnet Syndrome out of the shadows and turned its community’s whisper into a voice. Thank you all so much and I will treasure this award.

You can read about all of our winning and shortlists projects on our website.

Conference highlights

This year we welcomed almost 300 people attending sessions over our three day event on 18, 19 and 20 November to connect, develop knowledge and share the amazing things going on across our wonderful sector! This year there were so many highlights…

  • A rousing and challenging keynote speech from Debra Allcock Tyler which we would urge you all to listen back to when if you are ever doubting the incredible work you all do in the face of the challenges of 2020.
  • A ten-minute high intensity workout (including incredible costume and dance moves from our own Andy Haynes) from broadcaster Lucy Edwards, who also shared her experiences as a young blind woman getting through the door at Radio 1 and on not taking no for an answer!
  • Our first ever virtual awards ceremony that still had the fun factor and celebrated the amazing work of our members, plus saw a beautiful and powerful performance from poet Ellen Renton sharing a piece ‘Connection’ that she had written especially for us (see below).
  • The launch of a charter for the sight loss sector, presented by the amazing Rob Cooper and Hayley Grocock, followed by an engaging discussion on finding local solutions to three key issues by working together with the national organisations who joined us (TPT, Blind Veterans UK, RNIB and Guide Dogs).
  • 12 different workshops presented on a broad range of subjects with the majority hosted by our amazing members.

We recorded all of our key note speeches and workshops and will be sharing these on our YouTube channel by the end of this week. So please check back to catch up on anything you missed.

And finally… a poem written especially for all all of us

Connection, by Ellen Renton

I wanted to tell you
That I’ve been trying to wake up
Why is it so hard
I’ve been practicing all the different messages
It’s like working backwards
I feel lonely
Ultimately fine in this moment
But far away/lifted/perfect/weird
If it makes you feel any better
I don’t understand it
I’ve been hoping for some good dreams
And books to read
Hopefully we could hug
Hope you warm up
Hope Easter hope summer
Hope music, steel drums, better weather
Hope walk around the block
I could cry
I hope that’s a comfort
Have you tried emptying cupboards
Or hamstring stretches?
I’m free all day and all day
Nothing happens apart from the wind
How are you doing
Are you in the midst of ridiculous
Are you anxious
Are you within day trip distance
Of the world
Or are you talking to yourself again
I am counting syllables and grinding my teeth
I am filling up
And getting used to it
I have been postponed
I have slowed
At this rate it won’t be a perfect ending
But that happens
Can we talk
Can we phone later or after
Can we forget about him can we
We can play it by ear
It was lovely hearing you
It makes you realise that we got used to beautiful
You are the things I look forward to
What I have space for
You’re magic
And I’m free all day
There’s no rush.

See you next year!

We hope that we can harness and build on the successful elements of this years conference, most notably that being online meant that so many more staff from across our members could join us! We do however look forward to hopefully being together in real life next year. Watch this space for our 2021 dates and we hope to see you all there.

Thanks so much to you all from the bottom of our hearts for attending and supporting this event, the Visionary network has an awful lot to be proud of!

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