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A 50 Person Zoom Disco

2nd November 2020

Laura Aldridge, Artist, KMAdotcom

KMAdotcom is a working art studio that bills itself as a space of originality, collaboration and imagination. It is managed by four artists from Monday to Friday but is open and flexible to suit the needs of people who come to the workshop.

Glasgow artist Laura Aldridge said: "Creativity is fundamentally important at base level for any human being. It's giving someone space to communicate their ideas and find a voice, it's really empowering.

"People with learning disabilities often don’t have a lot of choice in their lives, they may not get to choose what they wear, or what they do. So, to have this completely free space where their personalities and eccentricities can be encouraged, is really great for all of us.

For artists like Leanne Ross, who has Down’s Syndrome, the Dalkeith studio in Scotland has become a lifeline. Prior to the pandemic, Laura was working with Leanne on an exhibition for the Glasgow International festival, until it was cancelled. But, the pair continued to collaborate.

“We've all learnt that virtual interaction doesn't replace physical meeting. But what we have learnt is that if someone can't come to the workshop, we can keep working with them,” says Laura.

“In the past, if people couldn't come to the workshop then we weren't able to work with them. But now, we'll just turn on an app and everyone can see each other.

For Leanne, it would have been six months of shielding, being in the house and not being able to do the things she normally would,. “She's lost her world,” notes Laura. “It's just shrunk and at the start that can be really frightening, especially when it comes to understanding what's going on. But being able to work virtually has given her new enthusiasm.”

"The Friday group have been able to work remotely with her, she's been shouting things out and they've been painting them, which she really enjoyed.

"Leanne loves to chat and show us her work on a Monday. She's still up for doing stuff and wants to work but, because she's shielding, she can't be in the studio.

"The Monday and Friday art sessions have become a big part of her week. It's all about friendships and while we've not been able to do quite the same work we might do in the studio, we’ve stayed in touch virtually, singing and dancing.

Together, Laura and Leanne have created a colouring book to keep people occupied during lockdown, while the latter has also been commissioned by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Trust to brighten up their Rest and Relaxation Hubs across the Glasgow and Greater Clyde area through her work.

Another positive is that the group has had a chance to get to know people in a whole different way.

"We’ve met families and carers – understanding the circles of support around an individual means getting to see the whole picture around that person, allows us to work together.

"For some people that's really useful, we're learning more about someone and are able to dobetter by them.

"That's probably the best thing that's come out of coronavirus, it's amazing that we've been able to stay working together. For a lot of people, things just stopped and that was it. To stay connected has been really important.

"We organised a Zoom Disco for our community and had about 50 people on screen at one point! Everyone that came said it was great to see lots of different people all together. It really felt that you were in this big group which was the perfect tonic to the isolation of lockdown. Everyone was dancing in their own homes, we had different dance sound effects like air horns and disco whistles, it was great fun.”

"People did different things but in their own way – one person switched the camera on and just sat at the end of the bed and ate a cookie, while others kitted out their whole living room like a disco with flashing lights and backdrops.

"It felt like you were part of something beyond yourself.

“We want to be back in the studio as much as we can but we've learnt that we can do much better by people.

KMAdotcom is just one of the many causes that are supported by players of The National Lottery who raise £30 million per week and for Laura, it is the “support that enables us to keep going, whether it's a virtual or physical space,” says Laura. “We give space for collaboration and communication, which is really important and something to protect.”