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photo by Stu Allsopp of me in the Empathy Booth – I think it looks like a curtsey to ACE.

My goodness me. Arts Council England have said YES.

THANK YOU SO MUCH ACE for believing in the project and in my ability to deliver it!

I can hardly take it in. After a titanic tussle with the new portal, and the significant disadvantage of coming at the process as an autistic artist, I have succeeded.

The news came through in Cafe Rouge, Leamington Spa (who deserve a special mention for putting up with disruptive behaviour – throwing a milk jug around in a wild fit of hugging and the emitting of a loud series of whoops and yelps). Fellow a-n artists/blogger Elena Thomas was with me and responsible for calming my palpitations and encouraging me to open the form.

I was simply too scared to find out the result and would have sat there (or rather hopped about) indefinitely. Dodgy WIFI may have blocked the message up to this moment, but the issue had been circumvented by piggy backing on Elena’s mobile phone bluetooth connection with the purpose of working up an idea we’re nurturing for the Museum for Object Research blog. An ACE notification was the last thing I expected to ping through.

As soon as the necessaries of opening the bank account and downloading the logo are in order I will be talking more specifically about the actual project for which I’ve been awarded funding. For now I want to talk about the other matter to emerge from my experience of this process – the process itself, with regards to access for neurodivergent or really more particularly autistic artists.

The process of application has been huge for me, both as a learning curve in a professional sense and as a personal growth experience. I will be honest, it was a gruelling ordeal which could have broken me but for the saving graces that got me through it. It feels important to let others know what they were.

So here is my check list of strategies, shared on the understanding that it won’t apply to every autistic artist. Our needs vary greatly and this is just a snapshot of what made the difference for me.

Importantly what I’m about to say is virtually all predicated on being to some degree networked in to a trusted group of arts professionals. This may not the case for many autistic artist, and in itself represents an issue of access. By nature autism can prove isolating for an artist, as so many of the professional structures through which we should be supported are social in orientation. This is why we must come together to create our own networks to support one another and to lobby for change in neurotypcial arts structures and organisations.

1. Arts Council England people interface is brilliant so do use it if this is an option for you. Indeed if you can access it I recommend you use the people interface at each point where you experience difficulty or doubt. For me this was vital as I couldn’t process the voluminous Grantium guidance notes. ACE interface includes the helpline and the option of making an appointment to talk with a Relationship Officer about your project development. A Relationship Officer can and will advise you and this proved decisive for me in arriving at a stronger application than I could have managed alone.

It must be noted that for some autistic artists talking and/ or talking on the phone can be serious access issues. More accessible information about alternatives for us is needed.

2. I was open about my autism in my application. I told ACE who I was and allowed this to be reflected in key areas of the application in which this makes a difference to the way I work. I will be writing in more detail about this in future posts.

3. I asked for generous access funding and was specific about what I needed it for.

It was challenging for me to work out the costings and calculate the help I needed but it was definitely worth doing so that I can both pay my support worker the correct wage for her work and have sufficient hours access help.

It was my experience that ACE wanted to know I would be properly supported in my work, so asking for more rather than less access help was probably a good idea.

4. I took ACE up on access assistance for the process of writing my application. We are entitled to up to 4 days of access help with writing the application. My advice would be to take it all. Your assistant will be paid.

This help is for the physical job of writing and organising your application only (no help with the concept is allowed) and you have to find your own assistant. My advice would be to try to recruit a person familiar with the application process or who is an arts professional. Someone to help with the mechanics of writing who you trust and can work with is essential but from my experience they will also need to understand the culture.

Someone who gets the culture can be instrumental in understanding how to structure your application in a way other arts professionals can access more easily. This could be crucial to an autistic artist, especially if you are applying for the first time

5. I consulted both trusted neurotypical artists and arts professionals to understand what was being asked of me by ACE. This was vital.

I can’t stress enough how important having access to a translation of neurotypical (socially embedded) content in the application form can be. It can be virtually impossible for us to tease out the implicit assumptions in this kind of application process on our own.

6. I teamed up with a project partner who has a complimentary skill set, and acted as my “gateway” professional to the neurotypcial world. For autistic artists it can be difficult to conceive how important it is to develop our projects beyond the concept, and lodge them fully into external environments. SO much of our thinking is internal and expansively so. Yet an ACE application requires a vast amount of fine detail which must be realised in the external world.

Autistic artists may naturally work solo, but it’s worth considering what a constructive collaboration may bring in terms of access. My NT partner has been decisively helpful in this respect. It wasn’t planned this way but by great good fortune my project collaborator has become a trusted facilitator.

These are my immediate thoughts on the process of application. I’ll let you know if I have any more.

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It can very often feel like there’s an unbridgeable gap in understanding between autistics and neurotypicals, with a frustrating delay in that situation changing anytime soon. This is especially true of organisations with established structures and practices in place, like for example, Arts Council England.

One of the most important things NTs need to grasp is that we are a diverse group of individuals. Another is that by default we approach nearly every aspect of life from a different angle. You can guarantee this, and also that within variety there are commonalities, which make the job of NTs getting their heads around accommodating autistic people a little easier. However, a checklist approach to autistic people just won’t do.

Most salient, I would say, is that we are radically different creatures, and this means we need radical change in order to support us as professionals. The art world needs to catch on to this fast.

You have to go right with us if you want to know all about us – and not many NTs exhibit willingness in this direction. Conversely many of us have spent our lives getting to know NT culture but that’s been about survival. This is why it often feels like autistics have a better handle on the dynamics between us, and also why we often give up on NTs out of disillusionment and exhaustion.

This is why it’s vital for autistic artists to get together – in whatever way we can. Some of us are finding each other on Twitter and enjoy the dipping in and out this affords. It’s relaxed and supportive and pretty funny sometimes. We do have a sense of humour, contrary to stereotype. In fact I’d say that’s a feature of most autistic people I know. We can be hilarious. We’re also empathic to a fault. If you’re having bad day and you let some steam off online, others quickly rally.

I’ve been very lucky lately as several autistic artists have come to me through my work on the difficulty for neurodiverse individuals with both the #Grantium portal and the ACE application process in general.

It’s also been my great good fortune to have followed the incredible Jon Adams – by happy coincidence – almost since my first day on Twitter. Jon and I are now talking, after a nice lengthy build up of contact, and it’s wonderfully affirming. We talk about neurodiversity and change. We talk about the challenge of living in a neurotypical world, and we talk about our art practices.

I learn a great deal from Jon. He has a way of putting things. A turning inside out of the common assumptions society holds.

Jon has been thinking a great deal about the situation as it stands for neurodiverse artists, and has many ideas about what needs to change. It’s immensely gratifying to find we’re on the same page, and our combined autistic traits compliment one another in our efforts, making it possible to work independently and come together too – with no friction or sense that our energies are either scattered or wasted. How and why is this possible?

This is our autistic way of working together. Largely we work things out on our own and signal to one another on the basis of need only. We come together when there is something concrete to say. Don’t take it the wrong way, but we don’t need all that extra signalling that NTs seem to, perhaps because they need reassurance. Mostly we trust and respect one another’s way of doing things. This is because Jon and I recognise each other’s autism as related and this creates an implicit trust, which hardly needs to be spoken.

It’s helping us to work towards strategies with which to lobby for change. This process is also showing us our similarities as artists. Variety and commonality are ever-changing permutations within each autistic being. I find this idea exciting and quite beautiful. The scope of autistic minds and autistic thought is something alien to neurotypicals though, and this is our challenge. As one of my new artist friends Susan Kruse put it so eloquently on Twitter today,

“How can one successfully apply for #art #Opportunities when autism makes communication different?”

The short answer is that we can’t. Not without a colossal effort of translation – as I’ve said before. And often we are doomed to failure.

So it’s simple really. Neurotypicals have to take it from us autistics, because we know what we’re talking about and we have a lot to say. We know that it’s hard to understand autism in all it’s variety and splendour, so let us show you what we’re all about.

I took something precious from my most recent conversation with Jon. Jon talks about neurotypicals taking a leap of faith. We get that you don’t get it. We get that it’s extremely complicated. SO trust us when we tell you there’s problem and allow us to drive the changes that are needed.

These can’t be NT solutions. And they can’t be organised by NTs either. Allow autistics to lead and the results will be spectacular. This way we achieve equality.

The art world will also benefit from some of the most exciting polymath creative brains among the human population.

So consult with us (ACE this means you too!), ask us what we need and give us the support so that we can make it happen.

Go on arts organisations, take a leap of faith.


Studio shot after the big tidy.

This is a short blog post to share a video link which I’m excited about. It features the new panels I’d squirrelled away for the Artist’s Eye project. I’ve also worked out how to make myself appear out of nowhere(!) My editing techniques are building through experimentation. This is how I work best.

Uncertain Weather System In Place has been wrapped and stored ready for exhibition in May, and my studio is now ready for a new cycle of paintings. The creative processes in this instance have somehow – a la Mary Poppins – magicked the studio into a neutral and roomy workspace. There’s even enough space on one wall for the six new panels I’d like to start working on. In fact they’re up and ready. I just hadn’t realised how much space my sand tray/ video set had been occupying for so long (possibly more than 12 months).

But I have to wait for the ACE decision before I can begin on the Felicia Browne work. My thoughts about this process in relation to autistic artists can be found on The Other Side.

I know that I face a high risk that ACE will say no. So I’m prepared for that and will have to take it from there. With just under two weeks to go the countdown begins.


I’ve been preparing a new piece of work for a brief group showing coming up in late May in a temporary location. Our gallery, once a car show room, is located just around the corner from my studios on a main road, which runs in and out of the city of Oxford.

I’m at a pivotal moment in my practice. I’ve spent the last three years building a body of work whose main focus has been the state of exile, and more specifically the Spanish Civil War as personal history. This exploration has been a huge catalyst in my work as an artist and immensely important in terms of my own personal narrative.

But there has been a parallel development. Alongside this investigation I have become aware – through a deep and personal interest in autism – that I am myself autistic. Equally seismic in implications to discovering my true Spanish heritage, this now dominates my emotional landscape. Spain is there but autism feels closer just now. This is to be expected only 5 weeks on from diagnosis.

So the group show has brought a particular challenge. This is a large group showing, a showcase for my beloved studios, in which the intensely personal is not a good fit. I am still emerging as my autistic self in any case, and want to take my time in how this is expressed in my professional life and through my work.

I know that these two aspects of my life – my history and my neurology are tightly bound. I feel they form a symbiotic echo chamber. Each aspect of my difference from the majority culture in which I find myself – a hispanic British and autistic woman – share in otherness. Exile as metaphor and reality serve in both. There can be a unity of expression as my dually culturally alienated selves have both masked and informed each other.

For this show I have produced a new piece of work which I feel captures this transitional moment and hints at a greater level of ambiguity in my work as a possible new direction. The accompanying text can be seen below. My sense is that this piece contains more by saying less. We’ll see.

“My practice is concerned with the state of exile.

Uncertain Weather System In Place (2016), represents a new departure whilst drawing on previous explorations.

A site specific piece, it has flowed partly from a restriction on wall space at the now empty VW garage showroom, but also from curiosity about showing my paintings as objects, sometimes propped but also on horizontal surfaces. This work, comprising of three intersecting painted panels, will occupy the floor. Walls often demand a more polished aesthetic and I wanted to create a piece which did not conform to this expectation.

The gallery space for this brief group showing under the title Dislocate, is due to be demolished. Temporal and unstable, this space seems perfect for the articulation of displacement and the haunting interplays of absence and presence.

Hovering between sculptural and painted forms, drawing on theatre and object work this piece also contains three objects from a growing repertoire of props and was made on my studio floor. The painted fields, each with a history of their own, take on the patina of flooring, and in parts appear wiped (as if by a mop) yet hold complex narratives. Serving also as landscape they reflect imaginary states of internal weather.

With the suggestion of departure and the gathering of essentials, the preparation for rupture or demarkation, this piece also hints at tribute and loss.

Uncertain Weather Systems in Place, Sonia Boué, mixed media (wax, sand, acrylic paint, framing tape, dried flowers and mirror). Three painted panels, 49.5×28 cm/ 69×29 cm/ 94×43 cm.”


I made a video about presenting myself as my authentic autistic self. This video is called Out the Shadows and marks a turning point in my video work, which explores my studio practice but also seeks to work with alternative ways of presenting the self.