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It seems ages ago I received notification of being awarded an a-n Professional Development Bursary. Back in March life seemed so different. I was going through the “Famine of Freelance” – you know – that thing no one really talks about because we have to put some kind of sheen on it all and say -‘yeah….I’m really busy……fingers in pies…..” rather than ‘ Oh Yeah!… I’ve had a few rejections….it’s really hard out there….it’s the trickle down…they had 375 applications….” I’m sick of the sheen and the bluffing.

I’m grateful for the bursary. Sometimes it is the money – or the money helps..we all have to eat and pay bills…but this bursary has allowed me to do things I wouldn’t have ordinarily got to do and the real bonus is it’s not just about the finite timescale of the bursary that I will experience the benefit.

I remember 2 and 1/2 years ago after not having had a successful application for 6 months thinking “if I don’t get something by the end of February (2015) that’s it. I’m going to give up the art of trying to make a living in the arts.”

Thankfully something turned up..something small and seemingly insignificant but it was enough….enough to give me something to hold on to…to pull me into the future. It was a catalyst which led to another piece of work and another…

Later that year I was accepted onto the Unfixed Residency in Adelaide with the Australian Network for Arts and Technology, Unlimited and Watershed Pervasive Media Studio.

I am not a digital native. I am however thanks to that residency a digital adopter or (Im)migrant.

The residency took 5 disabled Australian artists and 5 UK disabled artists to Adelaide, London and PMS at Watershed. It was the latter which really changed my life. It was as if a door had been opened, that suddenly i gained an understanding of some of the language and some of the potential of digital technology – not as a means to itself – not as the art work but as a way to support the work I made.

The above image is of a collaborative rapid prototype produced during an Unfixed Lab at PMS exploring codification of the gallery.

What was crucial here was that Watershed PMS had a brilliant attitude to disability. They were open to conversations about it, how can they do it better, they know they don’t know everything but are prepared to get it wrong as a beginning to getting right. PMS don’t do buzz word bingo, don’t tick boxes for the sake of it. I am treated as an individual, the conversations with me are about my access needs specifically and they go out their way to ensure I have the best conditions reasonably achievable to make my experience of being a resident the best it can be.

As a resident of PMS this bursary is helping me visit the studio and research digital technology so I can apply it to my practice, so that it enriches my practice and makes a contribution to my work. For me, the technology will never be the work.

So now I have just returned from visiting Kaleider in Exeter – another tech art hub in the PMS vein. PMS talked to Kaleider and brokered my visit there who in turn brokered my visit to the METOFFICE which is not only the fulfilment of a very long standing dream to be able to visit there but contributes to my  work on Climate Change and Mental Health.

So, whilst money has its place and importance, often it is the softer, human side of things that allows doors to be opened and relationships to be built.