Based on the long-standing trade union principle that ‘an injury to one is the concern of all’, the Irish Trade Union Trust (ITUT) has been set up and funded by the members of Ireland’s largest union, SIPTU, to develop a social solidarity service for unemployed, retired and disabled members, and to build links between the trade union movement and unemployed, retired and disabled people in their communities. SIPTU/ITUT are involved in several disability equality projects. They held a one-day Disability Equality Workshop in April (Frontline 35, 6). They have also produced a Negotiator’s Guide on disability issues, and designed a shop steward disability awareness training module. They are cooperating with other European countries to develop a range of actions to address obstacles to and opportunities for the employment of disabled people.
Last autumn, SIPTU and the Irish Council of People with Disabilities joined forces to implement an EU-funded training course for disabled people. The course is called Implementing New Forms of Representative Mechanisms—INFORM for short. ITUT’s Disability Specialist, Anne Maria Kennedy was involved in organising the INFORM programme, along with Michael Gogarty, SIPTU’s Disability Policy Adviser. The objectives of the INFORM programme were to enhance advocacy, communication, representation and negotiation skills among people with disabilities to assist them to campaign more effectively for equality for disabled people in their local community.
Two one-week INFORM training programmes were held in Dublin during September. Approximately fifteen people attended each week. Several of the participants were delegates from county networks of the Irish Council of People with Disabilities; some were SIPTU shop stewards. Some of the people who took part used wheelchairs or had a visual impairment. People who had come from outside Dublin stayed at the Temple Bar Hotel; some of the course sessions were held there, and the hotel was also a comfortable centre for socialising. Transport was provided to take the participants to the course sessions held in Kilmainham, at the SIPTU Training and Education College.
The INFORM training programme included many different elements. There were talks about equality laws and practical techniques for approaching politicians and government departments. An RTÉ producer gave tips on how to get your message across on the media. There was information on getting data and information, and how to make use of local area and community-based partnerships. Several sessions discussed how to be effective communicators, how to work in committees, conduct meetings and plan group actions.
Nicole Redmond, from Work Options in Dublin, is a member of Advocacy Ireland. Last summer, the group’s facilitator, David Power, heard about the INFORM training programme and he applied for Nicole and himself to attend for the week beginning 7 September 1998.
Nicole enjoyed the INFORM course very much. It was her first opportunity to get together with persons with other disabilities, to hear about their interests and problems, and to socialise with them. She particularly enjoyed the course’s role plays which examined committee work and the duties of officers. She hopes that other people may be able to attend a similar course in the future. SIPTU/ITUT is investigating ways to extend the ideas in the INFORM courses for the future. Because many of the topics, such as equality law, are usually very complicated, it may be possible to put together a version in simpler language specially focused for persons with learning difficulties.
Nicole has found the INFORM course useful in her work as treasurer and joint secretary of her local Advocacy Ireland group. They have sent delegates to self-advocacy meetings in other parts of the country or abroad and they made a presentation on discrimination and labelling at an ISEU conference in Galway.
(Advocacy Ireland can be contacted at 39 Lr Dominick Street, Dublin 1. The address of Irish Trade Union Trust Ltd is Liberty Hall, Dublin 1 (tel: 878 7272, email: email@example.com).)
Music Management and Promotion (Music MAP) is a one-year arts training and education course offered by City Arts Centre in Dublin, which includes video production, midi recording, office administration and computer applications, Internet and marketing. The aim of the course is to familiarise students with the music business and wider media issues.
All the Music MAP students are registered with the NRB and the course involves workshops and discussions on ways to break down the barriers which have prevented persons with disabilities from participating fully in society, and in the arts in particular.
Many future participants in the Music MAP course hear about the course through music-radio ‘spots’ and local newspapers. Other young people with music-related interests may hear about the course from their disability service provider or the NRB. City Arts Centre holds a series of ‘taster workshops’ to demonstrate aspects of the course and to help them find students who will be well suited to, and by, the course.
Music MAP is assessed for ESF funding by the NRB and is accredited by the NCVA. In addition to those important considerations, however, City Arts Centre holds the course firmly within its inclusive community arts policy, which also includes Very Special Arts and the Young Playwrights Programme. It is an ‘experiential’ course for the students, an opportunity to explore new challenges and to unlearn what may have been bad educational experiences in the past. Training Manager Justin Rami explained: ‘process is more important than product’. Music MAP involves individual projects and group work, both of which help individuals to find out their own interests and strengths. New skills are often learned in unexpected ways: processing photographic images digitally on the computer also familiarises students with other computer applications. Guest speakers—some from record companies, IMRO, bands or radio stations—tell the students about the ‘real world’ of the music industry and they may be useful contacts in the future. The NCVA certification means that students are assessed, but they also do monthly evaluations of the course, which help to shape it to their particular needs.
Deirdre O’Brien is a young woman with a long-standing interest in music—she is a singer and has had considerable voice training. She sang on TV during the Children in Need show last year. Deirdre heard about the Music MAP course from a staff member at SHS in Bray, where she has been a trainee for several years. She went along to a ‘taster workshop’ to find out more, and last September she joined ten other students on the course. It was a big challenge for her to leave the familiar surroundings and all her friends in Bray to take on the new venture. She travels into the Dublin quays on the DART every morning and has her lunch in the canteen at the City Arts Centre. Although she has definite musical tastes of her own, Deirdre has enjoyed wider music experiences on the course—percussion sessions, learning samba music, and what she described as ‘pulling a song apart and putting it back together again’. She is doing a project on ‘DIY music’ and hopes to make her own CD. Deirdre admits that she likes to do her own thing, but she also sees the value in working together in the coursework. In the week she talked with Frontline, the students had organised a video-shoot in Temple Bar and designed ‘story boards’, each taking part in the project team.
Deirdre doesn’t know what she’ll do after she completes the Music MAP course, but she values the new skills she is learning, the contacts she has made, and all the experiences of the course. And she knows she’ll always love her music!
(City Arts Centre is at 23-25 Moss Street, Dublin 2. For more information on the Music MAP course, contact Justin Rami, Training Manager, tel: 01-677 0643; fax: 01-677 0131; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)