This month, West Horsley Place Trust – the charity created by Bamber and Christina Gascoigne to save Grade I listed West Horsley Place and its surrounding estate so that they can be enjoyed by the public – announces a partnership project with VocalEyes, the national access organisation working to ensure that blind and visually impaired people have the best possible opportunities to experience and enjoy art and heritage.

Seeing Differently will explore ways to make West Horsley Place accessible to blind and partially blind people, and who frequently experience barriers accessing heritage.  It is part of a two-year project, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, devised to make sure that West Horsley Place is as inclusive as possible.

Starting this month with the appointment of an Access Panel representing a wide range of disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, Seeing Differently will include training for staff and volunteers in audio description and visual awareness, the development of an Audio Descriptive Tour and the creation of multi-sensory heritage experiences at West Horsley Place.  Importantly, these activities will be steered by and co-produced with the Access Panel.

Commenting, Ben Pearce, Director of West Horsley Place Trust, said:

“Our collective vision for West Horsley Place is a heritage site without barriers, a welcoming space for as many people as possible – and this project is fundamental to achieving that.  It is vital that our spaces and activities are inclusive and accessible, and we will be guided by our new Access Panel to ensure this.”

“Whilst we mourn the recent loss of our founder Bamber Gascoigne, we honour his extraordinary legacy and realise a key part of his vision through collaborations like this.”

Matthew Cock, Chief Executive of VocalEyes, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with West Horsley Place on a broad range of initiatives to embed inclusive practice in their work. We’re excited about what we can achieve together, building on the huge potential that you get bringing together blind and visually impaired people, the arts and heritage, and all in this beautiful setting.”

An Historic Estate without Barriers

An Historic Estate without Barriers is a two-year programme of public consultation and activity devised by West Horsley Place Trust and delivered in collaboration with other charities and community groups that will, for the first time, enable a wide range of people from the local community to experience how heritage spaces can transform health and wellbeing.  The project has received a grant of £126,000 from the Heritage Fund thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.  To date, projects include:

Breathing Spaces, bringing together West Horsley Place Trust, Mind Woking and local GP surgeries to explore how outdoor activities, including mindfulness walks and wild art, can improve the wellbeing of people struggling with their mental health;

History Revealed, delivered in partnership with The Arts Society and Surrey History Centre, to help members of the local community develop new skills in heritage volunteering;

Our Stories, an intergenerational oral history project to improve wellbeing.  Young people aged 15-18 are learning new skills and, by sharing their stories, older people have an opportunity to create new connections to combat loneliness.

Seeing Differently launches this month and will continue throughout 2022.

For further information: www.westhorsleyplace.org.uk