Warwick District residents with learning disabilities publish their stories in new book

The Warwick District Mencap customers at the Warwick centre when they were creating items for the book in April.
The Warwick District Mencap customers at the Warwick centre when they were creating items for the book in April.

The stories of local people with learning disabilities have been brought to life in a brand new book.

“Our Life, Our Choice” is a collection of writing and artwork created by customers of Heart of England Mencap.

Artist Lucy Bergonzi with Heart of England Mencap customer and book contributor Emily.''Photo supplied by Lucy Bergonzi.

Artist Lucy Bergonzi with Heart of England Mencap customer and book contributor Emily.''Photo supplied by Lucy Bergonzi.

Heart of England Mencap is a registered charity that is linked to the national charity Mencap.

The charity provides services and support across Warwickshire and Worcestershire for those with learning disabilities.

These services include supported living, residential care, outreach care, short breaks, respite and a range of day activities.

The customers who created the book all attend the charity’s daytime activity centre Warwick Pathway.

At the centre they spent time with an illustrator, penning their story, which has now been published and is ready to be shared.

They were inspired to get writing following the launch of their Accessible Book Club earlier this year, where they explore both fact and fiction through a series of picture books called ‘Books Beyond Words’.

Having obtained funding from Warwick District Council and the Friends of Heart of England Mencap, they were able to spend the Spring working with illustrator Lucy Bergonzi, the artist behind many of the Books Beyond Words.

Lucy helped the group to share their stories and compile their own book, to give people a better understanding of learning disabilities.

“Our Life, Our Choice” talks about being listened to and respected, about rights and about achievements.

It includes everything from drawings and poems to short stories and drama scripts, based on real situations experienced.

Helena Wallis, chief executive of Heart of England Mencap, said: “This innovative project has been a wonderful opportunity for our customers to express themselves, helping to highlight the day-to-day experiences of those in our community with a learning disability.

“We are delighted with their creativity; this book has given a voice to their hopes and fears for the future.

“We hope that this book will help to break down barriers and tackle stigma which sadly still exists in our society.”

The book was launched on Friday, November 24 and now takes pride of place at Warwick Pathway with plans also in place to take it out to local schools to open-up discussions about learning disabilities.

Shivorne Poole, activities coordinator for Heart of England Mencap, said: “We are so grateful to Warwick District Council for their arts development grant, to the Friends of Heart of England Mencap for their funding, and to Lucy for working so closely with our customers, really inspiring them to tell their story.

“We hope this book will give others the confidence to live their lives to the best of their ability, and look forward to sharing it with the community.”