Press Release: Living Paintings celebrates reaching 10,000 blind and partially sighted people
March 25, 2015

National, award-winning charity, Living Paintings, is delighted to have reached the milestone figure of 10,000 library members. It is particularly significant as this year the charity also celebrates 25 years of publishing and lending its unique Touch to See books, completely free of charge, to blind and partially sighted people of all ages across the UK.

Tayen and CamillaCamilla Oldland meeting Living Paintings 10,000th
library member, Tayen Gilbert at her home in Somerset

To mark the occasion, Camilla Oldland, Chief Executive of Living Paintings visited 3-year-old Tayen Gilbert at her home in Somerset. Tayen was the 10,000th member to sign up to receive books from the Living Paintings library. For Tayen, and children like her, these are specially adapted versions of children’s picture books such as The Gruffalo, Lost and Found and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The charity adds the story in Braille and also creates colourful, tactile images of characters and scenes from the book for the child to feel. An audio soundtrack describes all the illustrations as well as helping the child understand what they are feeling on the tactile images. Children at home or school can borrow the Living Paintings picture books, completely free of charge. It allows them to read and enjoy the same stories as their sighted friends. This helps prevent feelings of exclusion and gives them the joy of reading.

Living Paintings has been particularly touched by Tayen’s story. She suffers from a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) which means that she has a large brain tumour. She also has tumours on both optic nerves which have made her lose her sight. Living Paintings have provided a lifeline to the family. In the words of her mother, Kali:

“Living Paintings has allowed Tayen to rediscover her love for books again. Before her full vision loss, Tayen loved to look at books and I thought that love had gone with her sight, but Living Paintings has given her a new way to explore and discover. They are fantastic. She is able to sit with a Living Paintings book with her brothers so that’s something they can share. They tell her what they can see and tell her the story and she will feel the page and tell them what she can feel. To see them sitting there and sharing an activity together is really beautiful and something I thought we’d find really difficult as a family. It’s really lovely to see.”

Tayen enjoying Touch to See picture bookTayen Gilbert enjoying a Living Paintings Touch to See book
borrowed free from their national library

To celebrate Tayen being the 10,000th library member, Camilla presented her with three framed tactile pictures from Living Paintings’ Peppa Pig book; two books specially signed by David Walliams; a giant Peppa Pig toy and a large box of her favourite Jaffa Cake rolls (kindly donated by McVitie’s). There was also a celebratory chocolate cake and balloons.

Camilla, who has been leading the charity for 25 years, said “Reaching our 10,000th library member is a significant milestone for Living Paintings. We are proud to provide a completely free service which significantly improves the lives of blind and partially sighted people throughout the UK. We have embraced change by offering our audio on USB, providing an online library ordering service and extending the scope of our books on our Discovery Hubs. We have done all this whilst continuing to uphold our ethos of providing a personal, professional and supportive service to all our library members. I look forward to reaching thousands more people like little Tayen in the years to come.”

Living Paintings has remained true to its original inspiration which was to help blind and partially sighted people experience the visual world. The library also offers books for adults which contain 10 or more tactile images accompanied by audio guides read by famous actors and presenters. These books cover art, architecture, leisure interests, the natural world and gallery collections.

Teachers find Living Paintings’ Touch to See resources invaluable as they cover school topics including Anglo Saxons, Vikings, Romans, Egyptians and World War II. There are also leisure interests for children such as Super Transport, Teddy Bears and Explore the Seashore. New collections include Spot’s Learning Library, Peppa Pig picture books for pre-school children and a range for teenagers on popular culture including music, fashion, sport, astronomy, film and theatre. The charity also encourages blind and partially sighted people to meet socially to enjoy and discuss Touch to See books as a club. To remain relevant, contemporary and interactive, their website features extra content, blogs, celebrity interviews, audio extracts and news on vibrant and constantly updated Discovery Hubs.

The charity receives no government funding and works tirelessly to secure donations. The team of 10 permanent staff is helped by a wide-ranging and talented group of 280 volunteers. Their dedication and skill is part of the enduring success story of Living Paintings. Jobs undertaken by volunteers include running the library service, scriptwriting, audio recording, painting the tactile images, book production and administrative support.

Living Paintings Logo

Notes to editors:

  • Living Paintings was founded in 1989 by former art history lecturer, Alison Oldland, MBE, who remained its active Chairman until her death in 2008. Her daughter Camilla has been working for the charity for 25 years and continues to uphold her mother’s vision for the charity and develop it to meet changing needs.Living Paintings provides a free library of Touch to See (tactile and audio) books which bring the visual world to life for blind and partially sighted people. The charity is funded entirely by voluntary donations. Its work is achieved through the help of hundreds of volunteers.
  • It has the support of hundreds of actors and presenters including Sir Derek Jacobi, Lord Julian Fellowes, Joanna Lumley, Sir Terry Wogan, Michael Sheen, Martin Clunes, David Walliams, Hugh Bonneville and Warwick Davies who have all lent their voices to the audio descriptions.
  • Membership of the library is free and there are thousands of books available for borrowing by children, teachers, families and carers.
  • Books are delivered, free of charge, via the Royal Mail across Britain and Ireland.
  • The ever-growing catalogue includes books on British wildlife, the “100 Objects” collection at the British Museum, English Gardens, architecture, dinosaurs, weather, science, famous works of art, astronomy and much more.
  • Library membership can begin from pre-school age and continue through school to teenage years and on into adulthood. Living Paintings helps at all stages of life.
  • Living Paintings uses social media including Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud and YouTube to reach its supporters.
  • Twitter: LivingPaintings
  • Facebook: Living Paintings
  • Registered charity number: 1049103
  • Living Paintings, Unit 8 Kingsclere Park, Kingsclere, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 4SW. Tel 01635 299771


Tayen’s Story:

Tayen’s family have started an awareness campaign to help Tayen through her illness. For details go to


For further information about Living Paintings and the service they provide please contact Liz Davies on 01635 299771,

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