Maria’s handy guide
November 5, 2015

book-club-maria

Hello, I’m Maria Storesund and I’m the Programme Manager for Living Paintings’ Touch to See Book Clubs. I can help in all aspects of setting up a Touch to See Book Club. I’ve put together this informative and handy guide below. If this inspires you and you would  like to find out more  please give me a call in 01635 299771 or email me: marias@livingpaintings.org

Have you ever thought about setting up a Touch to See Book Club?

There really is no right or wrong ways to set one up, but done well it avoids problems in the future.  At the end of the day, all it takes to start a Club is to get interested people together and start talking about what they hope to achieve from attending and being part of a group.

Thinking through some questions before hand will give you the best chance of creating a happy and successful group. You want to develop a welcoming, fun and comfortable setting where every one feels valued and respected.

What you want to achieve is an environment where new friendships can be made and existing ones can be strengthened.

If you are thinking about setting up a Touch to See Book Club here are the main things you need to think about:
– What kind of group do you want to have and what is its objective?

– Is there a need for a Club in your area?

– What do the members want to get out of the group?

– How often would the group like to meet?

– Does your group want to concentrate solely on Living Paintings resources or a variety of activities?

Croydon group waving

Choosing a suitable venue
A key consideration when setting up a group is the choice of venue. Avoid venues that are difficult to locate or access, ensure the venue has good public transport links and make sure it is accessible, are there ramps to doorways? If the room is upstairs is there a lift?

The room needs to accommodate all participants and tables need to be available. It needs to be roomy with no trip hazards. Remember that 10 acceptances may, in reality, equal 10 people plus 10 guide dogs and/or carers!

It would be great if the room has an induction loop or portable loop system for people with a hearing impairment, if it doesn’t the local hearing and sight team or centre can help you locate one (if needed I can put you in touch with individuals). Many venues will offer their rooms for free so it is worth while taking time to research what is available. Libraries, county sight organisations and community buildings are usually very accommodating.

Touch to see book club venue

Advertising
If possible put flyers and posters in Opticians, GP surgery, Eye Clinics, Care Homes, Day Centres, Clubs for the blind and partially sighted, Art Clubs, Libraries, Community Buildings, Town Halls and any other public place. Remember outlying villages, small shops and Post Offices, also many parishes have newsletters and may publish your advert for free. Don’t forget the Talking Newspaper and the local radio station.

I have poster templates you can adapt and can help you with wording, it couldn’t be easier! Many Counties also have community radio stations and voluntary sector support services. They are in touch with volunteers and like minded groups. It is worth doing some research into whether there is already a group set up in your area.

Meetings
A Touch to See Book Club meeting tends to run for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Many of the groups I work with meet once a month although some groups meet every week and can run in the morning or afternoon. If you choose to run it in the morning then don’t start too early, a 10am or 10.30am start is ideal.

Perhaps shoot for meeting every six weeks for the first few but I wouldn’t recommend leaving too much of a gap between each meeting as you can risk losing momentum.

From experience you will need to give members plenty of time to settle in. Time flies when there is a lot of chatting and a long comfort break for tea and coffee takes up a good part of the meeting. During your first meeting you will also need to be clear about what the group’s aims and objectives are and invite participants to feedback their thoughts.

Leading the group
You don’t have to be a natural born leader. A good leader facilitates well but doesn’t dominate the discussion. Living Paintings can provide you with informal training.

You really can get so much from leading and running a Club, it is very enjoyable and if at first you lack confidence you will not for long!

You will also find that once you start advertising the Book Club people will come forward and offer their support so before too long you will be surrounded by helpers.

Lady in Touch to See book club

Subject
We currently have 24 Touch to See Book Club titles, take your pick! Select a pack that’s available, you can search our online catalogue easily and quickly. Groups that meet more regularly tend to incorporate a variety of activities and do not solely rely on the Touch to See Book Club packs. If you choose to include a Touch to See Book Club pack-related activity it provides a bit of variety. Here are some ideas:

– At the Theatre: you could invite a local actor to come and talk about performing and bring in some costumes

– A Walk along the Riverbank: get in touch with the local riverside conservation group and they could speak about local projects and bring in some of their recent treasures

– A Great Catch: invite someone from the local angling club, they could bring along some local fish, could be smelly make sure they bring a cooling box!

– Monet & van Gogh’s Love of Flowers: ask a local artist to bring in and talk about their tactile works of art, pictures of gardens, flowers and ponds, it will inspire gardeners and flower arrangers. You may also want to invite gardeners to bring in scented herbs and flowers.

Each pack helps rekindle a love of works of art, wildlife, great buildings towns and cities. You can easily ask the Living Paintings team for recommendations we are a phone call away!

Other considerations

Date and day of your meeting: Make sure the group does not clash with another local activity for people who are blind or partially sighted and that transport and helpers are available on a regular basis. Check religious and civil calendars when scheduling dates for your meetings.

Supporting members: At the first meeting you will need to make sure that everyone knows how the room is set out and be clear about how the meeting will be run and when the breaks are scheduled. If you are offering refreshments you need to remember that members will most probably have to be served tea/coffee. This includes helping with sugar, milk etc.

Comfort breaks: Do check that there is at least one accessible toilet in the building. Also think about Guide dogs. You should provide one or two dog bowls filled with fresh water. Guide dogs may also need to go to the loo! Is there a space outside where they can be taken nearby? The opportunities are endless and being part of a group brings many benefits. As I said before it builds confidence not just for you but also for members, it widens the circle of friends and stimulates new interests. The packs are also very educational, personally have learnt so much, from historical facts to the characteristics of famous artists, they are very inspirational and thought provoking.


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