What a Christmas we had! And as we chuck out the turkey and puddings and adopt a strict diet of turmeric and tofu it’s nice to reflect on what a fine old time we enjoyed. Being the official photographers at the Grace Eyre festive do was definitely a highlight.
Each year Striking Faces nominate a Charity and offer them our services free of charge for an event of their choice. (If you are involved with a charity and would like to be considered please submit details via our website from September onwards). This year we had the pleasure of getting involved with Grace Eyre and their festive Christmas celebrations.
Established in 1898, Grace Eyre is one of the oldest charities in Sussex. It is a unique charity that helps people with learning disabilities gain independence, obtain housing, find employment and join activities. It works within communities, one-to-one and provides a day service.
Sarah Howse is the Service User Involvement Co-ordinator at Grace Eyre. She first became involved through her brother Stevie who has a learning disability. She contacted Striking Faces at the beginning of November to ask for our photographic skills for their festive event.
“I first got to know of Striking Faces when they photographed my brother’s wedding,” she explains. “They took such fantastic photographs. They really captured the day. And the fact that they managed to get a decent one of me made me absolutely love them! I began to follow them on Facebook and was so impressed by all their work, particularly their festival photography. It was just so beautiful! They seemed to capture all the amazing colours and costumes so well.”
When planning the festive event, Sarah and the other staff involved all service-users in deciding what they should do. “When planning the event a number of options had been proposed, the most popular was for a photo booth. Although the photo booth would have been logistically difficult and expensive, we managed to find a feasible compromise with a dressing up area, themed backdrop and real professional photographers.” The theme for the event was Hawaiian. We would set up a photo booth area with colourful costumes, hats, glasses and props, where people could dress up and pose for photographs.
” Striking Faces were the first people who sprang to mind,” says Sarah. “Their ability to capture natural colours and atmosphere and their ability to put people at ease made them the obvious choice.” Sarah contacted Striking Faces with a brief for the day and we were thrilled to be involved.
The charity provides for such a wide range of clients, from 18 to 80, with a broad spectrum of specific needs and disabilities. Everyone under the Grace Eyre umbrella was involved and invited. So with the day service-users and people involved in various other projects across West Sussex, Crawley and Worthing, there were around 100 people there. Sarah feels that the benefits were manifold, involvement in preparation, making decorations for example, as well as the obvious enjoyment on the day were both very positive.
Sarah recalls: “Everyone was so excited to have their photo taken with their friends. The fancy dress was fantastic for people with lots of different sensory needs. It was brilliant for people who don’t necessarily usually communicate that well. Service-users were also keen to see the photos immediately and Striking Faces were really happy to make that possible. They were so patient and approachable.” Striking Faces found a truly lovely atmosphere there. Some people enjoyed being photographed so much that they’d dress up in different outfits and come back for more, hoping they wouldn’t be recognised!
Sarah tells us:“People are so excited to see the finished product. Service-users will be able to choose photographs they like and have copies printed. It’s really positive for them to be able to have mementoes of a lovely day to take home. We will also use them for our newsletter and our website. To have such high-quality photos capturing the energy and beauty of the people we support and the staff is just lovely. Hopefully in 100 years time, future people who use and work for Grace Eyre will be able to look back and see what a fantastic day we had.”
“I would and will recommend Striking Faces as professional photographers to other organisations,” she says.“They are so at ease and were so understanding of the different physical and mental needs of the service-users. It was a really fun day and it was lovely to have Striking Faces there relaxing and joining in with the whole thing as well as taking photographs.”
Thanks Sarah! Striking Faces really enjoyed the day too, and we would like to thank everyone at Grace Eyre for having us.