Continuing our occasional series focussing on some of the groups that get together at Lighthouse, we meet Socialeyes, Dorset Blind Association’s Poole social group that gathers every other Tuesday on the first floor foyer.
One of 21 such groups across Dorset, the Poole group is among the longest established and is very much part of Lighthouse life.
“We love coming here because everyone knows where it is, it’s really easy to get to and there’s enough space for us to spread out a bit,” says Karen Wye, who has been coming since 2019 and also volunteers with the group and makes sure everyone has somebody to talk to.
“That’s why groups like this are so important because they get us out and about and in circulation with other people – if only we could have a tea trolley, then it would be perfect!”
An active social life is something that many people take for granted, but for the visually impaired, meeting people away from home is not so straightforward.
“Since my blindness became total about two years ago this group has been the making of me, it really has,” says Jackie Brickwood, who comes in from Blandford with her husband Nigel.
“This is only the third time I been, but already it has made a huge difference to me because it is so easy to play it safe and stay home in your comfort zone. We did go to the theatre at Lighthouse before sight loss, but I can’t quite picture it; I’m still getting my bearings.”
Several members of the group performed at Lighthouse earlier this year in the revue show Blind Date, working with writer/producer Christine Diment, who hopes to continue the drama workshops.
“I enjoyed that,” says Hazel Roberts. “I saw Rose, the show that Christine co-wrote, and since then I’ve been to Dia-Beat-Es and Peter’s Spectacular Show and I’m planning to come to SIX later this year.
“The staff are always very welcoming and will help me, for instance with the stairs if I need it, and with my husband’s help I’ve found booking tickets online is really easy because you can book carer seats as well. I love it, although I find the seats in the Sherling Studio can be a bit uncomfortable!
“I’ve been coming to the group for about six years but taking part in the show and coming to see shows has done wonders for my confidence.”
It’s a theme echoed by Julie Read. After six years of coming to meetings it’s part of her routine and she feels very at ease with being at Lighthouse.
“I know where I’m going and I love coming here; this week has been like a big reunion because some of us haven’t seen each other for months,” she says.
“If I’m asked to do something out of the ordinary it can fill me with dread and send me into a right panic, but I don’t get that with coming to Lighthouse where I know my way around quite well. I don’t have any peripheral vision so it can be difficult being in a crowd, but I know I should push myself to come to things and being here makes that less of an ordeal.”
- Photo: Poole Socialeyes regular Jackie Bacon in rehearsal for the Blind Date revue
:: Dorset Blind Association has been providing practical and emotional support to blind and partially sighted people across Dorset since 1918. Their service is vital to the local community as there are now more than 30,000 people in Dorset living with sight loss. Proud recipients of the esteemed Queens Award for Voluntary Services, DBA helps people come to terms with living with serious sight loss and still live full, healthy and socially active lives.