These are past mentors who have worked with the Creative Mentors Foundation.
I was first diagnosed with Dyslexia when I was 21, during my first year of University. Having this confirmed suddenly made sense of past school reports; where I was always described as “very quiet,” and “just below average.” I realised that I had worked extremely hard just to keep up, but the confidence that I gained from doing well in art allowed me to go on to further education and progress in a career in something that I thoroughly enjoy.
My biggest achievement so far was completing my MA in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at the Royal College of Art. It was during my first year at the RCA that I had the opportunity to take part in an interdisciplinary week called AcrossRCA. There were various projects to choose from but the one that most appealed to me was Qona’s ‘Dyslexia and Maths’ project. I chose this because I had struggled a lot with Maths at school and hoped I could create something to help the children in some aspect of learning the subject, with the help of Art. The week resulted in a selection of children from Fairley House School visiting the college to try out our creations. The children realised that they could successfully apply their strengths in Art onto other subjects. It was during this week that Qona mentioned the Creative Mentor scheme. Having just completed the AcrossRCA project with Fairley House school I was immediately interested in being a part of it.
I hope that being a Creative Mentor will relate to the childrens’ difficulties and show them that it is possible to succeed with their strengths in Art and Design. By teaching them various skills in Applied Arts that I have learnt over time, I hope they will be both surprised and excited by the creations that they can produce and gain confidence in new areas of Art and Design.
Royal College of Art, 2013, Jewellery & Metalwork
I feel I could have arrived at my academic realisation at an earlier age, if my need for a sense of purpose and belonging based on individual worth that every child instinctively craves had been recognised by the adults I encountered at school. It took me a long time to understand that I had talents that could be applied to a constructive course of education that could advance me intellectually and personally. My experience has given me an insight into the creative and educational struggles of the dyslexic child, their potential alienation and the tutorial and pastoral care that is needed to support them and further their creative development. I believe, at best, it is possible to offer a practical example, experiential understanding, and time; the necessary conditions for constructive appreciation and accomplishment. In considering mentoring, several key issues come to the fore: the type of mentoring relationship, the functions served by the mentor, and the outcomes of the mentoring relationship. Within the classroom, and considering the learning difficulties of the proposed learners, it seems that a reflective appoach is best suited to the situation; an awful lot can be understood from personal experience but its important to be aware of one’s own assunptions and values. The goal is simple; through attention and encouragement, to help the learner reach their potential. Careful observation afords the mentor the opportunity to try and understand what would best help facilitate affirmative action. There isn’t a prescribed path, the mentor needs to be responsive to the learner’s work and actions. Once the relationship has been established, the mentor needs to carefully challenge the learner, and introduce them to new stimuli and strategies that encourage personal growth and new awareness. In Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, the second level, after food, water and air, is safety and comfort. The pupil must sense that they are in a secure place, so that they can flourish and allow for other needs to then be realised – community, esteem and finally self-actualisation.
Royal College of Art, 2010, Visual Communication
My CV proclaims the experiences and academic history of a ‘high achiever’. For years the person behind all the A grades, prestigious awards and Oxford degree, floundered with near-to zero self-confidence. It seemed to take double time, effort and will power to keep up at school. Compensating and developing strategies to hide the horrible fact I found learning really hard: learning extra words to use to avoid spelling harder ones, sitting next to the clever boy in maths who explained everything slower than the teacher to avoid revealing that I was stuck. What I did not find hard was wanting to learn, which is the main reason I want to be a creative mentor; to not only assist but to inspire students who struggle as I did. I honestly believe that all children have an urge to pursue the curious edges of their minds and learn about the world.
Royal College of Art, 2017, Jewellery & Metalwork
I enjoy opening up my art practice and skills with others and the conversations that are possible with young people. Experiencing dyspraxia or dyslexia is about seeing and perceiving things unconventionally and it can be isolating, but it will be exciting to equip others with new tools and work in new and adventurous ways, particularly working in artistic ways. We are ‘wired’ differently and it is rewarding to use different approaches to teaching in order to help others achieve their potential. I always felt that I struggled at school never really thinking I was reaching my full potential so I am really looking forward to working with students who will hopefully gain more confidence and enjoyment through the projects we do, particularly those who struggle with mainstream education.
Royal College of Art, 2016, Printmaking
I am thrilled to be taking a creative mentor position this year! As a dyslexic I struggled throughout school but through my further education at the Royal Academy of Music and into work, I learnt some coping strategies and how to use thinking and learning differently to my advantage… with a little good humour! I hope to install confidence in the students and work on a array of projects like producing podcasts and songwriting classes and arranging skills or whatever musical projects they may personally feel passionately about.
Royal Academy of Music 2016, Trombone
I was diagnosed with Dyslexia at AS level when I moved to Chethams School of Music in Manchester where I was studying the flute, piano and singing. Up until this point I went through school life unaware of why I found certain things more challenging than others. Being a musician, I just assumed that I was always more creative than academic.
Reading and writing always caused me problems. Words would be flying all over the page, I would read the same page several times and still not have any comprehension of what I had just read, I struggled with note taking in class and spellings would always slow me down. I gained a scholarship entry to the Royal Academy of Music. At the Academy I had a fantastic learning support teacher and after six years of her help and completing an MA, my confidence grew massively. Music theory was a big barrier for me for many years. The mathematical side of theory, such as rhythm, caused me great difficulty. It was only until I went to university that music theory actually started to make clear sense.
Memorising music was also a challenge. My principle study at the Royal Academy of Music was singing and music was always being learnt and memorised, especially in foreign languages which used to cause me a lot difficulty. However, I have learnt many different techniques to help with this.
Working as a Creative Mentor is a huge privilege to me. It allows me to work directly with pupils who have the same challenges as I do. I am excited to be able to share learning styles and techniques that I wish I had known about at an earlier stage in my education. I hope I can help pupils to feel more confident in their own abilities and not to feel that dyslexia is in anyway a barrier to their education.
Royal Academy of Music, 2013, Voice
I always remember skiving lessons because I didn’t want to read out loud or make a presentation, through fear of saying the wrong word, reading slowly or getting all the sentences muddled up. Throughout my education I have learnt lots of tricks to prevent those shaky moments, often using the positive creative side of dyslexia to help me do the talking. I relish the opportunity to be a Dyslexia Creative Mentor, as it will allow me to share some the tips and tricks I have developed, and also learn lots of new ones. It would be great to show children that dyslexia shouldn’t prevent you from going for what you want, and that it can perhaps take you on a more interesting journey.
Royal College of Art, 2014, Jewellery & Metalwork
Having Dyslexia is a new thing for me. I was diagnosed at 24, two months before finishing my Masters in Printmaking from the Royal College of Art.
So all throughout my education, from GCSE’s to writing my thesis for my Masters, I have battled with dyslexia without any extra help. Why I got tested in the end was for two reasons. One being that getting tested outside of college costs a fortune and the other, which was a stronger reason, was that I was intrigued to find out whether reading and writing were actually that difficult or did I in fact have dyslexia?
Going through the school system in both primary and secondary school, it can be easy for some dyslexic children to get missed because the severity of dyslexia varies between people. Also there can be a stigma attached to dyslexia that brands it as a solely negative thing to have, it is referred to as a “learning difficulty”. This was the reason why I did not get tested.
All of this helps to form the basis of why I want to be a creative mentor. As a creative mentor I am in a position where I can demonstrate that dyslexia is not always a negative thing, it does not have to hold you back and you can achieve the same as anyone else. Also I would like change how we think of dyslexia by adapting the terminology “learning difficulty” to “learning difference” because in some cases that’s exactly what it is, a difference. Dyslexia may make reading and writing harder but there are strategies that you can employ to help you cope with those tasks. There are also other ways of looking at the world and communicating your ideas about it. Exploring these avenues can be hugely rewarding. Art is an expressive and beautiful platform and the chance to excite children with the possibility of expressing thoughts and finding a voice with which to do it is for me a thrilling prospect.
Royal College of Art, 2013, Printmaking
As a mentor I would like to empower the next generation of dyslexic children, not only through my experience as a dyslexic person but through my professional practice as an illustrator and animator. There are so many creative ways to help children learn and give them the confidence they need to succeed throughout their extraordinarily creative and sometimes extraordinarily testing lives, and being there as a passionate artistic mentor with an empathy for the struggles they might be facing I would like to help them fulfil their full potential. I know how much drawing helped me through my blind spots and I want to explore how drawing can help a wider spectrum of dyslexic children and work alongside them to inspire both them and myself at a crucial part in their development (and mine). I always love working with children and I can think of no better way to kick start my life post RCA than to share what I have learned and share my practice with children with whom I share a common path. I don’t doubt that it would be a mutually beneficial and enlightening experience and It would be my pleasure to be back in a class room with all the bouncing creativity that vibrates from those walls.
Royal College of Art, 2017, Animation
I believe that being a Creative Mentor would be the perfect opportunity to use my skills, experience and education to inspire, encourage and support dyslexic and dyspraxic children. As I am dyslexic myself I understand the frustrations and challenges that are involved both academically and artistically and having gone through the education system myself to MA level although it has been challenging at times I have continued to succeed in achieving my goals and creative potential as an artist. I want to use this experience and understanding to help a new generation of creativity. My awareness of the educational system as a student and subsequently as a visiting tutor and artist speaker has given me a dynamic overview of the structures, curriculum set up, strategies and management involved within education.
Royal College of Art, 2014, Sculpture
I was 28 by the time I was diagnosed as having dyslexia and dyspraxia. I was studying for my MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art and just starting my dissertation. Previously I had struggled profoundly with many subjects at school – maths, music theory, languages, and would often dismiss the things I found difficult as irrelevant, or simply concentrate on my strengths. The revelation that I had both dyslexia and dyspraxia changed my life and my way of thinking about how to deal with these problems. I love using my passion for art and translating this in a classroom context, in ever ambitious and radical ways.
Royal College of Art, 2015, Sculpture
My earliest memory of feeling like the odd one out was my first ballet class. As we stood in a line the teacher gave a series of instructions but I kept getting confused. Desperately I would look at her movements to follow. Every time she lifted a leg and we had to copy I would panic – no matter how hard I tried I kept lifting the wrong leg! I could see everyone giggling as the teacher got more irate! After the lesson she told my mother never to bring me back. I remember not being able to explain that I didn’t do this on purpose. There were many things that happened like this, such as not following the margin on the page, drifting far from the point in conversation, regularly getting lost. I was tested for dyslexia when I was 20 in my first year at University. Although I’d already devised some truly ingenious ways of organizing and remembering things, it gave my confidence a huge boost to realise I just have a different way of working and seeing things. At this point I was assigned a tutor to help me with my dyslexia. – Sherrell encouraged my ideas; teaching me how to present them on paper and in person so that I could communicate them effectively. I went on to achieve a 1st and several innovation awards. My dyslexia has proven to be a huge advantage to me working in visual arts rather than a disability. I want to be a Mentor so that I can offer support in choosing another direction, to stand out from the crowd, to encourage different paths to success. Following my own experience, I trust that each confident step a dyslexic child makes is a step towards sharing an array of exciting possibilities and creative potential with the wider world. I hope to inspire children to feel delighted and be rewarded for being the odd one out!
Nienke Van Wijk
Royal College of Art, 2012, Visual communication
I was never a student who liked to be restricted to the class room. The academic side to work always bored me, and any excuse to be in a practise room or in an orchestral rehearsal was leaped at with open arms. It wasn’t until I was at The Guildhall School of Music that I was told I was dyslexic. From that moment onwards everything made sense. I realised why I could never focus for long amounts of time and why I hated reading. Throughout my time at Guildhall I learnt, from a variety of professors, different techniques and tricks to help me enhance my time at music college. For the first time in my education I didn’t feel held back. Having found out so late about my dyslexia, I feel privileged to be able to help young children overcome their learning difficulties and the frustration that can sometimes take over. The more tips and tricks you can learn when you are young, the easier secondary and university education will be – nothing will phase you. Being a Creative Mentor will be a pleasure and a great opportunity, and I hope it shall take me on a very exciting journey.
Guildhall School of Music & Drama, 2016,Bassoon
Working with Creative Mentors When Qona mentioned this opportunity to me, I was very excited by the idea. I had to work extremely hard at getting my first Art degree. At this time, I did not realise the learning difficulties I had. When I enrolled at the Royal College of Art, I was re-tested and found be very dyslexic. I feel through my experiences, I can help others like me to be better understood by the people around them, and to understand themselves better. There are many talented people out there who would struggle to even get through their G.C.S.E. exams. Children get misguided and their learning difficulties are misunderstood. The worst thing is how it affects their self-esteem and self worth. It would be a very rewarding experience for me to make a difference to some child’s learning experience and help them achieve their true potential. Also I would like to be able to communicate a different perspective on life to these children to help them to deal with the type of struggle I face everyday to comprehend the world in which we all have to function.
Royal College of Art, 2010, Ceramics and Glass
I wasn’t diagnosed with dyspraxia until my first year of undergraduate study. It was not until then that I understood and faced those challenges head on. I started to implement various strategies for the learning and memorisation of music. This was not, however an easy task. It has taken many years, with the help of dedicated teachers and learning support tutors to help try to perfect an efficient and thorough learning strategy. Before this time, I had no structure in my learning, making my understanding of new concepts more difficult than what they should have bee. If I had the chance to work with a creative mentor during my early school years I can only imagine the possibilities of achievements.
Royal Academy of Music, 2015, Voice
I am pleased to be a part of the Creative Mentors project. Like many friends of mine, I found out that I had dyslexia when I was in my early 20s and at university. I am looking forward to learning more about dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism to support and develop the ways in which I can work with people.
Royal College of Art, 2016, Sculpture
I was not diagnosed with Dyslexia until my thirties, when I was looking to change my career from a television location sound recordist to something more creative and music-related. Although I suspected there might be an issue, it hadn’t occurred to me that the reason I did such little reading and hadn’t been able to progress with music in any conventional way could be so simple.
Following my dyslexia diagnosis (three years ago now), I decided to return to education with the aim of seeing what my capabilities really might be and how fulfilling my life could become. I am immensely proud of my achievements since then and have made rapid academic progress. A big factor in this has been the incredible amount of support and encouragement I have been given along the way. My ‘new’ understandings of music and learning are now a central part of my research interests, leading me through my masters degree (despite no undergraduate degree) and to the acceptance of my PhD proposal on music, learning and disability in Mozambique.
I have had to discover my own learning strategies time and again throughout my own educational, professional and musical life. Teaching myself several instruments has been an incredible (and often difficult!) journey and I’ve welcomed the opportunity to be exposed to a multitude of different musical cultures and ‘systems of knowledge’. I feel this has been central to my own development and I am looking forward to working with the music students – not just sharing the things I have learned, but the students sharing their own ‘systems of knowledge’ with me.
School of Oriental & African Studies, 2014,Music and Development
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with being dyslexic as an adult that I began to understand what I had been fighting against all the time I had been at school. It was at music college that I was shown solutions to my problems, and ways to overcome difficulties when learning in an environment where you have to be a self motivated learner. It was later in the classroom as a teacher that I realised I had the opportunity to help others overcome these same challenges. When I found out about the Creative Mentors Foundation, I realised that working for them would give me the opportunity to focus on my learning about dyslexia and dyspraxia but also to improve my skills as a music educator.
Royal Academy of Music, 2014, 2016, 2017 Trumpet
Thoughts can be so very difficult to pin down; and then to use language and words as best I can proves at times to be such a mountainous task! The fear of being misunderstood or even missing the real essence of what I want to write and communicate lingers on every sentence- how to start? How to finish? Images whizz through my head of young learners struggling to make sense of an essay question or trying to finish work before a dead- line. The hours spent writing sentences, hunting through dictionaries and thesaurus’s, visualising scenes only for them to slip from one’s grasp and disappear into the depths of what might have been that better essay. To hand it in and wait for the result like a time-bomb, fear. This was an all too familiar pattern that I became accustomed to. As a Creative Mentor I have an opportunity to share experiences and challenges faced by learners every day in the school environment. I believe that by being honest with oneself and to others about struggles experienced is the first step to opening up all sorts of possibilities. There are many learning strategies that can really make a difference.
I was encouraged to face my fear last year whilst studying at the Royal Academy of Music, I went for an assessment and was diagnosed as being dyslexic. I must say it was quite a relief to understand my difficulties. My lack of phonological awareness became evident when trying to learn French, German and Italian arias and songs. I kept pronouncing words wrong and forgetting whole chucks of lines from verses of songs, this resulted in a severe lack of confidence and the ultimate fear of forgetting words on stage became unbearable. When I received help I learned that there were some very enlightening ways of overcoming some of the difficulties I was having, which in turn proved to be successful. I’m still learning how to approach these barriers and am looking forward to working with students who may be experiencing struggles similar to mine.
Royal Academy of Music, 2013, Voice
Music is perhaps the most challenging of all the arts for a dyslexic or dyspraxic student. Musical notation is a language in its own right, and one in which many of the signs and symbols instruct more than one function. For example, the simple line can be used vertically or horizontally; it can differ in size and length and can be straight or curved, each having its own meaning and function. Its significance can differ specifically within the context of other surrounding symbols, and within the context of the musical work’s style and repertoire. For aspiring young musicians with visual discrimination issues , reading music may pose a potential difficulty. From my own experience both personally and as a teacher I have found; separating the musical components on page into manageable chunks by devising practice journals, practicing fingering away from the piano or using colour to indicate certain symbolism are but few ways to make music reading more accessible.
Notation aside, music is often considered as a multi-sensory art form in which the student needs to look, listen, touch, manipulate hand eye co-ordination/and or aural co-ordination, posture and organisation. Despite the challenges dyslexics or dyspraxics face in this area, we seem to have an affinity to create and produce the most outstanding contributions with admirable resourcefulness and ingenuity.
From an early age I have always excelled in music and from the age of 7 I began to learn the piano. It was at the age of 16 I discovered my love of music-making and contemporary music, which drove me to pursue a career as a composer. It was also at this age I was diagnosed with having dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Throughout my school life, I have always struggled academically. Every school report from play-school to year 11 said, “easily distracted, poor organisation, lazy, must try harder”, but the schools always failed to ask “why?” My parents spotted the hallmarks of dyslexia but the schools decided not to investigate insisting they where acts of attention seeking and bad behaviour. My high-school persistently told me to stop messing around with music because I will never make it, and was even told by a charming science teacher “the only place I would end up is jail”. In truth, I grew up through school very angry and frustrated not understanding why I was always drifting in the land of mediocrity despite working and studying as hard as everyone else. However, despite my frustrations I always turned to music, which I found a natural affinity for.
Once I was diagnosed as having visual discrimination problems I started lessons with an incredible teacher who helped me to put in place strategies to assist me both academically and musically. Throughout my journey as a composer, I have found that these strategies have strongly influenced my pre-composition process. Sketching in pictorial forms has helped me define shape, gesture and form in my music, whereas a “hybrid mind mapping/musical notation diagrams” has helped me organise pitch and harmonic material. I strongly believe that dyslexia has become one of the key components defining me as a composer.
I have always wanted to work with aspiring dyslexic and dypraxic musicians. The Creative mentors foundations has presented me with a fantastic opportunity to take a little time aside from my work as an active composer, to train, improve and give back my skills to those wishing to pursue a career or interest in music.
Steven Laurence Frew
Royal College of Music, 2012, Piano and Composition
It was during my MA Architecture degree show at the Royal College of Art in the summer of 2011 when Qona approached me about my work, interested in what my plans were for the future. In reply, I stressed that the thought of full-time architecture practice was something I didn’t want to rush into, with an aim of exploring various avenues in life. Continuing with constructing workshops within local communities and for learners that want to get into art, design and architecture was a path that I wanted to explore further.
Doing this in the past with “The Stephen Lawrence Trust” and “Architecture For Everyone” around London, started my passion for supporting and mentoring those who wanted to achieve personal goals within art and design, yet felt disadvantaged when trying to do so, whether it was because of financial circumstances or academic difficulties. Working as part of the team at the Creative Mentors Foundation would give me the perfect opportunity to continue to guide and advise pupils and potential future artists and designers, and teach them that with hard work and perseverance, anything is achievable, no matter what hardship you are in.
Less than a year before my final show at the RCA, I had my first meeting with Qona and initial experience of having a tutorial as a dyslexic when writing my dissertation. As I hadn’t been tested or diagnosed with dyslexia for 24 years of my life, one could say this is an unusual situation, as most dyslexic problems in people are picked up earlier in their lives. It wasn’t until my dissertation tutor asked me if I had ever been for a test that my dyslexia was uncovered.
True to this, my experience of dyslexia has been an odd one, as it has always been there, but never at the forefront of my mind as I had never known about it. Suddenly, there was a logical explanation as to why for years throughout school and studies I could read pages of books and couldn’t remember anything that I read, having to take notes all the time and focus extremely hard to concentrate, and why I understood and took so easily to shapes and spaces rather than words.
For me, it is exactly this that I find intriguing and love to work with learners that have dyslexia and dyspraxia. Helping them to understand that just because they may have what is deemed to be a learning difficulty, actually, you are no different to other pupils and can achieve your ambitions regardless of complexities occurring in your life.
Royal College of Art, 2012, Architecture