At the core of the Margot Florence Foundation is the recognition of the fundamental importance of Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states:
States Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
For children like Margot to ‘participate fully in cultural and artistic life’ a degree of mitigation is necessary. It is our belief that this mitigation should not be the responsibility of the child, but of the artist or cultural activity itself. Margot and those who share her very particular take on the world, should have their needs recognised and their perspective honoured and reflected in our cultural and artistic output. For this to happen, however, there needs to be intervention and encouragement.
Legislation already requires art activities to be accessible to children with disabilities. However, accessibility is a multi-layered concept. Just being able to gain entry is only the beginning. The art activity or cultural experience itself must respond to or reflect the needs of the child if it is to be truly accessible. The impact, of course, is broader, as these art experiences are not just for children, but also for those who accompany and share it with them, their parents, carers, siblings and friends. An art practice that contains and honours the world as children like Margot perceive it, would certainly enable people around these children to know and share the same.
Our ambition and vision, therefore, is not one that focuses directly on the therapeutic approaches to the use of the arts (although there may well be therapeutic outcomes associated with this work), rather, we actively indulge in motivating and supporting artists from a range of disciplines to make work for, by and with children with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).
We are mission-driven toward helping these children access arts and culture in its fullest sense; to come up with activities that complement their perspective and enable it to be shared with the world around them. Inevitably, this work will benefit like all art does – therapeutic and otherwise. It is this very thing that allows us to share our life experience, to communicate and engage with each other in ways usually unachievable in our everyday lives.
What would your life be without music, dance, television, films, theatre, books, pictures or stories? These are simple everyday things we take for granted. They hold benefits for us that are often left unconsidered and yet for many are pivotal to their lives and sense of well-being. How we extend these rights to children like Margot? And how, in turn, can their perspectives and interests find a way into our art works and cultural life? That is the question.
The work we have been involved in has been about encouraging artists to adapt their work for the betterment of such children. We have been doing it in rural Kent, where the children are highly deprived of such facilities. Our ambition is that every artist working in this country, no matter what their discipline, considers children with complex disabilities as viable, exciting and inspiring collaborators or audiences for their work.
We strongly believe all children like Margot should get a chance to engage regularly in life-enriching art experiences that make a positive impact on their lives and those associated with them, thus redefining humanity and dignified living.
Their right is our responsibility.