Loughborough artist stars in campaign that aims to shine a light on the challenges faced by people living with vision loss

“As an artist who has lost a lot of my sight, I am often asked: How can you still paint? I hope that Change Makers will empower those who similarly are going through the experience of sight loss to know that there is life beyond what is happening to them.”

These are the words of Loughborough University PhD student Rachel Gadsden, a multi-award-winning visual and performance artist living with a visual impairment.

Rachel is one of the stars of the Roche Pharmaceuticals Change Maker Sight Loss Global Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the impact of vision loss on daily life.

Using art as a creative vehicle, Rachel, Dave Steele, and Baluji Shrivastav, OBE – two other talented artists living with vision impairment – come together to create an audio-visual performance including poetry, painting, and music. The video of this piece can be viewed above.

The music was composed, performed, and directed by Baluji Shrivastav, OBE, with the Inner Vision Orchestra. The performance expresses the impact of vision loss on people’s lives – the common experiences, the emotions felt and the courageous, persistent human response to overcoming the challenges faced.

Rachel's story

In addition to the collaborative performance video, Rachel has shared her story as part of the campaign, in a video that can be viewed above.

Fifteen years ago, Rachel, who has a life-long lung condition, was diagnosed with retinoschisis – a disorder that splits the eye's retina into two layers.

The talented artist, who recently performed at the National Lottery’s ParalympicsGB Homecoming event, turned her life’s passion into a means of championing those with visual impairment, and of working to empower others to find a voice to expose and challenge prejudice.

In her campaign video, Rachel said: “I can remember the first moment I was told that I had quite a serious eye problem. It was as if I’d sort of been punched in my chest. It was quite terrifying.

“I remember coming home and I made a sculpture in my studio with my eyes closed because I was thinking ‘how is all this creativity going to come out in another way?’

“And then one day I realised, you get on with this or you give up.

“And I was not going to give up. Never.”

Rachel’s visual impairment becomes a component of her artwork, she communicates her way of ‘seeing’ people in portraiture and in interpreting the world around her.

Her lung condition – the treatment of which requires life-saving injections by means of a syringe-driver administered at minute intervals – facilitates the exploration of fragility and resilience.

Of the campaign, Rachel said: “Ultimately, I hope this project empowers individuals who are experiencing vision loss.”

For more information on the Change Maker campaign, click here, and to view Rachel’s Change Maker’s biography in full, click here.

More on Rachel and her work can also be found on her website, here