AD and Touch Tours in Art

Tom’s Millbank Meander 08.22


I suppose a sighted person who reads a book gets an image of the story in his or her head. Equally well, someone who is visually impaired and listens to an audio book also shares that experience.  The same applies to art.  Having someone who is knowledgeable and can relay the theme of the art in a manner that is descriptive and informative enables the image to be visualised as that of a sighted person.   


My first experience of this was an audio description of J.M.W. Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’. I had never seen this painting before or after my sight loss, however, the audio description of the painting was so good that the image has remained with me ever since. The train speeding over the country-side towards the viewer, its sharpness softened by billowing steam and Turner’s vivid expression of the rain will stay with me forever. Not forgetting the hare in the field, which I imagine, is racing the locomotive.


Sculpture is a different ball-game, especially when it is in front of you.  On a recent visit to Tate Britain London, before me stood Perseus – complete with Hermes’s winged sandals, Zeus’s sword and the Head of Medusa in his outstretched arm. Below him lies Andromeda, chained to the rocks shielding her eyes from Medusa’s gaze. Above her lies the terrifying sea monster writhing with out-stretched wings. This sculpture depicts a scene from Greek mythology.  It was described to me by Marcus Dickie-Horley on a hot summer day, while on the Millbank Meander AD and touch tour, 18th July, 2022. Marcus guided me using the Ramble Tag which enhanced the whole experience in many ways.  The Ramble Tag was not only practical but it allowed me flexibility to touch and feel the exhibit whilst not being restricted by Marcus.  This freedom enabled me to touch, measure and realise the enormity of the sculpture. Each piece of the work was individually cast in bronze of approximately one inch thick then pieced together by the artist. The Rescue of Andromeda by Henry Charles Fehr (presented to the Tate, 1894). 

tom being lead by a ramble tag on marcus' arm. feeling sculptures and walking around the tate gallery


If you are visually impaired and happen to end up in London, I would highly recommend an AD and touch tour at the Tate.  You will not get many other opportunities to caress Andromeda’s back!


Lack of sight does not have to stop a visually impaired person learning about and appreciating art in its many formats.  Accessibility and inclusion are there to enable people like myself to continue to  enjoy art. The fact that I have never seen Turner’s painting yet still have the image in my head gives me great pleasure.  I now feel confident to speak to anyone about Turner’s painting or Fehr’s sculpture.  Laura has just said to me that my description of Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’ and Fehr’s sculpture was more exciting than the art itself! Hopefully this will motivate some of you to visit your local museums and galleries.  Go now, regardless of your thoughts about art.  Try it – you might find it impacts you more than you expect.   


By Tom Forsyth CEO Ramble Tag Ltd

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