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Charity aims to train hundreds of new guide dogs as demand soars

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Guide dgs starting their UK training
Class of 2022: several dogs have started their official 25-week training course in London this month | Photo:. Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Several trainee guide dogs in the UK have started their first day at ‘big school’ in September. 

Dogs including German shepherd Fordi, golden retriever Ron and black Labrador x golden retriever Atlas, have started their 25-week training at Guide Dogs’ London training hub. They were joined by other dogs from across the UK after being looked after by Puppy Raisers; volunteers who care for the dogs in their own homes for 12 – 14 months. 

According to the NHS website, more than 2 million people in the UK are living with sight loss. Of these, around 340,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted. 

Sight loss takes many different forms, depending on the condition or circumstances that caused it. Some people can see colour, shapes, and even very large print. Some people have central vision and no peripheral vision or have significant differences between their eyes. Some can see light and dark, or nothing at all. People with all sorts of sight loss conditions can have guide dogs.

Demand for guide dogs is high as the disruption to Guide Dogs’ puppy breeding programme in 2020 is now being felt. Nevertheless, the charity will make hundreds of new guide dog partnerships this year, changing the lives of blind and partially sighted people around the UK.

Once at ‘big school’ the dogs will begin Standardised Training for Excellent Partnerships (STEP). The training lasts 25 weeks and involves tasks such as avoiding obstacles, navigating road crossings, and finding empty chairs for their owner to sit down.

During the training, the dogs spend their days at the regional training hubs and then live with local volunteer fosterers, who care for them overnight and during the weekends. The dogs will hopefully be fully qualified and partnered with a blind or partially sighted person by the age of two. 

“The day that our dogs arrive for their first day of school is always a proud moment for our staff and volunteers. They come to us from the loving homes of our dedicated volunteer Puppy Raisers, who are vital in preparing puppies for their future roles; the work we do could not be done without them. The dogs now go onto our expert training programme, which uses positive reinforcement to teach them everything they need to learn to be successful confident guide dogs for people with sight loss” , explains Tim Stafford, Director of Canine Affairs at Guide Dogs.

Anyone with a serious vision impairment that meets Guide Dogs’ full guide dog assessment criteria is encouraged to apply. If a person meets the criteria, Guide Dogs will arrange to visit them, and tell them about Guide Dogs’ services in general and the different services available to them.

As part of this, Guide Dogs will complete a Health Risk Assessment to identify any issues that might affect a person’s mobility and, if appropriate, seek advice from their GP or other relevant specialists.

Depending on the outcome of this visit, Guide Dogs may then organise a time to assess and record a person’s current vision, abilities, and situation.

Once the charity is confident a guide dog would match a person’s needs, and that they have sufficient independent orientation and mobility skills, they’ll be progressed onto the guide dog assessment. This focuses specifically on the skills, abilities and attitudes required for a guide dog partnership.

If successful, they’ll be placed on the ‘Ready to Train’ list and matched with a guide dog our staff believe is a good fit for them, when available.

The dog will be matched with his or her new owner at the end of the six months and move in with them. All of this is overseen and managed by Guide Dogs at every step.

Puppy raisers and fosterers will be updated and kept in the loop about how their dog is progressing and when they have been matched with an owner.

Nimmi Whitelaw is a puppy raiser who first started volunteering for Guide Dogs in 2015 and has since raised six guide dog puppies. On the importance of being a puppy raiser and getting attached to the dog, Nimmi says: 

“You also only need to speak to someone who has a guide dog to understand how important they are and the difference they make. To have a fully trained guide dog you need people to volunteer to raise the puppies – that’s enough motivation for me”.

“People often ask me two questions: How can we go through toilet training? And how can you even think about giving them back? I’m sure every Guide Dogs puppy raiser across the UK will back me up that both of these things can be difficult. It takes a certain someone to be a puppy raiser, but we do it because we love what we do, and we love the dogs”, says Whitelaw, from Glasgow. “Knowing they’re going on to do a great job to help someone with sight loss to get out and about makes it easier”, says Nimmi regarding the challenge of giving a dog back when the time comes to part ways.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer and how you can support Guide Dogs visit the charity’s official website here.


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£125,000 in grants awarded to UK creatives to support careers in screen arts

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A man filming a scene with a ginger girl indoors
Emerging creative from low socio-economic backgrounds are amongst the talent receiving bursaries.

BAFTA announced over £125,000 in grants have been awarded to 69 talented creatives to support their career development in the screen arts.  

This year, grants of up to £2,000 each have been made available to 58 emerging creatives including production assistants, costumer designers, writers, game designers, and camera and sound trainees to help them progress in their respective crafts. The grants will go towards essential costs such as driving lessons, specialist equipment, training and relocation costs that might otherwise lock talented people out of a screen arts career.  

The Prince William BAFTA Bursary scheme is named in honour of BAFTA’s President. Kickstarted with the support of film director Paul Greengrass, it is now in its fourth year.

For the first time, BAFTA is also awarding grants to individuals who have been forcibly displaced in collaboration with the Refugee Journalism Project. £30,000 in funding has been awarded to 11 recipients including journalists, editors, directors and videographers.  

The Refugee Journalism Project builds on BAFTA’s recent work with Counterpoint Arts – highlighting the importance of authentic portrayals of refugees on-screen, including recent events with BAFTA award-winning filmmaker and activist Hassan Akkad, a masterclass with BAFTA award-winning director Waad al-Kateab, and ‘Introduction to Filmmaking’ workshops with Deadbeat Films. 

Supporting the next generation of talent is an essential part of our mission. The Prince William BAFTA Bursary Fund is a fantastically effective way to kick-start careers, particularly for those who face socio and economic inequality. The bursaries are transformative for career starters, enabling them to buy an essential piece of kit, secure training, or in some cases it’s as simple as getting driving lessons so they can get to set! There is no shortage of potential in our workforce. Unfortunately, the opportunity to act on that potential is all too often limited by financial barriers. So, I’m delighted to continue The Prince William BAFTA Bursary Fund, thanks to our incredibly generous network of donors and supporters,” says Jane Millichip, CEO of BAFTA.

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Qatar museum opens exhibition revealing new voices from the Arab world

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Qatar museums opens exhibition revealing new voices from the Arab world
"Take Shelter" is one of the films showing during "Your Ghosts Are Mine, Expanded Cinemas, Amplified Voices" | Photo: still courtesy © LA CHAUVE-SOURIS

Qatar Museum has opened Your Ghosts Are Mine, Expanded Cinemas, Amplified Voices, a major exhibition coinciding with the 60th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, bringing together works by filmmakers and video artists from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. On view at ACP Palazzo Franchetti (through 24 November), the exhibition presents a journey in moving images through contemporary experiences of community life and memory, transnational crossings and exile.

Your Ghosts Are Mine is produced by Qatar Museums and co-organised by Doha Film Institute, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and the future Art Mill Museum in collaboration with ACP Art Capital Partners and with support from Media City Qatar. It is curated by Matthieu Orléan with Majid Al-Remaihi and Virgile Alexandre, with exhibition design by Federico Martelli and Clément Périssé. The advisory committee includes Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, Zeina Arida and Catherine Grenier.

The exhibition explores themes such as deserts, ruins, borders, exile and women’s voices through films supported by Doha Film Institute and video works from Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and the future Art Mill Museum.

The works span fiction, documentary, animation and memoir. Included are excerpts from works by over 40 artists including Faouzi Bensaidi (Morocco), Jessica Beshir (Ethiopia), Ali Cherri (Lebanon), Tala Hadid (Morroco), Joana Hadjithomas (Lebanon), Khalil Joreige (Lebanon), Soudade Kaadan (Syria), Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese (Lesotho), Asmae El Moudir (Morocco), Amal Al-Muftah (Qatar), Shirin Neshat (Iran), Larissa Sansour (Palestine), Abderrhamane Sissako (Mauritania), Elia Suleiman (Palestine), Ramata-Toulaye Sy (Senegal), Tariq Teguia (Algeria), Shaima Al Tamini (Yemen), plus works by Wael Shawky, Lida Abdul, Hassan Khan and Sophia Al Maria.

Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums and Doha Film Institute, said, “Your Ghosts Are Mine will open the eyes of international viewers to the ideas, feelings, and artistic visions of today’s filmmakers from the Arab world and neighbouring regions. With this exhibition, Qatar Museums advances its mission of encouraging understanding across borders, while Doha Film Institute continues to nurture rising talents of our region.”  

A schedule of film screenings accompanying the exhibition is available here.    

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Thousands of free travel passes available to travel around Europe

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A solo traveler in Europe
Successful applicants will get a free rail pass to travel in Europe for up to 30 days

Starting this summer, thousands of young people will once again travel around Europe by train for free thanks to the latest call of the DiscoverEU programme. Today at 12:00 CET during the European Youth Week buzzing with activities, the Commission launched the latest DiscoverEU application round. It will end on Tuesday 30 April at 12:00 CET.

In total, 35,500 travel passes are available. To get one, young people born between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2006 can do a quiz with five questions about the EU and one additional question on the European Youth Portal. Successful applicants will get a free rail pass to travel in Europe for up to 30 days between 1 July 2024 and 30 September 2025.

The call is open to applicants from the European Union and countries associated to the Erasmus+ programme including Iceland, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Türkiye. Ticket holders can plan their own routes or be inspired by existing ones. For example, they can discover a route launched last year, which focuses on cities and places making the European Union ‘beautiful, sustainable and inclusive’ in line with the principles of the New European Bauhaus.

Participants can also benefit from the DiscoverEU Culture Route an initiative of the 2022 European Year of Youth that combines various cultural destinations including architecture, music, fine art, theatre, fashion and design. Participants can visit the European Capitals of Culture which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List,  European Heritage Label sites, or Access City Award label locations, which are cities that have gone above and beyond to become more accessible to everyone.

Participants will also receive a discount card with over 40,000 discount possibilities on public transport, culture, accommodation, food, sports and other services in eligible countries. Additionally, Erasmus+ National Agencies organise pre-departure information meetings, and national agencies across all Erasmus+ countries prepare DiscoverEU Meet-ups, learning programmes lasting from one to three days.

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