New picture book to support discussion around loneliness and promote inclusive communities


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A new picture book called Belonging has been published to help people explore feelings of loneliness and what it means to be part of a community.

So many people experience loneliness and social isolation, putting their wellbeing, health and happiness at risk. But when everyone has the opportunity to join in, build meaningful relationships and contribute to the community around them we all benefit, and our communities are richer as a result.

The latest addition to the Books Beyond Words series, Belonging is a story told in pictures to help anyone who finds pictures easier than words to explore themes of loneliness, inclusion and community. Additional guidance is provided at the back of the book for families, neighbours and supporters.

Belonging was created by a group of actors from Access All Areas – a performing arts organisation made-up of learning-disabled and autistic artists – working together with Professor the Baroness Sheila Hollins, Dr Valerie Sinason and illustrator Lucy Bergonzi.

The story was created through a series of drama workshops where the actors drew upon their own experiences and feelings.

The book tells the story of Kali and Stefan, two vulnerable, lonely people who are drawn together by a dramatic event. In the aftermath, the pair forge a friendship and find themselves in the centre of a community where they feel they belong.

Belonging was funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of Access All Areas’ MADHOUSE project. The project has explored institutionalisation and the effects that isolation and confinement have on people with learning disabilities, with the aim of raising public awareness and provoking change.

The book was launched on 19 March at a symposium event for the MADHOUSE project at Shoreditch Town Hall in London. The event also saw the launch of the BELONG manifesto – a living manifesto for a better life for people with learning disabilities, which calls for more inclusive communities everywhere. (www.booksbeyondwords.co.uk/belong-manifesto)

Baroness Hollins said: “Reading this book will give people more confidence to get involved in their local work, social or faith communities. Belonging will help all of us to think about what we can do to make sure that the people around us feel truly welcomed, supported and appreciated members of society”.

Speaking about the book, Access All Areas artist Rufaro Asuquo said: “It’s brilliant, beautiful and inspiring. It’s a bit of an eye-opener.” Shola Cole Wilson, another Access All Areas artist involved in the project, said: “Making the book has given me confidence.”

Find out more: www.booksbeyondwords.co.uk/bookshop/paperbacks/belonging