Sarah Pickthall meets Sally Booth
In the first month of the COVID-19 contagion, I dropped visual artist and Sync alumni, Sally Booth, an email to see where she was up to in isolation and whether she would be up for a catch-up on all things cancelled and on what it’s like pressing the re-start button on her career.
Sally wrote an article about her practice for our Sync programme back in 2010. A decade on from the Sync Leadership programme in 2010, Sally has gone from strength-to-strength and has been in regular employment as an artist and facilitator, returning to the UK just a few days before lockdown from a successful cultural exchange in Chicago with Shape Arts.
From Edges and Extremes across Shetland and Cornwall with showcases and performances at the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, to sketch-booking on the London tube, her portfolio career has combined commissions and training around the social model of disability. As a regular trainer for VocalEyes, Sally explores and shares the depth of her experience of visual impairment, bringing art and culture alive through audio description.
Speaking together in the fourth week of lockdown in England, Sally shared that the solitude was lovely to start with and very familiar to her as an artist, but after a few days, the impact of losing all foreseeable work and the impending isolation ‘hit home hard.’ My email to reconnect led Sally to address the digital gaps in her day-to-day routine. Whilst her website won a Jodi Award for Accessibility in 2009, her lack of access to social media, and more importantly digital meet-ups and hangouts, so relied upon by us all, was painfully thin.
In preparation for our Sync Zoom interview, with the help of the neighbours, Sally managed to download Zoom and Otter.ai apps onto on her iPad, creating captions and audio of our conversations. This will help with captioning the short film we made and she will continue to use this tech, despite its limitations. Sally has even been doing audio descriptions of her pictures over the fence.
Together we were able to have a joyful conversation, exploring a new leadership metaphor that explains very clearly the experience of having to start-over a childhood game she played with her father, called ‘Pick-up Sticks’. We also spoke of intimacy; that we will both miss the nuances of working closely with people, be that in training, coaching or at a gallery. We both remarked that despite this, we had in our virtual reminiscing together rekindled our lovely rapport and laughed our socks off. You can watch the video of our conversation with an Audio description introduction for the film underneath.