Learner Spotlight April 2022
We sat down with Rob Edgar who is working towards his UAL Level 2 Diploma in Graphic design. Rob started this course as a way to refocus on his passions and explore his creativity after the challenges he faced throughout the Covid pandemic.
Read on to find out about some of his biggest achievements to date, including his ground-breaking work on the
'My Right to Healthcare' card which is improving the lives of people experiencing homelessness across the country, and his experience as a 'living exhibition' with the Tate Modern.
Hi Rob! Thank you so much for giving us your time today. Please can introduce yourself.
Hi, my name is Rob Edgar, I’m on the level 2 diploma graphic design.
Why did you apply for this particular course, what attracted you to it?
Just after lockdown I wanted to focus on rebuilding some of my passions, it had been a long time since I had been engaged in society and one of the things that did interest me was art and graphic design. I had been experimenting with it before but never really took it to the next level and I wanted to focus on growing myself, so I did level 2.
What were you doing before you started this course?
At the beginning of lockdown I was working for a homeless charity as part of the research team, but I lost my job about three months into lockdown. My mental health deteriorated and I was quite isolated. Then the restrictions ended, and this made a golden opportunity to focus on myself.
Can you tell us a bit about what you study on the course, and do you have any bits you particularly enjoy?
I love the course, even on the bad days the number one thing is being part of a team of people you know. There is so many creative individuals in my classroom and we all bring our own wealth of experience and knowledge. Some of us are more creative than others and some of us have specific skill sets, but what I like is coming together. We are all there for the same reason which is to grow and learn. As the time has gone on the camaraderie has actually been crucial for wellness and wellbeing and getting that physical connection has been a welcome relief within these circumstances.
What do you aim to do when you finish your course?
I’ve started to realise how many skills I have in graphic design so hopefully I can go onto level 3 and go on into further education. I’m sure the skills that I am learning here I can apply to my work life. The end goal is some time a way, a long-term goal.
Coming into this sort of hub, it's located quite centrally which makes coming here convenient and makes a difference when you have other things going on your life. It really helps. Its also nice to have a space which is just for you and your learning, and having that separation that this is where you come to be creative and having that camaraderie.
Please can you tell me more about your work with the NHS and the Tate?
My story was exhibited in the Tate Modern during an exhibition on homelessness. I was working in collaboration with the NHS on some research on the barriers homeless people face in accessing health care. One of the things that came out of the research was 'My Right to Healthcare' card. It’s a very simple card that allows somebody to present themselves at a GP surgery and be seen by a GP without the need for further proof of identity.
It was picked up by the Tate modern. They had an actor playing myself and showcasing the 'My Right to Healthcare' card. I got to visit on the opening day and that was a surreal experience, there was defiantly was a buzz of excitement within the building that day. The actor was even mimicking my mannerisms. It struck me and was quite profound to see that what I say sounds important. I suppose for a long time I felt like never felt like I had anything important to say.
Can you tell us a bit more about the background of the project and how you got involved?
While I was a peer researcher for a homeless charity we were approached by the NHS as part of the London Homeless Help Programme. They wanted to make sure the NHS was fit for people experiencing homelessness, as there seems to be a large amount of people experiencing homelessness that present themselves to Accidents and Emergencies, but if they had been seen a month or a week before the problem may have not been so severe or life threatening.
They asked the homeless charity to do some research so we went round to different homeless organisations and spoke to some rough sleepers and people who were sofa surfing etc, and asked them what would make a difference for you to access healthcare? I think we had carried out about a hundred interviews with people who were currently homeless.
One of the main things that really stood out was that people were being turned away by GP surgeries. They needed something for them to hold and say, “Look I can be seen by a doctor.” so that’s what came out of the research.
With collaboration the NHS we came up with a card which we distributed to drop-in centres and day centres.
This was originally a London initiative but I’m aware now it’s been adopted by other organisations by the NHS outside of London - there was Manchester one, there is a South Hampton one. It was a couple years ago that this card happened and I think since then there have been 700,000 cards printed.
I think slowly over time GPs and receptionists have realised that if someone is experiencing homelessness and they’re presenting themselves, then asking them to provide photographic identification and proof of address may not be necessary, so people can get the access they need to a GP quicker.
That one piece of research we did has continued to help people. My time is limited and there is only so many people I can help, but when we change society for the better everyone wins.
If you could give any advice to someone thinking about studying this course what would you say?
To sign up, I think with any learning you have to start at the beginning and go from there. The tutors here are phenomenal and really supportive. Westminster Adult Education Service has also been very supportive too, there has been some discretionary learner funds that have made a difference and some of the barriers that I thought might prevent me from coming here have gone away once I have enrolled and understood a bit more. That has made things much more streamlined for me and meant I could just focus on learning. We all have to start somewhere, and you might be amazed at what you learn.