As 2023 draws to a close, it’s been a whole ten months since Better Places Nicky and Candy’s Street was released.

It still feels bizarre that I have a book published and out there, and more importantly a way to get an important message across in a fun and light-hearted way.

It’s been a real learning curve for me; with lots done and still to do, but I thought before we hit 2024 I’d take a little time to recap my first year of Better Places.

The launch

Let’s kick off with the launch of Nicky and Candy’s Street on Sunday 26th February 2023.

I was lucky enough to have the launch at The Lowry Theatre in Salford; joined by family, friends and colleagues

As part of the launch, I told my story of writing the story, the brilliant 3Two1 Theatre provided a supported performance for the very first public readings of Nicky and Candy’s Street and some crafty Candy white cane making was had.

When I’m asked about the launch, I can only describe it as overwhelming. I think the fact it was centred around me; sharing some stuff pretty close to my heart, and just how much love and well wishes was felt in the room was a lot. It was a whirlwind I felt on autopilot through but nonetheless one I’m very grateful to have been able to experience.

School visits

People now ask me what the best part of being an author is and without a second thought I always answer school visits.

This doesn’t mean I don’t feel nervous before them, I always do, but equally I always come out feeling good. Every visit gives me new learning to take away and have in my locker for the next. The feedback has been massively positive from both students and staff, and I always leave schools on a real high.

In just ten months, school visits have taken me around my home region of Greater Manchester to Bury, Salford, Stockport, further afield to Rossendale and Leeds, and as far as a virtual visit up to Scotland, reaching 1000’s of children in the process.

I get to rock up to different schools, I’m treated like a guest for the day (I sometime even get a school dinner) and get kids chanting, moving and all giddy about access and inclusion – which is exactly what Better Places is all about.

It gives me a break from the processes, systems, and limitations (perceived or actual) I often experience with my work in the adult world around access for disabled people and I’m glad that the school visits are now a regular part of my life.

New connections and partnerships

Over the past year, I’ve worked alongside some amazing new people, organisations and attended some brilliant events

I’ve been well supported by lots of local council children sensory support services, met with charities supporting those with sight loss to discuss opportunities to work more closely and shared my story, and Nicky and Candy’s, with everyone from corporates, friends of museums groups to brownies

I’ve also got a better grasp of the event landscape in relation to Nicky and Candy’s Street with them going down well this year at both the VIEW conference for VI professionals and Sight Village aimed at both professionals working with people with sight loss as well as people with sight loss themselves. They’ve both been great events to get word on Better Places out there, meet new people and organisations and explore opportunities to work together.

These connections would have never occurred if it wasn’t for Better Places, and the ones already had have definitely been enhanced because of it.

Coming up…

So, what’s to come in 2024? More of the same but with a few exciting additions.

I’ll have a launch again for the second book in the Better Places series. We’ve been working away on this in the background and have linked in with an amazing charity to make sure we get it right. This is all a bit hush hush for now, but I’ll be sure to update when I’m able to in the New Year so stay tuned.

I already have one school visit booked in which will take me the furthest South I’ve been with Better Places to London and I’m booked on to two events already in the VIEW Conference and Sight Village Northwest. I’m hopeful I’ll get a few more under my belt before the years out.

I’m having some interesting discussions with organisations I’m hopeful I can share early in the New Year and one further down the line that’ll take Better Places to a whole new level of interaction and fun – which I’m really excited about.

All in all, a year to be thankful for and another to look forward too. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated.

In the meantime, all the best for 2024. Let’s make it a year for Better Places.

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