South Thames College hand knitting student, Hyacinth Malcolm is soon to be the focus of a short documentary film, which is being made as part of Chocolate Films social documentary project, 1000 Londoners.
The five-year digital project which aims to create a digital portrait of a city has already featured former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and X Factor winner turned stage actress, Alexandra Burke.
‘What’s so special about Hyacinth?’, you may ask.
Well, if you met her, you would be instantly taken with her vivacious personality and quick-witted humour. You would also notice that she loves knitting, along with many of the experienced knitters in the hand knitting class at South Thames College. But Hyacinth isn’t an experienced knitter, she took up the challenge of learning to hand knit only last year.
Okay, so she’s a quick learner, so what?
Indeed, she is a quick thinker and very intelligent, but where she stands out from the rest is that she is severely visually impaired – almost totally blind. 60-year-old Hyacinth has learned to knit virtually by feel alone, taking her instruction from her tutor’s spoken words.
Ruth Herring, Hyacinth’s hand knitting tutor approached Chocolate Films about the possibility of featuring one of her visually impaired students in the project. She said: “I picked up on the project from a news item and was really taken with the sensitivity of the film making – it’s not reality TV, it’s an important socio-documentary. Each short film is about a Londoner and the whole project is designed to be a snapshot of diversity in our wonderful city.”
Ruth emailed a short piece about working with visually impaired learners and one of the filmmakers immediately picked up on the theme. “It was the fact that Hyacinth and others with special requirements are being taught as part of a mainstream educational course, not as part of therapy”, recalls Ruth. “Despite her disability, Hyacinth is a determined woman. Her journey to my class involves a bus, a train and the Tube to Tooting Broadway. Unlike many commuters, she rarely moans about delays and just gets on with life with her wonderful permanently fixed smile. She is great fun to teach and a real inspiration to others on the course.”
“If there were a down side to teaching Hyacinth? It would be that she laughs when she drops a stitch. She knows that normally I have to step in to help her if it ladders down too far!”
To find out more about courses at South Thames College visit www.south-thames.ac.uk or call 020 8918 7777