Visual Communication students once again collaborate with writer Roger Cowell

03 March 2023

BA (Hons) Visual Communication students have once again collaborated with local writer Roger Cowell. 

Author Roger Cowell lost his central vision in 2019. Shortly after this he began writing about his experiences of ‘variable vision’ and the vivid hallucinations he frequently experienced on his daily walks. In 2021 he invited BA (Hons) Visual Communication students to respond to excerpts of his writing. Appear, Disappear, Reappear was an exhibition documenting the resulting creative collaboration between Roger and Leets Arts students.

This year Roger has once again collaborated with BA (Hons) Visual Communication students, and the 2023 exhibition of work inspired by Roger's experiences will on display at our Blenheim Walk site of Leeds Arts University, kicking off with a panel discussion about the work, involving Roger and the project team, taking place on Wednesday 8 March at 2:30pm. More details below. 

The short documentary video of last year's project can be seen here: 


This year's project again responds to dramatic changes Roger experienced in his vision a few years ago. 

Roger tells us: “My central vision began to deteriorate in October 2019 during a trip to Japan. And by mid-March 2020, it had been replaced by a blurry blob, and a tiny sliver of peripheral vision, which appears, disappears, and reappears, dependent on the light around me. At times, the changes of my sight have been depressing, frustrating, and puzzling, but mostly I could not have imagined them if I had not experienced them personally. For these reasons, I want to share them with others, so they may glimpse the fantastic world in the hidden dimensions revealed to me over the last few years. I do not suggest these are anything but my own experiences, but they are mine, as far as I can describe and reflect on them.”

Over the past three years Roger has been writing a book about his experiences, parts of which describe the visual effects and hallucinations he has encountered along the way. These have included visions of octopuses, Pharos and startling moments of full-colour visual clarity. Second-year students were given the opportunity to meet with Roger, and these direct conversations alongside his written accounts have inspired the work for this year's exhibition. 

Image: (From left to right) Erin William, David Collins, Roger Cowell, Jess Plunkett, Dipo Akinse and Eve Mcfarlane Salvo

Once the exhibition of student work had been installed at Blenheim Walk, Roger visited the University to experience the work in its public form, giving the students the opportunity to talk through what they had made. The next stage of the project will move the work to Roger’s house so he can look at it in a more controlled and familiar visual environment. This will mean he can view the work in the softer evening light which often allows him to experience far stronger visual effects than at other times.

Student Erin William, who took part in the project and exhibition last year, said of the experience: “I really enjoyed working with Roger, it was great to be able to visualize his unique experiences with his unreliable eye sight. My aim was to create a piece that visualized Rogers experience with the Octopus but I also wanted Roger to be able to experience my piece too, so that's why I decided to go with the lino print medium as I could present the print but also the lino itself so he could experience it too. I learned a lot whilst researching for this project about how visually impaired people experience art, and how inaccessible a lot of art galleries and museums are for them. I feel like as artists we need to advocate for more tactile and auditory alternatives in galleries and museums to make them more accessible for everyone.”

Image: Roger Cowell with work by Erin Williams

Panel Discussion with Roger Cowell and the Project Team 

Wednesday 8th March 2023

2.30 - 3.30pm. (Visitors will be able to view the exhibition from 2pm directly prior to the panel discussion event)

Leeds Arts University, Blenheim Walk Room B2-G.21

This is an opportunity to hear about the project from Roger, the students, and BA Visual Communication course leader David Collins. They will talk about the origins of the project, how it evolved, and what they learned from working together. There will also be opportunities to ask questions and discuss issues raised.

The Panel Discussion is open to external visitors. If you would like to attend from outside the university, please email:

Image: Roger Cowell and Dipo Akinse