Everybody knows that the symbol of the poppy represents those who have fought and died in military conflict, but how many people are aware of the symbol of vision impaired people in London? For those who don’t know, it is the geranium, a five-petalled flower that blooms from springtime to early autumn. While it’s uncertain as to why this particular flower was chosen to represent people with sight loss, the symbol was first used in the early 1920s and was the brainchild of newspaper magnate Sir Arthur Pearson.
Pearson, the founder of the Daily Express, was an early campaigner for vision impaired people. Having lost his sight through glaucoma, he spent a large part of his life raising awareness of the difficulties that VI people could face. Pearson was frustrated by the barriers faced by vision impaired people who not only had to go about their daily lives in a society that was largely unaware of their needs, but who also had to contend with post-war poverty, which often had a greater effect on their lives than it did on the lives of their fully-sighted friends and neighbours.
He therefore decided to spearhead a publicity campaign that would encourage the public to donate money to causes that would help to support the vision impaired population of London. Just before his death in 1921, Pearson organised a ‘Geranium Day’ appeal to raise funds for the blind and partially sighted people of the capital, having used his contacts to gain a royal patron, Princess Louise. From the funds raised through this, the Greater London Fund for the Blind was born.
Geranium Day continues still, and is a time when sight loss organisations and charities have the opportunity to raise money on public property across London. This year, the London-wide collection day will be on Friday 18th May, and East London Vision will be using it as an opportunity to raise funds for our own projects. The whole team will be out and about, and as well as collecting money we’ll have the opportunity to talk to the public about sight loss as well as about the work that we do to help provide support to the vision impaired community in East London. We’ll be spread out across the region, with groups at Liverpool St. Station, outside Westfield shopping centre in Stratford and at Canary Wharf, and we’ll be around for most of the day between 8am and 5pm.
So if you’re free next Friday, then come along and say hello! It’ll be great to see as many of our friends as possible. And if you’d be interested in joining us and helping us collect money for part of the day, then you’d be more than welcome. Please phone the office on 020 3697 6464 if you’re interested.
Written by Nicola Stokes, ELVis Service Development & Delivery Manager