City Lit Blog

Congratulations to learning disability rights campaigner Gary Bourlet for receiving his City Lit Lifetime Fellowship Award

Story added 29th Nov 2018

Michael Donlevy and Gary Bourlet


Last night, trailblazing learning disability rights campaigner Gary Bourlet received his City Lit Lifetime Fellowship Award during an evening of celebration at our ‘We Can Change the Future’ event.

As we approach our Centenary it is fitting that we use this event to mark our history and celebrate the diversity and creativity of people with learning disabilities.

The evening started with a welcome word from City Lit Principal Mark Malcomson and Michael Donlevy, Head of Programme, Centre for Learning Disabilities who introduced a musical performance by the wonderful Percussion Orchestra. They performed together with students from the Royal Academy of Music’s Open Academy.

‘It is a class which perfectly captures our approach to creative education and a project of which we are immensely proud. It’s a partnership with the Royal Academy of Music’s Open Academy. It’s a true collaboration, experimental, challenging, a truly exceptional musical project guided by the musical direction of Alex Thomas,’ said Michael Donlevy. 

City Lit Percussion Orchestra

City Lit tutor Yola Jacobson chaired a panel discussion and was joined by students from our Centre for Learning Disabilities talking about creativity, future ambitions and learning (in the context of having the right support).

Yola Jacobson with students

This was followed by Gary Bourlet in conversation with author and Guardian journalist Saba Salman talking about the importance of self-advocacy groups and that it’s key to show that people with learning disabilities are part of the community and should be listened to.

Saba Salman in conversation with Gary Bourlet

The evening concluded with Gary receiving his City Lit Lifetime Fellowship Award from Michael Donlevy for his significant contribution to adult education in the UK and his campaigning on behalf of people with learning disabilities.

‘We are extremely fortunate to have a range of exceptional Fellows, some of whom are former City Lit students like Gary. We are very proud that Gary’s achievements and campaigning on behalf of people with learning disabilities are being recognised tonight. From his ground-breaking work at People First all the way through to co-founding Learning Disability England, and most recently his inclusion on the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List of the most influential disabled people in the UK. Gary provides encouragement to leaders of tomorrow and demonstrates that ambitions can be fulfilled regardless of disability or impairment,’ said Michael Donlevy 

‘I’ve got much more to give. I’m not finished yet!’ said Gary Bourlet after thanking Michael and his team for receiving his Fellowship Award. His determination along with colleagues shows we can change the future. Congratulations Gary Bourlet!