Bill Skipworth, a client and supporter of SRSB started to lose his sight many years ago. However from the age of 50 when he went completely blind in one eye, he discovered that his creative talent on the piano suddenly “magnified by a factor of 10”, and he also discovered he has synesthesia, meaning that he sees the keys on the piano as different colours.
Bill’s involvement with SRSB began, like many people, at a very low point in his life when he was registered as severely sight impaired.
He’d had to give up work as a dentist after a successful career; a period in his life which he now describes as very difficult time. But time, as he says, “gives you perspective” and in Bill’s case it’s also given him the chance to develop his musical talents.
“I’ve always been a creative type. I learned piano as a child and was Grade 8 by the time I was 18, but I felt I wasn’t good enough to be a professional, and I always had to have sheet music when I played – even for a simple tune such as Happy Birthday.
“But when I was 50 it was just like I’d had some musical download. That’s the only way I can explain it. It was as if so much of my brain was being used to process visual information, that the sight loss gave it the space for the music.
“Now if I hear a tune on the radio I can sit down and play it, although the harmonies take a little longer.”
The new skill of playing without written music and playing by ear, developed into improvisation and then Bill discovered an ability for writing music of his own. His first composition was inspired by the Sheffield Flood.
One of his latest works is a tribute to the daughter of a friend who sadly passed away. He describes it as a bluesy and very emotional piece in three parts, celebrating the love between a daughter and her mother.
He feels it is his best work so far. There’ll be a chance for people to hear it when Bill gives what has become his annual concert at Sheffield Cathedral. He’ll be teaming up with his friend Ed Daw for the performance. The concert is also a fundraiser for SRSB, as people can choose to make a donation at the event.
Bill says he likes to raise funds because of the help he had when he became visually impaired.
“Staff at SRSB and Alison from the council gave me a lot of practical support, I know it sounds corny but everyone is so genuinely caring.”
Bill has also written a book about sight loss. “I think the creativity has helped with the sight loss. You go through all the stages, I’ve come to an acceptance of how things are. I had all this anger, then a week of grieving and I have been fine ever since. There are so any things I am interested in,” said Bill.
As well as his music Bill takes great strength from his Christian faith, and he also presents a weekly radio show on Sheffield Live.
“I can cope well at the moment. I would rather have this than a dicky heart and I have no other problems other than my sight. I just hope the sight I have continues.”