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Graham Straw

Photograph of Graham at work 

The decision to take early retirement triggered a whole new way of life for Graham Straw. After a lifetime working in the transport industry he re-trained as a picture-framer. He is also a dedicated volunteer and fundraiser for SRSB. In fact it’s probably a good job that Graham is self-employed now because no other boss would let him take so much time off for his volunteering!

On the day he talked to us he’d been at the Mappin Street centre helping another client plan an art exhibition,

fundraising at a musical event at Sheffield Cathedral and later in the day was touring pubs in Sheffield selling raffle tickets.

“I think it’s one of the finest charities going, the work they do is absolutely tremendous. Whilst I don’t use the service myself anymore I see how dedicated people are and how nice everyone is. It’s just a lovely place to go.”

Like a lot of people Graham’s involvement with SRSB started small and quickly expanded.

He completed a computer course at the Limbrick centre. This helped him when it came to preparing a business plan to obtain funding to set up his picture framing business and he felt that he wanted to give something back.

It was a complete career-change and quite a step into the unknown for Graham, who is partially-sighted because of albinism, the condition which means people are born without pigment in their skin, hair and eyes.

“I don’t really know why I got interested in picture framing, I had an interest in wood and I found out where I could learn. I’d done things like building wardrobes before but never handcrafted anything with wood. I wanted the creativity of it.”

He took early retirement, found out where he could get training, learned how to set up a business and for the last two years has had his own workshop, Bank Street Framing, in the Bank Street Artspace in the city centre. 

All his frames are handmade from natural wood to the exact size and finish and colour his customers need. As well as framing art works, he’s made box frames for medals and designed special stands to display an artist’s glass tiles. It’s quite remarkable to see all the equipment that Graham has learned to use in his studio, given his very limited sight.

Recently Graham brought his picture framing service to the Mappin Street centre for a week so that clients could easily visit him. Just one of the many ways he supports SRSB.

“I’ve done bucket collections, freezing in Orchard Square, I turn up at events, sell raffle tickets and I also help out in the office, doing things like working on the photo archive.”

Graham even turned his 60th birthday into a fundraising opportunity. He asked his friends and family for donations instead and got £600 for SRSB.

“It’s nice that it’s a local charity. It’s totally different to the RNIB, although not everyone realises that. You can see  the results of your fundraising and there’s always something going off for everybody.”

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Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind links