Miranda's fund is to help improve the lives of young people using the creative arts. We are working directly with local schools and the community using specialist teachers and local artisans to provide learning experiences not available through the national curriculum.
Following Miranda's death, many generous donations have been received from family, friends, marathon runners and long distance swimmers amounting to over £10000. Through donations and profits from selling prints of her artwork, we will continue to raise funds to help more young people.
If you would like to make a donation, or wish to see the list of available prints, please get intouch using details on the contact page.
Equine therapy at Sirona
Miranda's fund has been helping a young teenager visit Sirona, an equine center providing therapeutic horsemanship, mindfulness activities and learning activities for young people. The letter and drawing below are from her.
Miranda’s fund & Sirona March 2020
I am very grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to continue Sirona. Sirona boosted my confidence a lot, I wasn’t even able to go to a shop by myself because of my anxiety now I go into shops and go for walk the dogs by myself.
Sirona made me realise that people are not all horrible the fact you made it possible for all that to happen shows me the kindness this world has. Before Sirona I usd to cut a lot and always had suicidal thoughts, the most that happens now is that I might occasionally punch a wall because of anger issues. So even that is barely happening now. I am so grateful to you for everything. Sirona also stopped my PTSD flashbacks, it made me feel proud of myself for what I achieved.
You are incredible for helping me and I’m very sorry for your daughter. Her art is amazing!!!
I love the Muscovy duck (: I draw too but I’m not at the level of talent your daughter was but I’m going to draw you a horse but I tried and couldn’t, sorry.
Thank you again for basically turning my life around. You’re truly amazing
Miranda's Fund Update: May 2017
Over six weeks of the Spring term year 8 have explored literacy through story telling, movement and music as well as drama. Will Benzies and Iwan Kushka worked with students in developing their literacy skills, their confidence and their communication and interpersonal skills. We began with Belgian storyteller, Iwan and guitarist, Will visiting the school for an enthralling performance of musical storytelling. They told “The Glassblower’s Daughter”, the compelling tale of Leela, a young girl pitted against a cruel and powerful feudal lord wishing to marry her against her will.
The entire year group were spell bound and looked forward to their weekly workshops with Iwan and Will. We ended with superb collaborative work carried out with students from secondary schools in both Syria and Palestine. This was 'live' via Skype and fostered many questions about cultural differences and conflict.
Below are just some of the positive comments from year 8 students:
Ellie: " We learnt how to create a narrative, we all took part and were less shy."
Joseph: " We learned to listen better and were taught how to improve our communication."
The evaluative comments were overwhelmingly positive, " I can now express myself through stories", " I became more confident and developed a positive attitude and learnt how to trust". Criticisms were not of the activities but more personal such as " It would be better if I did not care what i looked like and could just let loose" and " It would be better if Iwan and Will stayed for longer".
There is no doubt that as a school we are extremely grateful to the family of Miranda Benzies, an artist and ex student of Dartmouth Academy who sadly died in 2015. Part of her legacy is to support the arts and young people through Miranda's Fund, our students have benefited enormously.
Nicola Perrott - Teacher Dartmouth Academy
Thank you to everyone who has supported Miranda’s fund so far it has been not only helpful to students at Dartmouth and Totnes school but also to our family as it has given a feeling on continuity and process allowing us to see the positive lessons that can be learnt from experiencing loss.
In February Iwan and I started running a course at Dartmouth Academy based on storytelling, improvisation and public speaking. As it was the first manifestation of the Fund we wanted to keep it open and malleable and not goal orientated, aware also that this would provide some antidote to the curriculum led and exam driven framework that schools are obliged to use. The goals that we did give ourselves were to create a trusting and generous environment where the students would feel free to express themselves and listen to each other’s stories.
As a consequence of these circumstances it was fascinating to witness the transformation that took place in our 2 hour sessions. The initial response from most of the students to our proposal was bewilderment, they were prepared for us to be asking something from them, to create something suitable for appraisal that could be held up and marked. For us not having any preconceptions as to who were the ‘naughty’ ones really helped in treating everyone equally and it took a couple of weeks for these traits in the students to resurface as the novelty wore off, however in that time it became apparent to everyone that given different circumstances people display different qualities. Almost all the students struggled to express themselves creatively and effectively in the first few weeks with content mostly involving chicken nuggets, KFC and various cartoon characters, safe topics that don’t expose themselves. As the weeks progressed we witnessed a massive transformation as the students started to play with the space we gave them, with trust that almost anything would be accepted provided that it was well intentioned. We saw some incredible stories, performances and changes which when described can often seem trivial and yet given the context are clearly meaningful for these students. A few examples that are easier to communicate are; the class strong man being led blindfold but the class the victim, attendance from even the least attentive, a boy with a server stutter participating in public speaking and some exceptional improvised story telling. There’s no doubt that the kids benefited from this course not only in the way they relate to each other but also in the way they relate to themselves, being heard makes us feel valid which intern leads to an increase in self-confidence and self-worth.
We have learnt a lot this year about how the fund can be used effectively and directly for the benefit of the kids. Nic Perrott at Dartmouth Academy has been an essential part of making all this happen as have all the people who have contributed to Miranda’s fund. Thanks again to everyone who as making this possible. Future plans at Dartmouth Academy include bringing Playback Theatre in to run a similar programme in the autumn term and also to run a few one of sessions with local artists.
Report by Will Benzies on Storylab workshops at Dartmouth Academy
Also at King Edward VI Academy, Miranda's Fund volunteers are meeting with 6 formers to talk & share informally -about life & mental health. one session was held in january, the 12 students who came wanted more opportunities to meet & talk in this way. Dates to be confirmed.
Ariel Centre exhibition open day
The open day on the 5th of December was a fantastic evening of chatting, food and of course a selection of over 30 of Miranda's paintings. It was made possible by all the hard work and effort put in by our willing volunteers, and made special by the people who came down to see the exhibition of Miranda's work, share memories and stories about her life and enjoy each others company. Thank you to everyone who travelled down to visit for what was a very moving and worthwhile occasion. We are particularly thankful for the way in which KEVIC's school has supported this exhibition, and that Miranda's work will be an inspiration to the many young students who came to see her paintings.
Due to all the donations, print sales and the raffle we raised over £1500 on the evening for Miranda's Fund. This money together with that already raised will go towards helping young people in the south devon area to improve their lives though Art and Music. We have been talking with a number of individuals who specialise in art and music training in the Dartmouth area and are working together to put on an event in 2016 to help young people. More details will follow as they are finalised.
Congratulations to the two raffle winners who were:
Lady in a Gown print: Jane Todd
Michael Jackson print: Sue Haddow
Upstairs, the four large paintings
Downstairs during the evening
An art connoisseur
Two of Miranda's brothers: William & Jamie providing the music
A gentleman regards the print list
Anyone for a brew?
Ariel Centre Exhibition Dec 2015
Miranda died at the start of 2015 aged 32. Instead of sending flowers we asked people to donate to Cool Recovery, a local mental health charity which worked with families and young people. Cool closed in June 2015 due to lack of adequate funding, the money donated has been set aside in the name of Miranda's Fund while we research the best way of using it.
We have decided to use Miranda's Fund for local young people who want to make changes in their lives, who may feel lonely, affected by mental health issues, bullying, emotional stress or need support after bereavement. Experience has shown us that the most effective way to help people is to keep it simple, be flexible, responsive and to do things that are creative, constructive and fun such as:
- Vocational breaks for young people
- Space and opportunity to explore and make changes
- Art, craft, drama and music workshops
- Fun events
The Ariel Centre in Totnes has kindly offered to hold an exhibition of Miranda’s work, she was a former pupil of Kennicott 6th Form College. She held an exhibition and workshop for 6th form art students in 2013 under the title 'Come fly with me’. We have kept this title to convey a message of inspiration to young people to find their own potential. We want to tell Miranda's story, her passion for painting and her compassion for others in difficulty.
All proceeds from print sales of Miranda's work and future fund raising will go towards Miranda's Fund.
Ariel Centre - December open day
We are holding an open day at the Ariel Centre on Saturday the 5th of December, 3.30pm - 10.30pm
There will be music, food and drinks, and of course Miranda's paintings will be on display.
Please come and spend the afternoon with us in Totnes:
Upcoming shows - Ariel Centre - Totnes - December 2015
A selection of Miranda's artwork is currently on show at Kennicott sixth form college, Totnes and will remain until November 2015.
A show is planned form 30th Nov - 17th Dec 2015 at the Ariel Centre Totnes Devon TQ9 5JX.
There will be a special event to celebrate Miranda's life and work on saturday the 5th of December at the Ariel centre 3pm - 10pm. Further details will be made availble shortly but we are planning an afternoon of music, entertainment and socialising. We would love to see you there, all are welcome!
River Dart 10K Swim - Sunday 6th of September
Claudia Benzies, Sue Hadow and Charlotte Massey will be swimming the Dart 10K in September to raise money for Miranda's Fund! These aquatic adventurers have been training relentlessly for the past 6 months in all manner of inclement and challenging conditions. The Blackawton Water Babes have adopted a swimming style relatively new to swimming, the total immersion technique will propel them at speeds hereto unknown in the Blackawton swimming fraternity.
Please show your support for the Blackawton Water Babes by donating to Miranda's Fund using the link above. If you would like to splash them on, they can be found floundering on the 6th of Sep on the stretch of Dart between Totnes & Dittisham.
Update & photo's to follow....
Miranda's news postings from 2014 below:
Led by Elizabeth Murton this is a fantastic chance to see other artist's work. It is an opportunity to see how other artist's practice.
Participating Artists were:
Sasha Bowles, Susan Sluglett, Nicholas Feldmeye, Karen Ay
From pavement cracks to vistas, changing your style to trying to work out what your main focus is - we covered it all!
There was an interesting idea that ran throughtout about artist's backing themselves into corners. Taking a route then realizing you want to do something different. We came to the conclusion (I think!) that this is no bad thing, just part and parcel of being an artist. A nice...big...challenge.
One of my favourite artists! This collection is made up of his late silvered bronze sculptures and paintings and drawings.
The drawing on the left is from the silvered bronze sculpture
the Architecture Muse, 1974. This is a woman made from classical Greek Architecture.
The drawing on the right is one of the figures from the painting
Hector and Andromach, 1942, oil on canvas.
Most of the figures in the show have strange alien heads...
Shortlisted for the Art Gemini Prize at Rebecca Hossack Gallery, 2a Conway St, Fitzroy Square, London W1T 6BA
My work will be shown at the gallery from the 23rd Jan to 7th Feb 2014.
I really enjoyed this show. I especially liked Simon Ling's large urban paintings. They are raw with real energy. They seem to be painted on an orange impremitura which gives them life. I'm sure I have seen him painting on the street on Hackney Road... It is interesting that all five painters are dealing with trompe l'oeil; there is a figurative element to all of them to varying degrees.
Although not a massive fan of Whistler i'm really glad I got to this show. Visiting the day before it closed was unwise as I had to que for an hour - however this gave me a chance to really look at the impressive collection in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. I was particularly taken by portraits by Murilo and a Tudor painting of The Judd Marriage (British School) As for the Whistlers how - I really liked his small detailed sketches of the Thames, most of them are postcard size, intimate and atmospheric. There were some really interesting photographs showing how the Thames looked just over100 years ago - its fascinating to see what has changed.
This painting absolutely fascinates me. The detail is incredible. Its only when I draw from this painting that I notice details that I otherwise overlooked. I am currently doing a small painting of Henry in his bed to look at techniques. Unfortunately we don't know who the artist is...
National Portrait Gallery: Medieval Collection, focusing on narrative portrait of Sir Henry Unton 1557-96
Last night I went to see artist filmaker John Smith's films at the Barbican. The show was part of a two week programme of films Urban Wandering - Film and the Landscape.
FIlms shown: Girl Chewing gum, Hackney Marshes, The Black tower, Blight and Lost sound.
I was interested to hear in the interview when he was asked, why London? He simply replied that this was his surroundings, it was familiar to him - in fact most of the films are shot within a 5 mile radius of Dalston. However the films aren't necessarily about London -they could be about 'things'.
I also found it really interesting how he makes a virtue out of the mundane topography of London. In Lost Sound he films the bleakest of places, rundown estates - London streets on bleak rainy evenings. These places are given individuality by found cassette tape (loose from the reel) and played revealing one person’s musical taste and reliving the time when it was played.
The image is from The Black Tower, (1985/7)
I came across Enrique's photographs of Arcimboldo's motifs - it is great to seem them portraied in a new way. As a painter these assembleges made from real things look like still-lifes ready to be painted.
Conceptually his idea is interesting too
"Painting has the inalienable ability to create a fantasy completely removed from reality," said Enrique. "Photography arguably lacks that trait, but in return it provides a picture of reality that the most consummate photorealist can hardly match. This series brings a fantasy back to life."
I also find it interesting that the faces are famous people - 'Pushing beyond the realm of Arcimboldo's scope, Enrique's work has moved into the arena of contemporary visual culture through his reinterpretations of icons like Darth Vader, Princess Diana, and Ghandi.'
Klaus Enrique, Primavera (Medium), Photographic print, 30 x 40 in, Edition of 3
Constable v Turner at the National Gallery
Last night I went to a talk at the National Gallery – Turner V Constable. Constable is one of my favourite artists. Having the two compared was interesting and helped me understand more what it is I like about Constable. For me it is his skies that I absolutely love, just the studies on the red imprematura of the canvas are fantastic – there is a real life to them, he captures their uniformity and randomness and their depths of colour. We looked at the Hay Wain – probably his most famous painting. This painting has never really grabbed me but looking closely at it there is an incredible amount of detail and a lot going on. Standing in front of it you feel like you have entered the scene, the detail allowing you to time travel and become part of the scene. Moving on Turner's Deriding Polyphemus and Rain, Steam and Speed the works are impressionistic, high impact but for me lack the detail that really draws me in. We looked at Calais Pier, one of Turners early turbulent sea scenes. Bedraggled passengers are lined down the pier which seems to jut out of the canvas into your space. One of the most interesting differences between the artists is that Turner travelled as much as he possibly could whilst Constable didn’t, preferring to paint his immediate surroundings. The Tate just bought Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows has been bought by the Tate for £23.1m which is apparently the most ever paid for an English painting…
Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows 1831
'I beg your parden, I never promised you a herb garden'
Idea and led by artist Emma Edmondson
Hack the Barbican at Barbican Centre, London 29 - 31 August 2013
'Make fresh herbal tea, make your mark on the art work by adding a topic of conversation to the teapot and discussing things with fellow tea drinking strangers.' (Emma Edmondson)
I was selected to paint an egg for the Big Lindt Egg Hunt that went on tour around the country.
Inspired by the idea of birth and new beginnings I adopted the Millennium Bridge as a celebration of a new era. The bridge encompassing the egg
symbolises the cycle of life. It is an attraction that everbody can access and the people that are crossing it mirror the families that are out egg hunting.
The egg was sold at auction and proceeds went to the Action for Children charity.