Sky is the Limit for Royston artist Emma after mum’s film goes global

PUBLISHED: 17:59 23 January 2018 | UPDATED: 18:09 23 January 2018

Emma Anderson's mum Mirka made a film about her which has been getting international attention at film festivals. Picture: Danny Loo

Emma Anderson's mum Mirka made a film about her which has been getting international attention at film festivals. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

The achievements of a Royston woman with Down’s syndrome are the subject of a short film that has been picked up by festivals around the world – and it was made by the 33-year-old’s own mum.

Emma Anderson is an accomplished artist who paints and sculpts – and has had her work showcased at the Tate Modern and other London galleries.

When she was born at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge, her mum Mirka was told that she had the chromosome disorder Down’s syndrome.

Mirka said: “The idea of showing the world what my daughter could do started by the second day of Emma’s existence, when the doctor told me I could leave her at the hospital if I wanted, because she had this condition so ‘she’ll never do anything anyway’. Needless to say, I took my baby home.

“When she was younger, we were told she couldn’t go to a normal playgroup with other children. I pushed for her to go to the mainstream group and in the end she did – I am from communist Poland so we are used to jumping red tape. Throughout her schooling all I asked for was for her to be given a chance.

Emma with mum Mirka Anderson who made a film about Emma which has been getting international attention at film festivals. Picture: Danny LooEmma with mum Mirka Anderson who made a film about Emma which has been getting international attention at film festivals. Picture: Danny Loo

“Emma has her challenges, mainly with socialising and social isolation, and sadly she has been marginalised all her life because people don’t know how to be with her – she needs things relayed to her in a simple, clear way and people these days don’t have time for that.”

Mirka moved to England 46 years ago from Poland, and she and her family moved to Royston 15 years ago from Bassingbourn. Emma has sisters Caroline, 41 and Sophie 27, who do not have the condition.

She attends the Rowan Foundation art studio in Cambridge – for adults with special needs – where she works with clay and develops her drama skills.

Retired speech and language therapist mum Mirka said: “Emma is so creative. She has a fantastic energy and comes out with the funniest and the most insightful things, she has a much higher perception of the world than we do.

Emma with her work. Picture: Danny LooEmma with her work. Picture: Danny Loo

“For example, she went to have a look at a care home in Stevenage – just because a social worker wanted her to – and she told the person showing her around that it was nice, but when we got home she said that she didn’t want to go, saying: ‘in a care home I’d get care, but here I get love’.

“And when she was younger she had an eight-hour heart operation. I said you are a fighter you are strong, she said ‘I know I am strong – I am Polish’.”

As well as her family, art, and dancing – mainly to disco anthems – Emma does have another love in her life.

“She is in love with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith,” Mirka said.

“She drags me to his concerts, and I have had to sit with her to see him in the rain.”

The film which is making waves around the globe is called The Sky is the Limit, which was also produced by Cambs-based film editor Juan Ballesteros.

The 25-minute piece has won accolades at four film fesitvals so far, in Chile, USA, Spain – and on Sunday they found out they had won silver at the presentation ceremony at the World Human Rights Film Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. They both plan to attend the ceremony on April 19.

She said: “Facing this challenge was the best decision of my life and it has educated me in ways I never thought possible – and this journey is now taking us to Jakarta.

“I have had lots of interest from midwives and people who want to learn more about the condition.

“We go to Tesco every Sunday, and people, including children and teenagers, stare at Emma because they aren’t being made aware of this condition. I’m terrible – I stare back at them!

“It’s a lack of awareness from a society which should know better – after all, we are all different aren’t we?”

For more information on the film, or about challenges of Down’s syndrome itself, email mirkieran@hotmail.com.

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