We were really pleased to hear that the National Paralympic Heritage Trust has been successful in its application to the HLF for funding to create a new visitor centre at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.
We worked with the Trust in 2016 to consult deaf and disabled people, and the wider public, on how the story of the Paralympic Movement can best be told, and on how the many people involved in the movement - athletes, coaches, staff, friends and family - can share their stories and artefacts.
The history of the early Paralympic Movement, started in 1948 by Dr Ludwig Guttmann at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in not widely known, despite the BBC drama, The Best of Men, that came out in 2012 to tie in with the London Olympics. How it then developed from those early days of inter-hospital competition to the major international games that it is today is not known at all.
It was a fascinating project for us to be involved with, talking with Paralympians about their experiences, and the conditions of travel, sporting life and competition in the 60s, 70s and 80s, when international competition was getting off the ground, but the conditions were pretty basic! It’s worth a read of some of the personal testimony on the Paralympic Heritage website for the detail!
The success of the HLF application will enable a small visitor centre to be created at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, telling the story of the Paralympic Movement; an archive and collection to be created at Buckinghamshire County Museum; and, critically, exhibitions and community activity to take place across the UK. The Paralympics may have started in Buckinghamshire, but its success means that there are now Paralympians across the UK and the world with a history to share and archive so that this very significant area of disability history doesn’t get lost.