Jennifer's Christmas Blog Post

Hidden Lives Remembered has achieved a lot in the last 6 months since we have started, but as we approach Christmas I think of what it must have been like for those living in Hampton Manor and Middlefield. How did they celebrate Christmas? Did they have Christmas dinner? Did they have their own presents? What about New Year’s Eve?

This project has really made me think about people’s lives and how lucky I am in a way that I wasn’t put into an institution by my family and to even have a family. I can’t understand why people with a Learning Disability have to be treated differently to everyone else, we are still people, and still have feelings, still able to make our own choices and decisions in life.

In this time we have set up a project steering group with volunteers and our service users, and we meet up to discus ideas and plan for events, such as the launch event that we recently held. We had Oral History Training with Jan Walmsley and I have been training those in Oral History that couldn’t come to this initial training session. This training prepares our volunteers for interviewing people about their stories. We also had Archives Training at the Warwickshire County Records Office and will hopefully be going again in January.

The project started in June and got underway about July time and we have had lots of interest since from other organisations. We went to an exhibition at The Mac based on a project working with people with learning disabilities in the prison system. They were put into prisons for committing a crime, but the crime they committed could have been them crying for help. We also went to CASBA’s exhibition on Monyhull Hospital and it was lovely to meet Joe and to be able to share ideas with each other.

We had a lovely coffee morning at a support home where some of the ladies who used to live at Hampton Manor now live, and we will be working with them to do more interviews in the new year. It has been more difficult finding and interviewing former Middlefield residents. Unfortunately some have already passed away, including Lesley and George who we lost this year. However, we have interviewed quite a few people that worked at Middlefield or were involved in the moving out process so far. We will be working with more residential homes in the new year to interview some former Middlefield residents.

One particular highlight for me was going to Knowle and seeing the foundation stone of Middlefield.

Kathy and I also recorded an interview discussing the project and the human rights of people with learning disabilities. This was for the brilliant Rightful Lives online exhibition.

We have done so much over the last 6 months and as said we have had so much interest on our Twitter page and we had a really good turnout at our Launch Event. We had pictures of those residents that were at Middlefield and Hampton Manor but no longer with us, and some information about them and things that they liked. Claire and I gave a speech about the project, one of our service users also gave a speech and another service user wanted to lead a prayer service for those that are no longer with us. It was a really great way of getting people involved in our project and for them to see what we are doing and what the project is about.

George, who sadly passed away this year

Harold (left) and John, best friends and former Middlefield residents, with Janet, SAtA’s Founder Patron.

I am very proud of what we have achieved so far.

I would like to wish everyone that has worked on the project and has been there along the way, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.