Friday, 19 April 2024
Friday, 19 April 2024

Historic Disability Rights Movement to be archived, thanks to lottery grant

SHAPE Arts is celebrating after being awarded a £840,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to explore the heritage of the Disability Rights Movement. 

The historic movement was integral to achieving the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, which transformed the rights and changed the lives of disabled people. Many had played a part in this historic achievement, but these stories are at risk of being lost forever if they aren’t documented and archived.

The four-year project will record and digitise these unique social history and heritage stories. These will be used to create an accessible and interactive website that is dedicated to the story of the Disability Rights Movement in the UK. The website will:

  • digitise and preserve collections of key figures from the Disability Rights Movement
  • build an e-learning portal with a full suite of accessible assets including gaming, zines and graphic novels for younger audiences
  • catalogue and create an extensive collection of oral history films

The project will add to the National Disability Arts Collection & Archive (NDACA), created by Shape Arts through a previous Heritage Fund project in 2018. A walk-in learning zone will be created at Peckham Library and people can engage with the project across the UK with the ‘Off the bus tour’. A Routemaster bus will visit locations throughout 2025, sharing these stories through a mobile cinema. These will take place in 2025, 30 years after the Disability Discrimination Act was passed.

Some of the stories and collections that will be preserved will be available to see for the first time and include some key figures from the historic movement:

  • The Keith Armstrong Collection – following Armstrong’s death in 2019, a legacy of agitprop activist materials has been left.  His personal campaigns ranged from fighting for accessible transport to begging in the streets for income to cover his personal assistance access costs
  • The Agnes Fletcher and Adam Thomas collection – the couple met on rights demonstrations and have a wealth of ephemera including huge, hand-made protest banners
  • The Penny Pepper diaries – Pepper was a long-time rights activist and kept diaries of her day-to-day fights for access and inclusion from the 1980s to present
  • The Allan Sutherland collection – Sutherland was a leading activist from the early 1980s and was lead media officer on the Block Telethon demonstrations
  • The Le Court Film Unit – 1960s films that are at the beginning of the modern rights movement
  • The Blast TV oral history interviews – with key players of the Movement from the 1970s onward including Baroness Jane Campbell, Alia Hassan, John Evans and Micheline Mason

Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“We are delighted to support Shape Arts with their project exploring the heritage of the Disability Rights Movement, thanks to National Lottery players. This movement was integral to achieving social change in the UK. By documenting this movement and making these historical resources fully accessible to all, we will ensure that these currently hidden histories are secured forever. This will help us all to learn more about each other and our differing personal lives, experiences and memories.”

When the NDACA was created by Shape Arts, it wanted to bring to life the heritage and rich history of the UK Disability Arts Movement. To date, the site has reached more than 8 million people. In 2020, Shape Arts received additional funding to create the National Disability Movement Archive and Collection (NDMAC), focusing on the British Disability Rights Movement. This new project will continue to build on these successes.

Baroness Jane Campbell, patron for the project and a pivotal figure in the movement itself said:

“I am delighted to be the patron of The National Disability Movement Archive & Collection (NDMAC) – to be funded by the Heritage Fund and delivered by Shape Arts. This project will build on the very successful work of The National Disability Arts Collection and Archive. NDMAC will collate and preserve the personal stories, individual memories, and protest memorabilia of the disability rights activists throughout their campaign for antidiscrimination legislation, delivery, and practice.

“This enterprise will celebrate their efforts to transform society’s response to disabled people from medical cure or segregated services to one of a civil right to be fully included in society as equal citizens! Having been an active voice in this civil rights movement, and now as an independent member of the House of Lords, it’s with genuine delight that I will be hosting NDMAC in Parliament when it goes live in 2025.”

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the UK’s largest funder of heritage projects, with almost £3.3billion awarded to over 15,000 projects in London & South since 1994. They support a wide range of projects including historic buildings and monuments; community and cultural heritage; and landscape and nature.


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