Leonard Cheshire Disability has received £53,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a project to raise awareness of the history of disabled people. The Leonard Cheshire Disability Archive project will demonstrate the changes in how disabled people lived their lives and increase access to archive materials. It will generate oral history with people who had contact with and experience of the charity’s founder Leonard Cheshire and the services. It also aims to increase the confidence of disabled people to talk about their experiences of care and capture a unique part of our social history.
The development funding awarded by the HLF will enable the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people to carry out vital conservation work, digitise the ‘Le Court collection’ from Leonard Cheshire’s first service and capture oral history interviews with disabled people. The archive project will create an accessible web portal and allow on-line public access to the collections for the first time.
A community engagement programme is also planned and will run in six locations in the home counties of Surrey, Sussex and Kent, with trained volunteers assisting community groups to share memories and experiences.
The project will use the archive materials from Le Court which was purpose built for its disabled residents. Le Court had a film unit, radio station, publishers, archive and artists group run by disabled people and played a role in the beginnings of the disability rights movement.
Leonard Cheshire Disability archivist Stephanie Nield said: ‘We have a rich and diverse archive and as a result, the heritage we hold from Le Court forms a unique part of a rarely documented social history. Our founder, Leonard Cheshire, started our charity in 1948 with a single act of kindness when he took disabled veteran Arthur Dykes into his own home to care for him. This is an important step in helping us shape our history to share this amazing story with the world.’