Disabled Living, one of Manchester’s oldest charities,has announced the official launch of its brand new exhibition From Donkeys to Innovators.

Opening on Tuesday 10 April at the charity’s Redbank House in Cheetham Hill, this celebration of the charity’s rich history – told through rarely seen archive images, blogs, newly commissioned films and historical documents – pays homage to the charity’s remarkable legacy.

This permanent display will have several public open days throughout the year in which these often unheard voices, unique stories and changing experiences of disabled people from across the UK can be shared and preserved.

Actress Cherylee Houston, best known for playing Coronation Street’s Izzy Armstrong since 2010, has narrated and appears in one of three new films specially commissioned for the exhibition. This particular film – to be screened at the exhibition launch – gives a unique platform and a voice to young disabled people who talk about their experiences and hopes for the future.

The film has also been made primarily by the young people themselves, over a training weekend in which they learned editing and filming skills. It also afforded them the opportunity to meet with and interview older people with disabilities to create a film in which two generations compare and discuss the differences and challenges of living with disabilities. The additional two films chart and bring to life the charity’s past up to the present day.

Rare archive images are also going on display to showcase the charity‘s extensive timeline, its name changes and the varied roles it has played in enhancing the lives of thousands of people of all ages with disabilities from across the country.

From the introduction of the first ever wheelchair loan service in 1903, to the opening of Peacefields in Marple, a children’s respite holiday home in 1913 that developed into the Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital, to its first residential home for disabled adults in North Wales in 1949 – these largely unseen photographs will illustrate how Disabled Living has played an integral and vital role in both the UK’s social history – from its early beginnings as the Band of Kindness and Children’s Help Society – and also in the support of disabled children and adults’ independence.

An unfortunate fire in 2009 resulted in the loss of many of the organisation’s precious archive materials. But true to the charity’s indomitable spirit and survival instinct, and invaluable support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Disabled Living has been able rebuild its heritage.

It has spent much of its past 120th anniversary year of 2017, running events and opportunities in order to create From Donkeys to Innovators. These events have enabled past and present services users, volunteers, employees, and partner organisations to come forwards with their stories, experiences, archive materials and images so that they can be both preserved and featured in this brand new exhibition. All archive material will be saved and safely maintained in Manchester Central Library’s Archives+.

Debra Evans, Chief Executive of Disabled Living, comments: “Disability heritage has been very poorly documented in the past, and whilst improvements are being made, it is still very much a hidden heritage. We are so proud of all we have achieved since launching 120 years ago and that through this exhibition, we can finally show off the many lives we have supported and enhanced over the years. There are incredible stories from of the individuals involved both past and present with Disabled Living which up until now have remained untold or largely unheard. So it is really great we can launch this exhibition to celebrate and share our heritage, preserving it for the future and demonstrating what a great impact the charity has had, and hope it will continue to have, in years to come.”


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