Our VIStory: Learning from our past to look to our future

Newcastle Rotary Club's Annual Outing for the Blind
Some of the officials and guests ready for Newcastle Rotary Club's annual outing to Whitley Bay

Heritage Grants

Newcastle upon Tyne, North East
Newcastle Vision Support
Visually impaired volunteers investigated the 150-year-old history of their society to learn more about blind heritage in the North East

Founded in 1867, Newcastle Vision Support (formerly Newcastle Society for Blind People) provides support for those affected by loss of sight. To celebrate their 150th anniversary year, they launched a National Lottery supported project to digitise their archives and research the history of their organisation to champion the role that visually impaired people have played in the North East’s history.

Newcastle Vision Support’s collection, containing organisational documents from annual reports to poetry, was scanned and uploaded onto a publically accessible website. 12 volunteers also undertook oral history training and interviewed 15 key members of the society to record their stories. Volunteers also visited Newcastle University and the Literary and Philosophical Society to undertake further research.

To share this important learning more widely and showcase their work, a celebratory event was held at the Copthrone Hotel and a four week exhibition and conference at Newcastle City Library. A book based on their research includes the background to the organisation’s foundation, perceptions of visual impairments and the achievements of notable visually impaired members including James Clydesdale (1879-1962), who became the first blind Lord Mayor of Newcastle in 1945.

Bill Norman, Project Officer said  “Thanks to National Lottery Funding, it’s been wonderful to work with enthusiastic people both visually impaired and sighted, who have been willing to go the extra mile to reveal this hidden history.”