Madhouse: My House?

Lee giving a guided tour of the MADHOUSE my house?

Heritage Grants

LONDON, London
Access All Areas
Designed to connect learning disabled people with their heritage, this project delivered a training programme, website and exhibition, sharing the social history of learning disability in an accessible way.

 The delivery of inclusive and training is the specific focus of this case study.

Access All Areas (AAA) is an award-winning charity working alongside adults with learning disabilities, based in London. AAA received a grant of £51,900 (86% of project costs) to run the ‘MADHOUSE, My House?’ project, a three-year digital and creative learning programme that led to an exhibition at Hackney Museum.

Partnerships with the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group, Open University, Hackney Museum and Rix Research & Media Centre, University of East London secured expertise in heritage, digital skills and accessible training and contributed to the success of the project.

Completed in 2018, the project explored the history of institutionalisation, inspired by the work of disability activist and former long-stay hospital patient Mabel Cooper. The participants, the self-named ‘residents’, learnt about institutions, built their own creative responses to the heritage, and used their learning to consider their place in society today.

The project challenged perceptions and emphasised the relevance of heritage to modern life, whilst placing people with learning disabilities at the centre of activity and decision-making. A performance-based on the research and supported by Arts Council England ran in 2018.

Making a difference

With our investment the project achieved against our skills outcome in a number of ambitious ways:

  • Eight people with learning disabilities formed a core group and developed and practised heritage skills in research, oral history interviewing and working with archives. With the support of the Social History of Learning Disability Group, participants shared their research with academics and developed transferable communication and presentation skills.
  • Demonstrating best practice, 12 learning disabled facilitators achieved a Level 2 qualification in leading workshops and delivered an extensive programme of workshops, inspiring and building an understanding of heritage for other people with learning disabilities as well as 12 museum staff and 35 teachers. Once accredited, workshop leaders were paid to develop and deliver workshops, as budgeted in the project application.
  • Using the research, the residents helped inform an exhibition at Hackney Museum, interpreting heritage for a new audience. Tours of the exhibition by the residents helped a wider range of people learn about the history of long-stay hospitals.
  • Two residents trained as evaluators and were paid for the work they did to assist Prof Jan Walmsley and Dr Sue Ledger to evaluate the project.
  • Six of the residents learned skills in wiki building, helping to produce an online legacy for the project and exhibition and helping others learn about it. These new skills allowed three participants to progress into employment at RIX as Co-Archivists, where they digitised Mencap records and contributed to the Inclusive Archive website.
  • A ‘Making Heritage Accessible’ project guide is helping to build learning amongst people who work in heritage and contributing to the resilience of the sector.

Lessons Learnt

The need for more time was a key issue. Curating the digital footage for the wiki and preparing trainers to deliver workshops was time consuming. By being flexible and allowing extra time, the grantee ensured that all resources were always co-created by the residents.

Thanks to the success of this project, AAA now use paid learning disabled trainers and co-facilitators across all their work.