Paralympic Region – a Project for London 2012

Paralympic Region is a project that is celebrating Buckinghamshire as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement. It is part of a South East programme called Accentuate which is funded by Legacy Trust UK and SEEDA who are nationally creating a cultural and sporting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Accentuate is a transformational programme inspired by the Paralympic movement which seeks to change perceptions and offer opportunities to showcase the talents of deaf and disabled people.

In the lead up to London 2012, the Paralympic Region project will celebrate the birth of the Paralympic movement at Stoke Mandeville through a range of activities involving past and present Paralympians, disabled artists, school children, young people and local residents.

Paralympic Region is made up of a number of different, but linked projects and at the core is the history of the development of the Paralympic movement at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The part of the project looking at this story is called ‘The Guttmann Legacy’. It starts with investigating the existing collections held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium by Wheelpower: British Wheelchair Sport and IWAS, the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation, and those of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Through contemporary collecting of memorabilia and reminiscences locally and more widely, and interpreting selected parts of the collection, the true story of how the Paralympic movement began will be uncovered. Additionally, we are supporting 9 other museum, archive and gallery collections across the South East relating to disability and rehabilitation to support the Stoke Mandeville work.

In addition to the collections work described above, we will be undertaking a number of creative projects that are inspired by the story of the pioneering work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and help to raise awareness about disability. One of these is ‘Driving Inspiration’, a Creative Bucks project, which is creating an artistic legacy celebrating the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and raising the profile of the disability arts sector in schools and communities. This exciting project brings together Paralympians, disabled artists and disabled and non-disabled young people. Telling the stories of the Paralympians and the origins of the Paralympics, this project leads to dance, visual arts, creative writing, music and film. Driving Inspiration is about inspiring young people to identify and fulfil their own dreams and develop their skills. It gives new role models and aspirations. Through our website, international collaborations with other schools will be possible too. In addition to this schools project, we would like to run other creative projects with other parts of the community, including patients at the Spinal Unit.

All the projects we are working on, and the stories we uncover, will be featured on a dedicated website. This digital archive will incorporate personal stories, historical records, interpretations, memories and much more and will be launched in the Spring of 2011.