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Heritage Lottery funding secured to establish Paralympic heritage centre at Stoke Mandeville

By Tom Anstey    14 Jul 2017
stage during the Olympic and Paralympic athletes heroes' return in London. / Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded the National Paralympic Heritage Trust £1m (US$1.3m, €1.1m) to establish a heritage centre in the UK chronicling the history of the Paralympic movement.

Paralympic sport dates back to 1948, when Dr Ludwig Guttman, director of the UK’s first specialist unit for treating spinal injuries, organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games. Guttman was a figurehead for the establishment of the Paralympic Games, which were held for the first time in Rome in 1960.

The new heritage centre will tell this story, right up to today’s modern Paralympic athletes and the recent Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

The centre's exhibition will be developed by Mather & Co at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium – the National Centre for Disability Sport in the United Kingdom – in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Exhibitions will include artefacts including Guttmann’s surgical box, medals from the first games and a wide range of equipment and memorabilia.

As part of the centre’s funding, its entire collection will be digitised to be preserved for future generations. The collection will also be archived, catalogued and shared to reach the widest audience possible. Additionally, a nationwide programme of regional exhibitions will also be rolled out in Norwich, Manchester, Bradford, Bath, and London to share the Paralympic story with people across the UK.

“My first recollection of Stoke Mandeville was from the 1967 National Games when as a 17-year-old I saw wheelchair basketball being played. Looking back, I recall a small area of not too attractive land sandwiched between the back of a large hospital and a railway embankment,” said Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee.

“To think that this is where the unique paralympic sporting spirit was born, fuelled by the human energy of the athletes, coaches and volunteers, and to know now that this fiery furnace of positive human energy will be remembered forever makes me very happy.”

In addition to HLF funding, the Trust has also received support from the Wellcome Trust, Aylesbury Vale Community Chest, Spirit of 2012, Association of Independent Museums, Heart of Bucks/Bucks Freemasons, Transform Foundation, the Rothschild Foundation and Arts Council England.

“Sports heritage has a wide appeal to the British Public and we are enormously grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their continuing support, enabling us to bring the story of Dr Guttmann and the development of the Paralympic movement to a wide range of audiences,” said Paul Mainds, chair of the National Paralympic Heritage Fund.

“While our first job is to protect the unique heritage that could so easily be lost, the real satisfaction will be to share the inspiration of the history which is literally ‘life changing’ and to help break down some of the surviving barriers.”

Over the course of the next five years, the National Paralympic Heritage Trust – made up of the British Paralympic Association, WheelPower Sport, Aylesbury Vale District Council and Buckinghamshire County Council – will continue in its fundraising effort, seeking a further £400,000 (US$518,000, €454,000) to further expand the project.

Mather & Co are behind the heritage centre
Over the course of the next five years, the National Paralympic Heritage Trust will continue in its fundraising effort, seeking a further £400,000 to complete the project
As part of the centre’s funding, its entire collection will be digitised to be preserved for future generations
The centre will be developed at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium – the National Centre for Disability Sport in the United Kingdom
Stoke Mandeville  Heritage Lottery Fund  Paralympic  museum  heritage  disability sport  Ludwig Guttman 
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