The 1984 Paralympic Games was a significant turning point in the history of the Games.  With just 4 months to go, the host city for the Wheelchair Games pulled out leaving the competition in danger of being cancelled. The Aylesbury community however stepped in to support the invitation to hold the wheelchair Games at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and the many stories of residents’ generously offering their spare rooms and camping spaces for athletes and officials at very short notice are stories that this community will investigate further and ensure are never forgotten.

Find out about our other community workshops here


Bartlett’s Residential Home, Stone

Meet the Paralympian: 26th October 2021

When resident Hilda Duncan was approaching her 105th birthday recently and preparing to complete her latest birthday challenge which involved walking 105 laps of the beautiful gardens at her home at Bartlett’s Residential Home in Stone, she had a secret wish.  She wanted to meet a Paralympian swimmer, hear their story and see their gold medal. With the help of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust and funding from the HS2 Community and Environment Fund, Hilda was granted her wish when she and some of her friends at Bartlett’s Residential Home were introduced to nine times Paralympic Champion, Robin Surgeoner.  On the morning of Hilda’s birthday, Robin visited her and her fellow residents and told them about his journey to become a Paralympic swimmer and shared his medals and memorabilia with them all.


Alongside her love of swimming, Hilda is a keen poet and it turned out that this is something else she has in common with Robin, who since retiring as a competitive swimmer has developed as an accomplished poet, songwriter and storyteller. So, Robin will be returning to Bartlett’s with his guitar before Christmas to explore the creative energy of Hilda and some of her fellow residents and perhaps uncover some of the forgotten stories relating to the 73 year long history of the Paralympic Games.

Poetry and song workshop: 22nd December 2021

Robin Surgeoner returned to Bartlett’s with his guitar before Christmas to explore the creative energy of Hilda and some of her fellow residents with a workshop of poetry and song. In this engaging and fun workshop residents explored the different phases of life, recalling moments in their youth and the blessings of new life, especially after the Pandemic. Residents enjoyed recalling their own parenting experiences and discussed the enduring nature of respect through the ages and across diverse societies.  Robin introduced a number of styles of poetry to encourage the imagination of the Residents to blossom and from these exercises came charming and personal flourishes which celebrated their own memories, observations and friendships.  Residents were invited to attend a virtual tour of the Heritage Centre at the end of their project and a small gathering came to celebrate with us on the Bucks Open Weekend in July when more singing took place alongside local theatre group “I Have a Voice Too”.

As a celebration of this project a small pamphlet of poems has been created entitled “United Generations” in partnership with The Radstone Primary School in Brackley who were lucky enough to also work with Robin on the “Stories From ….” Project.


Do you think the project changed how participants think about disability?

Yes, they [now] enjoy doing more exercises to keep themselves fit with support and encouragement

Booker Park School

Project introduction: 1st April 2022

The theme for this project with was the history of the Paralympic mascots and one of our work placements, Christy, created an informed and fun video to share across the school (Booker Park is a large primary special school in Aylesbury for children with a diverse range of complex learning needs). The video showed some of the mascots we have on display at the Heritage Centre.  Students learned more about the different designs and characters that were created for the Games in an assembly led by staff and volunteers.  They were introduced to the very first Paralympic Mascot, Dan D. lion from 1984 and met Someity from Tokyo 2020.  Mandeville from London 2012 was a special attraction!

Artist workshop: 4th & 18th May 2022

Students were then introduced to Jess Starns an artist working on the Stories from Buckinghamshire project who helped students to work on collaborative designs of their own to create unique colouring in sheets to be shared across the rest of the school. 



Jess then demonstrated the technique of lightform projection to create a slide show exhibition of the mascot designs for the students to watch. You can see how the exhibition was created in the video below.

Goalball session: 8th June 2022

To complete the project students had a great morning learning about the history of goalball and its evolution as a Paralympic sport from TeamGB goalball athlete Lois Turner who then led a session teaching the students how to play the game. Lois brought along her guide dog Buster who was a popular addition to the day.



Stoke Mandeville Primary School

Meet the Paralympian with John Harris and Artist workshop with Clarke Reynolds: March 2023

The Stories from Buckinghamshire project came to Stoke Mandeville Primary School where Year 3 learned all about their local Paralympic heritage through photographs and videos as well as visits to the displays at the Heritage Centre. They saw first-hand where the early Games took place and where in 1984 the Games returned when the host city in America pulled out with just 4 months to go.  They found out how local people rallied around the Games and made it possible to host over a thousand competitors, their coaches and support teams at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.



They learnt about the first wheelchair marathon that took place on the streets of Aylesbury in 1984 and met John Harris, the Paralympian who took the Athlete’s Oath at the 1984 Games and heard the story of how he won the gold medal in the discus.  His story had them captivated with many humorous and humbling anecdotes which inspired many thoughtful questions from the students.

As a synthesis of the learning that the students had already experienced on the project, a lasting impression was physically realised when they met and worked with the Blind Braille Artist, Clarke Reynolds, who, using the 1984 Games as inspiration created a braille brickwall with year 3 for the whole school to engage in.  The tactile wall will be a permanent art-work in the school and offer students the opportunity to test their skills in reading braille and remind them of the importance of their local Paralympic heritage as well as the impact that a community coming together in 1984 had on the lives of so many.

Stoke Mandeville Secondary School

Mandeville School Charter Day: 5th December 2022

To launch our “Stories from Buckinghamshire” project with The Mandeville School we were delighted to be invited to support their Charter Day on Monday 5th December.  Students across the secondary school met Paralympic Champion discus thrower John Harris and explored themes around personal growth and self-belief as they reflected on his story.  Year 7 students then participated in a Boccia tournament with volunteer Graham White who told them more about this inclusive and competitive sport, and they also heard about the Paralympic collection in the Buckinghamshire archives from Community Engagement Officer Callum Walker.  The day concluded with a history assembly which helped to put the learning across the day into context.  It was a rewarding experience for all concerned and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the school on the next stage of the project.



Pebble Brook School

Assembly: Wednesday 16th November 2022


The launch of this project was a whole school assembly which enabled students of all ages, and the staff across the school, to learn about their local history.  Time for questions at the end of the session made it clear that students had engaged with the themes discussed and many staff reflected that they had not known the story of how the Paralympic Games evolved in Stoke Mandeville.

Meet the Paralympian: Friday 16th December 2022

Next the students were invited to meet Paralympian Robin Surgeoner MBE who spoke to them about his journey as a multi-swimming champion and also his career afterwards as a successful swim coach, songwriter and poet, platforms he now uses to speak out for the human rights of all disabled people.

Artist workshop: Monday 23rd January 2023


After seeing some of Robin’s 9 gold medals Bedgrove class were given the opportunity to work with an artist to create their own medals using the theme of the colours of the Paralympic logo.  The students learnt how the logo, known as the Agitos, means I move in Latin and how significant this message was and still is in Paralympic history.  Artist Amy Coleman taught the group how to use clay to create their own unique designs and drew on activities prepared by artist Teri Stevens to develop an awareness of the history of the Paralympic medal.  

Heritage Centre visit and workshop: Tuesday 7th February 2023

To embed the learning of the project Bedgrove class were invited to come to the Heritage Centre to see the displays and to take part in the Sensory Timeline Workshop which encourages learning through the use of visual and tactile materials as well as physical activity.  The students enjoyed showing their knowledge of the flags of the different countries who have hosted the Games as well as learning about the various sports that make up the programme and they also enjoyed meeting some of the mascots that symbolise the friendship and international flavour of the Paralympic Games.

Quote from evaluation feedback:

Great Project my pupils enjoyed all activities and the visit to the Museum was really lovely.