29th April 2020

Welcome from Nigel Purse, NPHT Chairman

Welcome to the sixth edition of our Newsletter. As you would rightfully presume, owing to the COVID-19 situation the National Paralympic Heritage Centre and the National Paralympic Heritage Trust’s office at Stoke Mandeville had to be closed until further notice. The Team are of course working as usual, based at home, and can be contacted by email at [email protected] 
A heritage trust based on Paralympic history should and does have access at the very heart of its work. Add in the fact we are a relatively new trust formed in an age of austerity, with a national remit and international interest and you will understand why, from the start we put ‘digital’ at the centre of our working practice. For these reasons when Covid-19 and lockdown came upon us we were in a more fortunate position than many of our fellow museums, having some ready made virtual content. We will update our information as the situation changes, but please do continue to use our website and social media channels to find out more about the work of the Trust and enjoy our virtual offerings on the wonderful history behind the Paralympics. 

It's just over a year since we opened the Heritage Centre, the first museum dedicated to the Paralympic Movement and from April 2019 to February 2020 we attracted over 35,000 visitors; a great achievement. We received a fantastic review in the Museum’s Journal that headlined our work with "The Centre is a fantastic example of how to put accessibility at the heart of museum thinking" and finished the report with "Guttmann and the Paralympians revolutionised society’s narrow view of disability – and this carefully thought-out museum is a fitting tribute to their legacy". In addition our CEO was invited to give a presentation at the Museums’ Association conference focused on museums and inclusion. 

I am delighted to report that we have received two significant grants from the Rothschild Foundation Impact Grants and the HS2 Community Fund. These will help us engage with communities across Buckinghamshire in some dynamic programmes of work, including opportunities to work with Paralympians, artists with disabilities and train people with disabilities in 3D photography, co-creating a virtual exhibition on the history of Paralympic Movement. More immediately we have completed our permanent displays at the National Spinal Injuries Centre, an exciting collaboration with Buckinghamshire NHS Trust that shares the early story, celebrating the medical contribution to the birth of the Paralympic Games, at the place where it all began. We plan to launch this at a later date once things can return to normal.

About Us

Elaine Phiri has been appointed as Operations and Engagement Manager, a promotion reflecting her excellent work and giving her responsibility to deliver our exciting programmes of work with HS2 Community Fund and the Rothschild Foundation Impact Grants.

Over the last few months we have welcomed some wonderful volunteers to join our fantastic team. Our volunteers support a wide range of work from archives and collections, oral history, virtual research and events support. Our volunteers have a diverse range of valuable skills and are contributing immensely in helping us deliver our programme of work. The team working on the archives and collections has begun box listing the WheelPower collection; an enormous task, it is like opening a treasure trove with some fabulous items being discovered. Some tasks can continue virtually and we are looking forward to our first Zoom Volunteers’ coffee morning.

Storage of WheelPower collection in boxes and on racks Multitude of flags from the WheelPower collection
The WheelPower Collection: a treasure trove


As we reflect on the last twelve months since the opening of the Heritage Centre we are proud of the range of events we have delivered. These events include Meet the Paralympian days where we welcomed Paralympians Naomi Riches MBE and Stephanie Millward MBE. Visit here to find out what their favourite objects in the Heritage Centre are. We have successfully welcomed a range of ages to our family activity sessions which have seen children design 2020 Paralympics posters and models.

Family Fun Day at the Paralympic Heritage Centre Paralympic poster ideas created by children visiting Family Fun Day at the Paralympic Heritage Centre

Family Fun Day at February half term

Upcoming events

We have had to adjust our approach to events and have managed to launch downloadable resources for home schooling, a video tour and trail for the Easter holidays.

As you are aware the Heritage Flame will hopefully be lit at Stoke Mandeville for the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games. As part of the ceremony we are running an origami project to replicate the cranes that were given to athletes in 1964 as a good luck token. The cranes will be displayed at the Heritage Flame lighting event in the form of the Agitos symbol. We are encouraging as many of you as possible to get involved in this project as we aspire to creating 100s of paper cranes for this fantastic display. We have made this into a virtual project for now with support from Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and aspiring Paralympian Oliver Watson, providing films of their crane making contributions. You can watch Oliver's film here


Paralympic Heritage: Stories from Bradford and Keighley

Our regional exhibition at Cliffe Castle, Keighley, finished in November after an extraordinary 55,000 visitors. We are indebted to the team there for their enthusiasm and ideas in making it such a success.

National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville

In collaboration with Buckinghamshire NHS Trust, the National Spinal Injuries Centre permanent displays were completed by the end of March and will be formally launched later this year with a sneak virtual preview in advance. As is often the case, we have uncovered more stories than we can feature, but all will be available on the website. It has involved interviewing several past patients and staff and their willingness to share their inspiring personal and working lives. One particularly interesting story we've uncovered is that of 'Possum' with thanks to Possum Ltd and Roger Jefcoate DL MBE.

'Your stories' mini exhibition at the National Paralympic Heritage Centre

After the success of ‘Sandy’s Hat’, celebrating volunteer support of the Games, we had the 2012 Children's Promise 'Daniels story' – a programme whereby babies born on the day the bid to host the 2012 Games was submitted became part of the celebrations and events. Our next mini exhibition will celebrate the life and work of Jean Stone MBE, who passed away last year.

Daniel Bleasdale next to his 2012 Childrens Promise display in the Paralympic Heritage Centre

Daniel Bleasdale's story at the National Paralympic Heritage Centre


The website has had over 27,000 visitors in two years, outstripping all of our targets. Our virtual volunteers have developed pages on all of the sports and have nearly completed research on the Paralympic Games.

Beth Faulkner, Digital Content Manager, has been doing a tremendous job adapting and developing our virtual offer, and it bears comparison with those of any of the leading museums in the world. Over the next month, and with support from visual impairment groups providing audio descriptions, you will have the option of four virtual tours alongside the downloadable resources, a video tour, handling collections and trail already in place. The Cartwright Hall exhibition is available on line already – you can even experience it with Virtual Reality goggles.

History and Donations

We are continually indebted to the public for their donations. Over the last few months we have discovered the stories of Paralympians, Wilma Anic, Maureen Mannings and Jimmy Gibson, and Volunteers, Sarah Butler and Anita Templar.

They are a constant reminder of the heart of our work, to inspire and break down barriers to disability, and enrich our collection beyond comparison.


With the changes in the local authorities to one Council, Buckinghamshire Council, it is with sadness that we have said goodbye to two of our Trustees, Cllr Anne Wright and Will Rysdale. Both have served on the Board of NPHT, helping with fundraising and building public awareness of our work. We will of course remain in touch and look forward to catching up with them at events.

Thank you to the Rotary Club of Aylesbury for giving us the opportunity to be part of the Christmas Santa Float which raised £500.00 for the Trust. Also to Possum Ltd for its contribution to the NSIC exhibition.

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