Thursday 11th November 2021

Welcome from Nigel Purse, NPHT Chairman

Welcome to the tenth edition of our newsletter. We hope this finds you in good health. It is now four months since we reopened the Paralympic Heritage Centre and we have already welcomed several tours and schools and had over 4,500 visitors. This is about 50% of what we would expect and, as I understand, a similar situation to most museums.

It has been an active summer with the excitement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games that brought us great media attention and coverage. The Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony on 19th August was a magical event and our pop-up museum attracted lots of attention and has led to the capture of many more inspiring stories.


The Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that our accountant Volker Heinemann sadly passed away very unexpectedly. Volker had been with us nearly a year. He was a quiet man, highly respected and with a great commitment to inclusion and the environment across the globe. Our thoughts go out to his mother and sister. We mourn his passing and we are grateful for his valued contribution.

New staff and consultants have settled in and we are joined for sixth months by Sam Brady, one of our two PhD students, who will be working across several areas of our work.

All additional work in our application to the Arts Council England to be a ‘Nationally Styled’ Accredited Museum has been completed and we await the outcome. This was an important part of our programme of work and our aim for top professional status, we may be small, but we aim high.

About Us

Elaine Phiri our Operations and Engagement Manager on maternity leave has given birth to a beautiful baby girl and both are doing well. We are looking forward to meeting up with them before Christmas. Madalyn Baskerville, who is covering for Elaine, has really hit the ground running and is doing a splendid job, bringing in over 20 years’ experience working in museums with volunteers in engagement, learning and project management. We also welcome Susy Goldstone whom we have for six months supporting administration. Susy has an MA in History and, like Madalyn, she has slotted in very quickly and is doing some great work. In return we will give her lots of valuable experience to help her develop her career in the heritage sector. Finally, there is Rosie Hall, our oral history consultant who is capturing so many inspirational stories as you can see below under collections.

With the support of Bonner and Hindley and Threepipe we had a very successful social media summer, with one tweet about the development of the Paralympic logo reaching 50,000 people. Bonner and Hindley are now focused on our overall Marketing Strategy which is progressing to plan.

We have welcomed several more volunteers and their work remains crucial to us, delivering events, tours and cataloguing collections. We thank them for their ongoing support.

Visitors to the Paralympic Heritage Centre on Heritage Open Day. ©Aylesbury & District News


Weekly face-to-face and online activities for families took place across the summer and in the October half-term. It was great to be back working on site and actually seeing people in person. All sorts of creative activities took place as you can see from the photos. Children particularly enjoyed designing and creating their own medals with sticky salt dough and glitter.

We took part in the National Heritage Open Days, Bucks Storytelling Festival and National Sporting Heritage Day. One family visiting the Heritage Centre shared the inspirational story of their grandfather who was one of the very first 16 participants in the 1948 Stoke Mandeville Games. His story was captured by Rosie Hall in an oral history interview here

Clare and Sandra Chamberlain, granddaughter and daughter of Joe Thompson

Upcoming events

Meet the Paralympian, Friday 3rd December
Two sessions - 11am schools and 7pm for children aged 12+ and adults

We are very excited to announce our next Meet the Paralympian events which feature Lora and Neil Fachie, the power couple of the Tokyo 2020 velodrome. Book your free tickets here.

Paralympic cyclists, Lora and Neil Fachie celebrating both winning gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
Neil and Lora Fachie, Paralympic cyclists, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. ©SWPix

February Half Term, Family Friendly Event

Explore the Paralympics, Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 10.30-12.30 FREE: Drop-in and meet friendly and knowledgeable members of the team and let us bring the Paralympic heritage to life with informal tours of the Heritage Centre and our handling collection of torches, costume, medals and mascots. 


The construction of the virtual modular regional museum is now underway, it is very exciting and means we can reach many more venues at a fraction of the cost and capture more of the UK’s Paralympic and disability sports history at a grass roots level. We plan to launch the exhibition in March and offer it more widely in the spring.


Paralympic Heritage: Stories from ….. : 3 projects have now been completed and we are looking forward to our partner schools joining us at the Paralympic Heritage Centre in person or virtually as they celebrate their learning with us on this project and see some of their work on display in the Heritage Centre and on the project webpage. At Waddesdon School the creativity of the year 9 students culminated in an exhibition of work for families and members of the local community to enjoy.  Students presented a variety of designs on posters, tote bags and tee-shirts which reflected their own conscious branding of disability sport.
3 new projects have begun recently.  Stories were shared at the Finmere Fair on the August bank holiday weekend, ready for the Finmere school and community projects to begin.  These projects, which will research The Finmere Show, will properly credit this significant fundraising annual event which enabled so many Paralympians to participate in the Games. Volunteers Judy Freeman, Gill Beck, Anita Templar and Graham White shared the handling collection with visitors in the pop-up museum which was given a prominent position at the Fair.
Another project at Bartlett’s Residential Home in Stone saw multi gold medallist Paralympic swimmer Robin Surgeoner meet Hilda Duncan on the occasion of her 105th birthday.  Hilda was a keen swimmer and was thrilled to hear Robin’s stories and hold his medals alongside her fellow residents and staff.  BBC South Today covered the event, as did The Bucks Herald.
Wendover Primary School started their project with a virtual talk from defending Boccia Paralympic champion David Smith who shared some of his tips to an attentive year 5 group who then spent the rest of the morning learning how to play the unique game of Boccia with help from volunteer Graham White and 11 year 6 Sports Leaders from the school.
9 more projects have been planned and will begin in the new year. Visit our project page here

3D Digital Explorations: 11 volunteers have been involved in this project so far and have received a number of in-person training sessions using the 3D scanner. We are continually surprised by both the challenges presented by some objects and the ease at which other artefacts can be scanned – it really is a constant learning experience. Several volunteers have come in independently to practice their skills at using the scanner and we now have between 20-25 objects from the collection scanned as 3D digital models. Once these models have been edited they will be ready for viewing on the website. Keep a look out for these coming soon. The next step will be for participants to continue their research on the artefacts and help co-curate an online virtual exhibition on the History of the Paralympics.  We can’t wait to see their work take shape. 
COG project sensory map and workshop: Providing equal opportunities to visitors with sensory needs has been central to this project and a workshop experience was tested with students from Furze Down School in Winslow, including a host of pre-visit material, much of which was developed by our volunteer, Lydia Shacklock and our Educational Consultant, Jessica Hartshorn.  This project enabled us to test whether providing a sensory circuit to visitors before they engage in workshop learning helps them to regulate and stay regulated after transition.  The students had fun taking part in the sensory circuit and engaged well with the workshop afterwards, where they learnt about the multiple sports included in the Paralympic programme.

Sensory map of the National Paralympic Heritage Centre

Learning Resources: As part of the COG project a new sensory timeline workshop has been developed which is suitable for small groups or individuals who respond to visual or sensory ways of learning.  A level 2 workshop for varied groups of visitors has been developed and we will be testing this resource with a local mainstream school in the new year.

Meeting Point: The panel were very impressed with the variety and depth of the work presented by candidates at interview and it was only after much discussion and thought that the final decision was made.  Jordan Baseman was awarded the commission because all agreed that his proposal aligned with our ambition to present our story in a new and unique way.  We look forward to working with Jordan as he creates a film which draws on the many personal stories in our collection.


Paralympic athlete biographies: Our research volunteers have made great headway with the athlete biographies and we currently have over 50 online with many more to add. It is wonderful to be able to share these stories alongside the oral history being captured.

Virtual tour of the National Spinal Injuries Centre: You can now visit our exhibition at the National Spinal Injuries Centre virtually here. The tour offers a unique insight into the remarkable history of the most famous spinal injuries centre in the world with video, audio clips and text captions. A video walkthrough version is coming soon!

Virtual Tour at the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville

History and Donations

Amy Coleman, along with volunteers Anne, Amia, Hussam, Patrick and Alice, catalogued over 600 items, comprising 30 boxes of inspirational history. We have also shared their database work online so it is accessible to anyone wanting to conduct research. Buckinghamshire Archives have now appointed an Archivist, Rosanna Ritchie, to focus solely on Paralympic Heritage over the next year. This, alongside Sam Brady joining us for six months as part of his PhD, means that things should really have a boost. This Autumn we shall be doing training on Modes so our collections stored by the Discover Bucks Museum can be added to their formal collections system over the coming months.

Rosie Hall, with six month's funding from Section 106, has already completed over 20 oral histories and Beth has been adding them here. These stories bring the heritage to life. They are incredibly moving and form a very important part of our collections.


Thank you to our primary funders, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Rothschild Foundation and HS2 for their support and flexibility to our changing delivery needs in the new world.

Thank you to our volunteers who have continued to support our work and given us so many hours of face-to-face work over the last four months.

Thank you to all who follow what we are doing and to those who have generously donated. If you would like to show your support for our ongoing work please donate here