Research Bulletin, November 2020

Hello all,

This is my monthly update on research interests, and here are some recent developments that might be useful to know.

1. A calendar for 2021

You may know that I’ve got into the habit of getting a wall calendar printed each year with some historic photos of the history of the disabled people’s movement and culture in England. The photos generally come from my (and others’) past and research. This year I’ve chosen photos which mostly have a media theme, so that somewhere in the image is a film or TV news crew.

2. Mental health

This year has been a great strain on many people and it’s already been said that the next pandemic will be in our mental health. I’ve had a long interest in radical and community-based mental health groups, starting with Manchester Mind in the late 1970s. As you might expect, I’ve catalogued an archive collection for Manchester Mind from 1970 – 1990, though I suggest it’s a very different organisation now. This was where I first learnt about the social model.

In my bones I feel there is a need now to think about a radical mental health model that works with disabled people’s lived experiences this year.

For example, understanding the isolation and degrees of threat that were higher than in the general population, as well as the neglect and mismanagement by government that led to so many disabled people dying (supported housing, care homes, etc) as well as being left without support. There were also community-led responses in self-organisation and protection such as The Bunker on Facebook.

I’m not thinking about this as a funding bid (no doubt many are being made) but rather as an area in need of further discussions with safeguards and with a radical community-based understanding. I’d welcome any discussions, one-to-one in confidence or wider, as people wish.

As a matter of interest, I’m seeing similar mental health issues in the Excluded-UK community which represents three million people, usually freelance workers and many in the creative industries, who fall between the cracks of poorly targeted government support. It gets quite technical, but in short some people have had less that £600 since March and don’t qualify even for Universal Credit. It’s an oppressive mess and the suicide rate within the group is awful.

3. Sian Vasey

I noted last month the sad news of Sian’s recent death. There was an online tribute and commemoration held by many of her friends and colleagues, and a topic that was raised on that day was our wish to record some kind of memoir of Sian’s life. So in the year ahead I’ve offered to facilitate producing a book of her life and three of her close friends have kindly agreed to be its editors.

4. Hearing Voices Network

Last month I covered a number of plans that are being made for the International Day of Disabled People, this Thursday 3 December.

One item that is being held over until early next year is a video made by the Manchester Hearing Voices Group which I helped facilitate. The hope is to time the video with a wider physical post-covid exhibition, all related to the relaunch of the Manchester group. This group previously led to the creation of the network of hearing voices groups that exists today around the world, having started in Manchester in the 1980s. And by some of my friends involved in Manchester Mind at the time.

Stay safe,


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