Well now, it is a year since I started these monthly updates on research interests, a month before the pandemic was first responded to in the UK. And here we are in Lockdown 3 and it’s no secret that living alone has had me climbing the walls at times. Not least in the urban north of England where hospitality closed last summer. And being in a modern flat where the ceilings are not that high, that pastime soon loses its appeal. The local Italian restaurant is doing take-aways at weekends with a sign, "44 days to go". I hope so.
But February is nearly over, spring is coming, the crocuses and daffodils on my walks are joining the snowdrops – and in keeping with the season I’ve had a couple of new projects breaking ground…
The first project, new to me if actually 120 years old itself, is Hulme Hippodrome. The call came from friends to get involved in a great campaign to save the listed heritage building, so I’m in. There are heritage researchers and scholars in the group from the nearby universities, so I’m learning a lot from them as well as helping with the typing! Actually, it has been the legal aspects of the building in recent months that have been intense – more details if you’ve the time for them at – www.hulmehippodrome.org including weekly updates at the moment.
The second new project is CHARM which is a campaign for better mental health policies, services, and institutional behaviours in Greater Manchester. CHARM stands for Communities for Holistic, Accessible, Rights Based Mental Health. The trigger for this campaign is the proposal to spend millions of pounds building a shiny new ‘hospital’ with about 140 locked rooms and a nurses station. The official blurb calls them secure single rooms with ensuite facilities. You might know them better as prison cells. All this at a time when the current mental health services are collapsing under strain, so we are making plans with the trade unions on a united approach for change – health workers, service users, families, carers and other activist allies. The historic research on Radical Mental Health Projects from 1960s, which I helped a different group of us to write up over a year ago, has proved very useful now for the CHARM campaign to show that we are not asking for the impossible – it has already existed in small and fragile ways, but these ground-breaking mental health projects were consistently ignored by senior health managers instead of being mainstreamed. Our research has protected the lessons from these projects, at least in part.
In terms of the Disabled People’s Archive, expect some exciting news in March. My lips are sealed!
For International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March, the good people at Manchester’s Central Library have said they wish to include details of Lorraine (Gradwell) as a notable local person in their Memory Box – which is lovely.
For the Not Dead Yet campaign against assisted suicide possibly being made lawful soon (like Canada, Netherlands, etc), it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy year, and we are tightening our seat-belts in preparation.
After a long lull from Manchester city council, there is some short-notice re-engagement with the Peterloo Memorial Access Campaign – but it looks pretty grim at the time of writing – the proposal is for temporary access for disabled people once a year. For updates please see this public group page: www.facebook.com/groups/382131302394700
So, various campaigns are hotting up.
And finally, one reason I’ll be glad when lockdown ends is that I have over 120 archive boxes waiting to leave the flat. Still, if I arrange them carefully there’s a pop-up climbing wall.
Stay safe, things can only get better (!),
For earlier editions of this bulletin please see – www.tonybaldwinson.com/research-bulletins/