Disabled filmmakers pioneering work goes online for the first time

21 February 2017

Cameraman Laurie Mawer, Albert Baker painting on his adapted easel, and Neville Thomas on lighting.Leading charity Leonard Cheshire Disability is launching a new website as part of heritage project Rewind to share never-before-seen archive films, photographs, journals and interviews from the charity’s history.

The Rewind online archive features a unique collection of films made by residents at the charity’s first care home at Le Court in Hampshire in the post-war period which have just been digitised as part of a two-year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Le Court was the home of the charity’s founder, war hero Leonard Cheshire. Le Court had a film unit, radio station, in-house magazine, archive and artists group run by the residents. 

The films created by the Le Court Film Unit are significant because they are some of the first films about disabled people’s lives in the UK made by disabled people themselves.

Archivist Stephanie Nield said:

‘This is the first time that these films have been made available online and we are thrilled to be able to share this important part of UK disability history.

‘Films like No Limit and Words Without Hands reveal the innovative solutions created by disabled residents at Le Court in the 1960s, in response to the accessibility challenges they experienced.

‘These archive films show just how much has changed in areas such as assistive technology over the years, as well as encouraging us to think about how much more progress still needs to be made.’ 

Le Court resident Brian Line and filmmaker Nick Dance, filming in  BasingstokeNick Dance, the award-winning cinematographer, has amazing memories of the first service Le Court and of the pioneering filmmaking that took place there with resident Brian Line,

‘There were all sorts of things going on. Lots of gadgets were being made and even a powered wheelchair was quite a new thing then.

‘The residents were very inventive and Le Court had a family atmosphere.  With his films I think Brian was trying to open up disability to the world and change attitudes.’

He added:

‘I learned from Brian and the Cheshire Homes what an incredible man Leonard Cheshire was.

‘When I met him to do filming I thought he was incredibly modest and friendly and genuinely interested in what we were doing and quite a genius.’

In addition to the Le Court Film Unit collection, the Rewind website features over 500 photographs showing day to day life in Cheshire homes and of Leonard Cheshire’s life and career.

It also includes 21 films, six archive sound recordings and 13 new oral history interviews from two UK homes in the South East.

Also made available online for the first time are 6500 pages of the Cheshire Smile, the historic in-house magazine which was written by residents at Le Court. Features, poetry and artwork provide a unique insight into the lives of people living at Cheshire homes between 1954 and 1999.

More archive material and oral histories with current residents, staff and volunteers will be added to the Rewind website throughout 2017.

Media enquires

For more information please email Theresa Hart or call 020 3242 0290. Out of hours: 07903 949388. General press office number: 020 3242 0399.

Rewind project is funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is supporting vital conservation work, the digitisation of archive material, engagement workshops in six residential homes in the South East and recordings of new oral history interviews with people who live, work and volunteer at Leonard Cheshire Disability’s services. 

Heritage Lottery Fund: From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, we use National Lottery players' money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.