National Trust and University of Leicester launch pioneering film to explore fascinating stories of disability from the Trust’s sites and collections for the first time

The National Trust and the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) at the University of Leicester are delighted to launch Everywhere & Nowhere, a collaboration to share, for the first time, stories of disability from the sites and collections in the care of the National Trust.

Everywhere and Nowhere is a brand new film, released today on the University of Leicester’s Website which looks at ten stories – examining the lives of familiar figures such as Henry VIII, and lesser-known individuals like Irish MP Nicholas Ward. It includes stories of craft and mountain climbing as part of rehabilitation from the First and Second World Wars. This project draws on RCMG’s 20 years of world-leading research into disability representation, placing expertise, insights and experiences of disability at the heart of how the stories are researched, interpreted and presented.

The title of the project, Everywhere and Nowhere, highlights that stories of disability are at the same time widespread, but rarely publicly presented: everywhere around us, but nowhere to be found. The lives of disabled people have historically often been overlooked, deliberately left out of the main narrative, or presented in ways that reflect and reinforce negative attitudes towards disability.

Henry VIII is almost always portrayed as a powerful and energetic King, but he sustained an injury that left him dependent on mobility aids for much of his life. Also featuring in the film is Sir Jeffrey Hudson: artist Christopher Samuel presents his story by examining a portrait of Sir Jeffrey and Queen Henrietta Maria, which hangs at Petworth House. Sir Jeffrey is widely described as “the Queen’s Dwarf” and previous interpretation of the painting has largely focused on the Queen or sensationalised Sir Jeffrey’s life, presenting him in a stereotypical way. In Everywhere and Nowhere Sir Jeffrey is presented as a person in his own right, with a complex, full and rounded life.

Everywhere and Nowhere demonstrates the rich and varied lives of disabled people through history and presents them in an informative, engaging and highly accessible film. The film, which has been created with filmmakers Belle Vue Productions, with support from deaf-led organisation Remark!, is bilingual, with the co-narrators using spoken English and British Sign Language.

With latest surveys reporting that 14.6 million people in the UK identify as living with a disability, around 22% of the country’s estimated population of 67 million, sharing histories of disability has never been more important.

Dr Sarah Plumb, Senior Research Associate at the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester, said: “We’re thrilled to spotlight ten little known and previously unexplored histories of disability through Everywhere and Nowhere. Behind the film lies a year-long research collaboration – although a complex endeavour, our research to date suggests that connections to disability are indeed everywhere, threaded through our heritage buildings and landscapes, the lives, collections and archival material attached to them. Disabled people from the past can often be presented in reductive or stereotypical ways; in some cases we found taking a fresh look at historical records revealed those same lives filled with opportunity and autonomy, influence and adventure, love and joy.”

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Curation and Experience at the National Trust: “We’re working hard to expand the histories that we interpret at the places in our care; and we approach this in the knowledge that history is complex, layered and sensitive. The work we have done with the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries on Everywhere and Nowhere brings to the forefront some items from the collections in our care which represent the stories of disabled people. The research revealed many stories of disability built and woven into heritage buildings and objects. It has given us confidence to share histories which are all around us but not always represented at our places – those stories are quite literally everywhere and nowhere. It has helped us learn who we should work with and what standards we need to reach in making history accessible to disabled people; and it has inspired us to do more in the future.’

Christopher Samuel, Artist and Everywhere and Nowhere creative collaborator: “What interested me in being involved with this project was that I could add an alternative voice, coming from a place of real lived experience of disability, to the research and the film.

“By celebrating these stories of historical disability and difference, I hope we can bring new audiences to engage with the Trust, and contribute to building a more representative and inclusive version of our national history.”

Everywhere and Nowhere has been commissioned as part of the National Trust’s work to share diverse, underexplored and untold stories from the places and collections in its care, and the people who have shaped them throughout history.

Related posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.