The Grace Eyre Foundation has been supporting people with learning disabilities for
over 100 years. This year the foundation secured £49,700 of funding from The
National Lottery Heritage Fund to document the charity’s rich and fascinating history
in a new project ‘Sharing Our Voices’. Thanks to National Lottery players, this
exciting local history project will document the life and works of the charity’s founder,
Grace Eyre Woodhead, a pioneer in disability rights, and give a voice to people with
learning disabilities who have been supported by the charity.
Grace Eyre Woodhead believed that:
‘Institutions should be regarded as the last option of care. The [Guardianship]
Society endeavours to provide bright and healthy surroundings and to try to inculcate
a feeling of happiness and a sense of usefulness and confidence in all clients; thus
giving them a place in the sun’.
Grace set up the Guardianship model, now known as Shared Lives. This is a UK
wide scheme where people with people with mental health issues or learning
disabilities were placed in family homes rather than institutions. This has been
replicated nationwide, with 150 schemes in the UK supporting 14,000 people to lead
active lives in their communities.
The project will create an oral history collection of people with learning disabilities
who have lived in Shared Lives arrangements from the 1950s to the present day. A
really exciting aspect of the project is that 24 people with learning disabilities and 8
local volunteers will be fully integrated in the project: they will be learning key
heritage skills, utilising local archives, recording oral history, and creating a dramatic
performance at the high-profile Brighton Fringe Festival 2021. There will also be an
Assistant Project Coordinator who has a learning disability overseeing the project:
Sharing Our Voices will be a project by people with learning disabilities, for people
with learning disabilities.
Stuart McLeod, Area Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage
Fund, said: “It’s the National Lottery’s 25th birthday this year. In the past quarter of a
century, £8billion has been invested in saving, sharing and celebrating the UK’s
heritage. Giving a voice to communities, charities and people and preserving their
legacies is a vital part of that funding and we’re delighted to support this project.”
The launch event will take place on Monday 25 November 2019 at the Grace Eyre
Foundation Head Office (36 Montefiore Road, Brighton, BN3 6EP). This will be an
opportunity for people to learn more about the project, the history of Grace Eyre
Woodhead and find out how they can get involved.
More information about the event is available at

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