Next Museum & Theatre Open Days

10am-5pm on Saturdays:

18 May

22 June

20 July

New museum displays

1930s Stage Lights

Stage lights from the theatre made in the 1930s by The Strand Electric and Engineering Company. Replaced in 2018 with new lighting that is environmentally friendly and efficient. The lights are displayed in a theatre side room.

Contemporary photography on display in the new under stage galleries

Sarah Gordy in “After Vermeer” by Richard Bailey

Since 2003 Richard Bailey has been curating and photographing for an ongoing body of work called Shifting Perspectives, concerned with creating positive imagery of people with Down’s syndrome. Photography series inspired by the paintings of Johannes Vermeer.


Kayte Brimacombe exhibition One in Ten

As many as one in ten people with Down’s syndrome have the additional diagnosis of autism. Here are Kayte Brimacombe’s photographs of ten children and adults with the dual diagnosis.

Artists in Residence and the Birds of Normansfield Theatre


Outreach Learners with Learning Difficulties or Disabilities (LLDD) Art class at Normansfield Theatre

The students have been creating mixed media pieces inspired by the wild birds on the decorated door panels on either side of the Normansfield Theatre stage.

The artwork can be seen here: Birds of the Theatre

Next open day Saturday 18 May

Talk at 11am: A Social History of Learning Disability

A talk about some of the great names and events in the social history of learning disability, from the early 19th Century to the present day. Those who brought improvements to the education, training, care and rights of those with learning disabilities. In the communities set up by Dr John Langdon Down, Karl König (Camphill Movement), Jean Vanier (L’Arche) and the Rev Andrew Reed (Earlswood Asylum). The new thinking and research of Wolf Wolfensberger, Édouard Séguin and Dr John Conolly. The campaigning of Brian Rix.

This talk is free. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

Talk at 2pm: ‘A proper person to be detained?’ The Fred Pilcher story

Fred Pilcher was admitted to what was then known as ‘Hangars Certified Institution’ near Radlett in Hertfordshire on October 25th, 1928. He was in a group of eight male patients, termed in the period as, a ‘high grade’ feeble-minded adult. All patients on admission were given a patient’s number. This was done in chronological order and Fred was number four. He was 19 years old.

In the words of Fred, “It was a Thursday, a lovely day and I remember we had soup and rice pudding for dinner”. Twenty-six years later in 1954, his IQ was tested and was found to be 120 (about average). Fred went on to live at the now renamed, Harperbury Hospital for another thirty-four years finally leaving in 1977, at the age of 69, he died a few years later.

Fred’s story is collected from numerous sources, including oral history accounts from ex-staff, local newspapers, and hospital publications but the majority of it has been from his medical case file. A source not always available for historians. While this presentation will be an opportunity to reflect on how an individual with an average IQ end up living at a long stay hospital for fifty years? It will also be looking at the wider story of the history of people with intellectual disabilities.  ​

Speaker: David O’Driscoll has been a psychoanalytic psychotherapist for the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Learning Disability service since 2000. He is a Visiting Research Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at the Centre for Learning Disability Research, Hertfordshire University. David has been a longstanding member of the Social History of Learning Disabilities group at the Open University and is the current chair of the Institute of Disability and Psychotherapy (IPD). 

This talk is free. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

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