For 90 years, Monyhull in Kings Norton was an asylum for people with what nowadays is called a learning disability. Now, local charity CASBA wants to reveal some of its unwritten story at a public event literally “Behind the gates” at Monyhull Church on Saturday 27th January. This is part of a project which will build up an important archive of social history.

The church where the event is taking place is one of only two surviving buildings of the original hospital. At its peak in the 1940s (when the chaplain was the Revd W Awdry of Thomas the tank engine fame) Monyhull had nearly 1,400 residents. The Revd Siôr Coleman, Monyhull’s Chaplain since 1986 (while the hospital was open) still leads services there for people with Learning Disabilities. He explains why it’s important to keep these memories alive:

“I’ve known many of my friends at Monyhull for a very long time. The privilege of getting to know so many changed me completely – a community not always welcomed or fully understood, but with a level of genuine humanity which challenges us all. We can learn so much from each other – if we give people time to tell their story.”

Made possible by a £44k grant from money awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, CASBA’s “From Institution to Community” project was launched in September 2017. Since then, staff and volunteers have been collecting oral histories from those who worked, lived and cared for those living in the long-stay hospital which closed 20 years ago and was demolished to make way for the Monyhull Grange housing development.

Project Coordinator, Joe Peacock, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming all kinds of people to this event, from those who have an intimate knowledge of Monyhull Hospital and can share their stories, photographs and any other memorabilia with us to those who live locally and didn’t know anything about the history of this remarkable institution. Thanks to players of the National Lottery, we are able to bring different people together and learn more about this fascinating and vitally important piece of local history.”

Everyone interested in finding out more or sharing their memories is invited to attend the “Behind the Gates” event at Monyhull Church on Saturday 27th January from 2pm to 3:30pm. There will be talks from former staff and residents, as well as opportunities to find out about the project and its aims. Refreshments will be provided.

CASBA is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having been formed to support people leaving Monyhull Hospital to begin new lives in the community. Through the project, CASBA wants to ensure the stories of people with learning disabilities are heard in looking at the history of this area, where the institution stood for 90 years.

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