The Strathmartine Hospital ProjectWednesday 10 June, 2015
A new heritage project project led by Thera Trust in partnership with the University of Dundee, Advocating Together, the Living Memory Association and the Dundee Local History Group aims to empower former residents and staff at Strathmartine Hospital to tell their stories through a range of channels; at the same time influencing policymakers, professionals and the wider public to ensure people are never institutionalised because of a disability.
Christopher Walker from Forfar, who is supported by Real Life Options, is heavily involved in the project; an opportunity that came about almost by chance whilst visiting Forfar library to view an exhibition. Christopher introduced himself to Project Manager Karen Mcauley and told her that used to live in Strathmartine. Christopher thought he would be an ideal candidate for providing an insight on what it was like to live there.
They arranged for Chris to meet up with Ian Mitchell, a key player in the project and an experienced film maker. Ian has directed over twenty documentaries for international broadcast on a range of social issues. Ian was particularly interested to know what a day in the hospital was like; Christopher was able to describe getting breakfast at 8.00am and leaving for different therapies, which started at 9.30am. Painting and decorating was a regular job, then helping out in the kitchen serving refreshments and tidying up afterwards – returning to the ward at 3.00pm, to prepare for evening mealtime.
Christopher is keen to help with the project until its completion, which should be in the latter part of 2015. Christopher said: “I’m involved with the Strathmartine Hospital project because I lived there for 10 or 11 years. I have been down to see the building and it’s in a mess. That’s upsetting for me to see, but I am given good support by my care manager community nurse”.
The Strathmartine Heritage project is a significant aspect of local social history in Forfar. The project secured £69,200 in funding from the HeritageLottery Fund (HLF) in April 2014.
Strathmartine Hospital was an institution established in the nineteenth century for people with a learning disability. It was originally part of an asylum and orphanage in Baldovan, on the outskirts of Dundee and was decommissioned in the late 1980s and closed in 2003. Former residents and staff returned to the hospital recently to walk around the grounds and film a short documentary before the site is redeveloped. Some of the material will be available to view in Dundee University Archives and will feature in an exhibition at Discovery Point in August.
Chritopher is going to keep us informed on the project’s progress, which we will continue to feature in our news section.