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We Hear All About How the Middle Street Resource Centre Is Celebrating Its Fiftieth Anniversary With an Exciting New Project

20 June 22

For the past fifty years, Middle Street Resource Centre has been a source of help and advice for Nottingham residents, providing a variety of support groups and volunteering opportunities to promote mental health wellbeing. To celebrate this golden landmark, researchers from Nottingham Trent University will work with past and present service users, staff, volunteers, peer support groups and local residents to record and document stories and experiences. Leading the project is Dr Verusca Calabria who tells us more…

Can you explain how the idea for a project to create an oral history of the past fifty years of the Middle Street Resource Centre first came about?
In January 2020 I was awarded a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to deliver the Hidden Memories of Mental Healthcare project. The project set out to explore and document the intangible heritage of Nottingham mental health provision. I recorded the oral history of Graham Machin, former Chair of Middle Street Resource Centre and a mental health carer and campaigner. His insights helped to identify the hidden legacy of the Centre, which for fifty years has been supporting recovery and preventing relapse into mental health crises for thousands of people with mental illnesses living in and around Nottingham. I ran a consultation where fifty or more people helped to identify the need for this project - and I was able to secure £98,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support it. 

As an outsider, the idea of creating an oral history of such a large period of time on such an eclectic subject sounds daunting… What are the first steps for you?
I plan to recruit a Heritage Project Officer who will oversee the co-ordination of the project activities, including recruiting volunteers who will help to gather the memories of those who were involved with the Centre across the last fifty years. Once the Heritage Project Officer is in post, a series of events will be organised this summer to recruit volunteers. There are also some paid student placement opportunities which will support the co-production of the social history of the Centre with service users, staff and local residents.

How important is it to get a diverse range of different experiences in the project?
It is very important to engage and give a voice to a range of different experiences in the context of mental health. The project will engage with over sixty volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds, including young people, who will be trained in oral history, curatorial and archival skills, digital photography, poetry writing and performance and craft-making, as creative and interpretive vehicles to explore the legacy of the Centre. 

This project will make mental health heritage visible and promote greater awareness of the needs of people who experience mental distress

What are you most excited about starting the project?
I am most excited about preserving this unique heritage. This project will make mental health heritage visible and promote greater awareness of the needs of people who experience mental distress and, in doing so, will help to reduce stigma among wider communities who will engage with this heritage.  

Attitudes towards mental health have changed dramatically during the time in which the Centre has been in operation. Are you aiming to improve attitudes further through your work?
I expect the project to help reduce stigma towards people with long-term mental health conditions, whose experiences are still highly marginalised. The planned public engagement events will provide opportunities to engage in conversations about wellbeing through heritage and inclusive art-based methods. These mental health heritage sessions will not only encourage dialogue and knowledge exchange about wellbeing between people with lived experience of mental ill health, a wider range of people will also have the opportunity to engage with this heritage as a vehicle to foster and support their own wellbeing by incorporating creativity into their own self-care. 

What is the ultimate aim of the project?
To engage a wide range of people, including young people. The project also aims to develop skills for those who take part, as well as improving their wellbeing. The co-produced exhibition, which will tour in and around Nottingham in 2023, will help to share the hidden legacy of Middle Street Resource Centre with the wider public.

How can people get involved? 
Get in touch with me via email, [email protected], or Twitter @Verusca or @HealthMemories. 

mentalhealthcarememories.co.uk

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