bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
You and Yours - Transcript
BBC Radio 4
Print This Page
TX: 31.05.04 – A TOUR OF NORMANSFIELD – HOME OF JOHN LANGDON DOWN

PRESENTER: DIANA MADILL

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY


MADILL
In the late 19th Century people with learning difficulties were generally kept shut away from society, which makes John Langdon Down all the more remarkable. He was a physician and one of the first people to recognise the potential of people with what's now known as Down's Syndrome. In the 1860s he opened his house - Normansfield - to children and adults to develop their creativity in learning. He even built a fine theatre, which is still in working order.

The house in Twickenham in West London eventually fell into disrepair but has been recently taken over by the Down's Syndrome Association. Carol Boyes is its chief executive and she took Felicity Finch on a tour.

BOYES
Well you can see the Normansfield building just through the trees over there. The original house starts with the white house at the end, that's the house that they bought first of all, and they gradually bought bits of land and extended the property and then eventually built the theatre.

FINCH
So it started off as a family house and then they gradually built outwards and expanded as Langdon Down took in more and more people with learning disabilities?

BOYES
Yeah, it always was a family house, he just kept on extending it, because when it was at its height and he had 100-150 people here it was still very much a family home and the people that were here were treated as part of the Langdon Down family.

FINCH
Do you know how people in the neighbourhood reacted to the building years ago?

BOYES
Well I think it was shrouded in mystery and people that I've spoken to, whose families lived around here, said it was that place over there where those people lived.

Okay, I'll take you into the Langdon Down room where we've got the portrait of John Langdon Down on the wall.

FINCH
What is it that made him interested in people with Down's Syndrome?

BOYES
He believed that people with Down's Syndrome were capable of leading quite a fulfilled life and certainly being educated.

ACTUALITY - The Yellow Wallpaper
It's not so bad in here is it?

No, there's so much to fill up my time.

Sarcasm doesn't suit you Lucy, now let's go down to supper.

JO EASTWOOD
My name is Jo and I work with the Strathcona Theatre Company.

FINCH
What are you rehearsing at the moment.

JO EASTWOOD
It's called the Yellow Wallpaper. My character is called Lucy and she has Down's Syndrome.

ACTUALITY - The Yellow Wallpaper
Oh have it your way.

Have it my way? I've never had it my way, you never let me.

JO EASTWOOD
In this scene we have a row, so my father's shut me in the room.

ACTUALITY - The Yellow Wallpaper
I wanted to travel on my own, I wanted to enjoy the dance company after college but you never let me.

BOYES
Some things he was doing were quite amazing really. The farm that he had here was a working farm and it was actually producing milk and meat for the local community. He actually was doing work experience in the 1800s, we're only just doing that now.

ACTUALITY
Hi Kate, how are you?

I'm fine thank you.

POWELL
I am the editor of the Down to Earth magazine, I'm linked up to the e-mail now so people can write in to us here at the office. I also do a lot of articles to do with sometimes bullying, sometimes different issues about being Down's Syndrome.

VINAY
I produce the articles on my computer and I just write them up and they put it into the Down to Earth magazine.

BOYES
In the 1950s families were meant to feel ashamed if they had a child with Down's Syndrome and they were still very much hidden away from the community and they would be either in long stay hospitals or they would be at home with their families. In the '70s they were educated in schools that were segregated from the rest of the community.

FINCH
You have a 20-year-old son yourself who has Down's Syndrome, what were attitudes like when he was born?

BOYES
When Alex was born I can remember being told that I didn't need to keep Alex, that we didn't need to take him home. I can remember we had to fight to get Alex into ordinary school because that was something that was then not quite so readily available as it is now.

ACTUALITY - The Yellow Wallpaper
I wanted to learn to live independently and have a boyfriend, like any other girl of my age.

That's enough Lucy.

But you stop me from doing everything I ever wanted to do.

FINCH
How does your character's life compare to your own life?

JO EASTWOOD
My freedom is that I have a boyfriend. I live in my own flat on my own which I enjoy a lot. I went to mainstream school and I enjoyed it. One of my friends did 10 GCSEs, 10 was a bit more difficult for me but I did do four and I feel proud of myself.

FINCH
Do you know people who face the same problems as your character in the play?

JO EASTWOOD
I do. There's a girl in our company, she doesn't have much freedom and her parents are protective, so she lives with her parents. I feel sad for her.

BOYES
In the '90s things started to change quite dramatically. Okay there are still problems and it can still be very difficult to get the right level of resourcing in schools or supported living, supported employment, all those sorts of things that we talk about now, they're not always easy to achieve but the opportunities are now there to go out and live in the community.

FINCH
How important a role do you feel that Normansfield - you now call it the Langdon Down Centre - can play now in improving the lives of children and adults with Down's Syndrome?

BOYES
We will be doing training here for teachers, health professionals, medical students, there's a whole raft of training activities that we're going to be doing here.

JO EASTWOOD
It's important to develop, to live independently. I feel stronger in myself because it makes me feel I can do things on my own.

FINCH
So is this a portrait of Langdon Down?

BOYES
This is, we're very lucky - he's got really kind eyes I think. I think he must have been a really nice man. I quite often wonder what he must think about what's happening in this building now.

MADILL
And that was Carol Boyes talking to Felicity Finch and also in the report were Kate Powell and Jo Eastwood.

Back to the You and Yours homepage

The BBC is not responsible for external websites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy