AN EXHIBITION to showcase five decades of caring for people with learning disabilities in the Carlisle has been launched at the city’s Tullie House museum.

The landmark event, organised by Carlisle Mencap, also features the work of those who they help on a daily basis, and have done over the last half a century.

The special exhibition - named 50 years of Carlisle Mencap - which was launched yesterday, will give visitors until April 11 to see the colourful artwork up close. Members of the award-winning Independence Studio helped to design the exhibition.

CEO of Carlisle Mencap, Sheila Gregory, told the News & Star: “This project was provided by a second grant by the Heritage Lottery to celebrate out 50th anniversary - it was a big grant of £54,000.

“[The money] has enabled the people our Independent Studio, and at our children’s services to create all of the artwork. They worked on a theme of families and how they lived 50 years ago, 25 years ago, and now, with pictures on the wall highlighting the changes.”

“The funding was to research the project, to look into that history, and share it outside our community.

Sheila added: “When I first started working on this about 18 months ago, Tullie House could only find a straight jacket to go by to look into the history. It was an unsung history, with not a lot written down, so they have actually created their own past, which is now part of the art gallery.”

The charity’s chairwoman Christine Bowditch said she was proud to be at the forefront of helping people with learning disabilities and its position as one of the top five Mencap groups in the country.

She said: “I’ve been part of Carlisle Mencap for nearly 25 years, and this exhibition shows how things have changed over the past 50 years. “I think that one of the biggest changes is that people with learning disabilities are now becoming part of our communities, as they were previously very separate and not spoken about.

“But I feel that over the past 50 years, they are coming out of the darkness, people are now seeing them and acknowledging them, and they have more of a voice in the community.

“That’s what Carlisle Mencap is all about, and my role at this event is to say thank you to everyone involved, including the Independent Studio, Tullie House, the Heritage Lottery, who funded the exhibition, and the Police and Crime Commissioner.”

Lindsey Atkinson, community and young persons coordinator at Tullie House, said: “Being a part of this project has been such an enjoyable experience and we’re delighted we have the opportunity to share such an important part of Carlisle’s social history.”

“Over the past year, together with members of Carlisle Mencap we have explored our collections in creative ways to trigger conversation and to learn about importance of preserving history.

It’s extremely important to us as a museum to have a collection which documents change, represents all people and to make sure no voices go unheard. We’ll be accessioning a collection of film and artwork into our permanent collection, so that we can share the history of Carlisle Mencap with many people for years to come.