Justice for LB – the fight continues

Justice for LB – the fight continues

Rosemary Trustam attended an unforgettable exhibition of artwork to retain the momentum of the campaign for justice for Laughing Boy.


To keep alive the campaign for justice for Connor Sparrowhawk an artwork exhibition was held at Lancaster University’s Peter Scott Gallery. The exhibition was opened by Connor’s mother Dr Sarah Ryan on 18 May.


It’s now over two years since Connor (known as Laughing Boy) was admitted to the unit where he died 107 days later. On a second round of #107days focusing on themed weeks, the campaign continues to aim for justice and accountability for those responsible. This was well illustrated by the wealth of artwork on display.


The launch was attended by one of the staunchest campaign supporters social care consultant George Julian. Also present were Professor Chris Hatton, Co-Director of Improving Health and Lives and of the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University, who sponsored the exhibition and whose current research appropriately focuses on the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities, and his colleague Hannah Morgan, lecturer in adult social care.


A political space

The passion felt by all the exhibitors was evident in the work on display, including a wonderful landscape picture by quilter Janet Read. The artwork, commentary and photographic record of activity inspired by Connor’s preventable death was erected around and by those attending, creating a political space. The people helping to erect it reflected on the way that the art has been developed – out of a solidarity and drive for justice that brought together so many people with contributions from numerous disparate sources. The quilt on its own is a wonderful expression of the support for Laughing Boy with plenty of squares devoted to the red bus! (One of LB’s favourite places was the Oxford Bus Museum in Long Hanborough). The quilters –Janet Read, Janis Firminger, Margaret Taylor and Jean Draper – are stitching legends. Their production of this unforgettably beautiful artwork, captured the random ‘stitched in the moment’ social movement response to LB’s death.


Later in the morning the Guardian gallery was shared, again illustrating how far the spontaneous creativity has spread http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/gallery/2015/may/18/justiceforlb-campaign-to-improve-care-for-people-with-learning-disabilities-in-pictures?CMP=share_btn_tw


In the afternoon a panel chaired by Chris Hatton with Graham Shellard (My Life My Choice), George Julian (#JusticeforLB), Janet Read (Chief Quilter), Dominic Slowie (NHS England) by video link and Imogen Tyler (University of Lancaster) shared experiences.


The Sparrowhawk Artwork surrounding the panel illustrated Dominic’s observations about how the campaign has turned people’s pain, anger and frustration into a movement which has captured hearts and minds. Graham shared the experience of having a learning disability: “I know what it’s like to have something happen to you”.


Janet described how the quilt not only represented the terrible things which had happened to LB but also illustrated his life and personality. Imogen talked movingly and powerfully about her cousin Rachel and of an Inclusion Scotland event where George Lamb announced ,“We are the revolting subjects and we are here to revolt”. There were also powerful stories from ‘just two mums’, founders of Unique Kidz and Co.


The permanence of the artwork and artefacts will help keep the movement alive. The second round of #107 days will include a film about LB, produced by My Life My Choice with Oxford Digital Media, funded by Oxford City Council and filmed in the Jam Factory.


The two main aims for the #107days activity are:

  • To raise awareness, share learning, experience and progress towards #JusticeforLB and improving life for ‘all dudes’, and
  • To raise core funding for the Justice Shed to sustain campaign activity.


Momentum for change

With the change in government and minister, there are real risks the momentum for the changes in the law the campaign is fighting for will be lost (see http://justiceforlb.org/what-is-justiceforlb/. The consultation on the Green Paper No Voice Unheard, No Right Ignored  closed on 29 May. We all need to make our MPs accountable for implementing a law that will better protect people’s rights to be supported in their communities appropriately and with skill.


In the meantime, Sir Stephen Bubb is not letting go and has announced a review of the progress since his November 2014 report called for the urgent closure of inappropriate in-patient care facilities and for a Charter of Rights for people with learning disabilities and/or autism and their families. https://www.acevo.org.uk/news/winterbourne-6-month-review-announced