Meet the Research Group

The Research Group includes Glen, Lesley, Nicholas, Richard, Sonia, Stephen and Wendy.

When we decided to run a project looking at the history of brain injury we had three things in mind:


  • How has the treatment of brain injury changed across the centuries?
  • How did Headway Cambridgeshire begin?
  • Who was Ida Darwin and why is our hospital site named after her?


The group have spent many hours researching these questions to find answers. This involved trips out to local archives, interviewing people who worked on the Ida Darwin hospital site, speaking to medical professionals, reading books about local history, looking in national archives online, watching documentaries and working with libraries. We were lucky to have help from many volunteers along the way, especially Ann Kennedy-Smith, a local historian.

Once we had all the information we needed, the biggest challenges were how to sort and filter out the relevant and interesting information. We worked closely with our Heritage Mentor,  Claire Adler, to think about this and decided to create a digital timeline to showcase all the ‘facts’ and then to make an exhibition that gave a voice to people with a brain injury across the last century.



Painting by Glen





Reflections on the project: Looking Back at Making Headway

We are the Research Group at Headway Cambridgeshire. We all met because we have all have a brain injury. There are two forms of brain injury; acquired and traumatic. There are many ways people may obtain a brain injury, such as haemorrhage, stroke or a car accident. The effects of brain injuries are varied and everybody recovers differently and experiences different challenges. Many of us have difficulties with our memory, with putting things in order, concentrating and thinking about lots of different topics at once.

Our project was funded by the Heritage Lottery and we looked at the history of brain injury and its treatment. We focused on the history of social care and pioneers like Ida Darwin as well as Headway Cambridgeshire’s own beginnings.

As part of our research we asked lots of people with knowledge or access to resources to visit us at Headway. We also gathered information from magazines, books, local archives, the internet and oral histories. From this we pooled together a huge amount of information and edited it down to the highlights. These were included in our research and this can be seen in our exhibition.

One of the most notable visitors was our heritage mentor, Claire Adler, who helped us learn skills to turn a large amount of information into an interesting, engaging and understandable exhibition. This was something the group had no experience of, so Claire’s input was vital to enable us to produce such a interesting exhibition. Credit also has to go to Mark and the team at the Cambridge Design Studio who put our information onto a freestanding exhibition and of course, to Clare Hobbs at Headway for her tireless review and editing of the information and help throughout the project.

We learnt a lot about ourselves and the benefits of working in a group. As a result of the exhibition and the chances to engage the public with our talks we also learn about ourselves, our skills and strengths.

The project was great as it helped the public to get a better idea of our project and what we, as people who have a brain injury, can produce. In the past those with a brain injury were labelled ‘loony’ or ‘feeble-minded’ and just locked up and forgotten about. We are people who have skills and we have a valuable perspective to add to society. We think it’s important for people with a disability to curate and share their own histories – we understand ourselves and our challenges better than anyone else could.

We learnt about others and bonded as a group on this unique piece of work. We are not aware of any other project like this which has been created and put together by people who have all experienced a brain injury. The project inspired us to do further research into brain injury.

We held a grand opening event at Parkside Community College in Cambridge. It was really good and drew a lot of interested people in to see what we had been up to. The room was buzzing with good energy and it made us feel well supported and showed that we could do great things. There was a big screen at the front of the hall and the exhibition and iPad stands around the room so people could see our work wherever they were.

The exhibition’s next stops will be the Museum of Cambridge from 29th March-28th April and the Central Library in Cambridge from 2nd May-21st May.

Stay tuned for more information!

Thank you for the support and advice that you have been giving my husband. This has in turn taken a lot of pressure off me and has helped me through his bad days and angry spells.
Christine, wife of Headway client