Under Lock and Key. 31 days later, what’s changed?

A month ago, Dispatches aired Under Lock and Key. 31 days later, what’s changed?

For anyone familiar with the disability sector, asking ‘what’s changed?’ after 31 days might seem ridiculous. Pointless. Futile. Families fight relentlessly to ensure, or attempt to secure, high-quality, compassionate care for their loved ones. Grieving parents wait years for the outcome of sterile, defensive reports into the death of their children. Scandals such as Winterbourne View or that of St. Andrew’s in Northampton, as featured in Under Lock and Key, take years to come to public attention.

Under Lock and Key gives a terrifying insight into the institutional treatment of some young people with learning disabilities in the United Kingdom. Under the government’s Transforming Care programme, mega-hospitals like St. Andrews are set to close. However, already running over two and a half years behind schedule, and with St. Andrew’s recently opening a £45 million facility – the largest of its kind in Europe – the dream of nationwide small-scale, person-centred care seems incredibly distant.

Whilst the impact of institutionalised care is catastrophic and ongoing for many, perhaps the best way to start overcoming the issue is to learn about it. The Inclusive Archive, launched yesterday, is a great resource for doing so, as we hope MADHOUSE re:exit, our next show, will be too.

Funded by Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust, this new immersive performance is a riotous reclaiming and retelling of the institutionalisation of people with learning disabilities both past and present. Inspired by stories of former residents, the show takes its name from the haunting screams heard by Mabel Cooper – and decades later in St. Andrew’s by people like Matthew –expected in old-style ‘asylums’ rather than support services of the present day. In February, five learning disabled artists worked with Access All Areas at Battersea Arts Centre to develop their own ‘rooms’ within the piece, which will open in Spring 2018.

You don’t have to wait until 2018 though – progress, of course, is happening all the time. In the last 31 days, there have been some small but sizeable steps towards a fairer, more inclusive treatment of people with learning disabilities.

Here’s just some of the things we picked up on:


MY FERAL HEART – On Wednesday night at the National Film Awards, Steven Brandon, who has Downs Syndrome, beat Michael Fassbender, Daniel Radcliffe and Eddie Redmayne to the Best Actor award.

JULES ROBERTSON – Holby City has been nominated for a National Autistic Society Uncut award for the character and storylines of Jason, played by actor Jules Robertson. Jules graduated from Access All Areas’ performance-making diploma at Central School of Speech and Drama in 2014.


WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY – 21st March saw people across the world wearing odd socks to celebrate uniqueness and difference.

WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS WEEK – Ending on Sunday, a week of campaigns and awareness raising regarding the understanding of autism worldwide. So far the hashtag’s received over half a million views.


MISFIT CENTRE STAGE – An event exploring autism and the performing arts at Lyric Hammersmith on the 17th March. Organised by Access All Areas and attended by fifty delegates from a range of industries, the day closed with a sold-out performance of award-winning show The Misfit Analysis.

ABsence: AWKWARD BASTARDS 2 –  A coming together of artists, activists, thinkers and producers to rethink ideas around diversity at mac, Birmingham on 23 March. Access All Areas’ Artistic Director Nick Llewelyn and Cian Binchy spoke on a panel called ‘Pasts and Futures’.

LET’S TALK ABOUT ACCESS IN THE ARTS – A TED style set of talks with industry experts for people who work in the arts. Access All Areas’ Executive Director Patrick Collier and actor Charlene Salter were invited to speak.

INCLUSIVE ARCHIVE LAUNCH – Yesterday saw the launch of the Inclusive Archive – an accessible, online archive that rewrites the history of learning disability in the words of people with learning disabilities.

Towards the end of Under Lock and Key, former Minister for Care and Support Norman Lamb states:

‘The state is restraining people’s liberty behind lock and key. I don’t think that’s acceptable. People are being treated like second class citizens and that’s intolerable.’

So what are you going to do? What do the next 31 days hold?