Naomi tells us about her experience working on the We Live Here Now Project and on the documentary.
“I got to know Julie McNamara Artistic Director at Vital Xposure through the We Live Here Now project. This project was looking at people’s lives that lived in long term institutions and then moved out into the community as an outcome of the Community Care Act.
At the start of the project we interviewed members who had lived in institutions but I was also interested in interviewing staff who worked in long term institutions. My google search resulted in a lot of coincidences. We discovered that Julie Mc had worked at Harperbury. She told me she wanted to run a woman’s group but she wasn’t allowed to do this. So she started running a woman’s group but called it the Knitting circle even though she couldn’t knit.
I met with Julie several times and we realised that some of the woman One to One were interviewing had lived at Harperbury and had been in the knitting circle patient group. Some of the characters in the play were based on these members.
Miriam, Ann and Betty remembered Julie and they all enjoyed reminiscing on the lives at Harperbury.
We also asked Priscilla Surfraz about her experiences of working at Harperbury who is also in the documentary The Knitting Circle. I supported Paul Lehrian chairman of One to One when he was interviewed for the documentary and was surprised to find that I was also filmed.
The people who lived in Harperbury were never given a choice when they were moved into the institutions. Mainly their life experiences were within the institution, possible doing one trip a year to the seaside if they were lucky. When people were moved back to the community little thought was given to their friendship groups and who they would have liked to live with. It was seen as a positive move and now looking back we can believe it was the right thing to happen but with hind sight more choices could have been given to people.