Blind School, 2008
Designed to help blinded servicemen, the workshop’s roots can be traced back to 1908, initially to accommodate eight workers. Twelve years later, new facilities were required as the workforce had increased to twenty.
In 1926, a new purpose-built workshop was opened by Sir H. Kingsley Wood, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. The workshop was generally known as “The Blind School” to local people, but with the intake of workers from further afield, its official title was to become “Cleveland, Durham & North Yorkshire Institute for the Blind.”
1986 saw the workshop move to another purpose-built location known as Ayresome Industries. Under the Local Authority, the workshop continued to produce a variety of products, employing workers with a range of disabilities from all walks of life.
From its humble beginnings, Ayresome Industries has flourished, returning an operating surplus in 2005 for the first time in its history. Its successes have been well documented in local newspapers and was even introduced in a survey to find 101 great reasons to live in the Tees Valley.
In 2008, I began to record the working lives of the men employed in the workshop. I was inspired to create Blind School so that the workers’ unique characters were captured in print.