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A unique exhibition by the charity SHINE, including a device developed by author Roald Dahl, has launched in Peterborough.

SHINE is celebrating its 50th anniversary helping those with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, conditions which have been around for thousands of years.

Enabled by a £60,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and support from the charity  the exhibition ‘Our Heritage’ can now be viewed by appointment.

The exhibition showcases early history, developments in support and treatment, and changing attitudes towards these complex conditions over the decades. A key feature will be the personal experiences brought to life through photographs, artwork and oral histories.

Exhibits will include a device created by best-selling author Roald Dahl. In the 1960s, Dahl was inspired to develop a new, improved ‘shunt’ – a tube-like device used to treat hydrocephalus by draining away harmful excess fluid in the head – when his son Theo developed the condition after an accident. Dahl’s shunt helped some 3,000 children with hydrocephalus until newer styles came along.

Spina bifida and hydrocephalus have been around since pre-Tutankhamun days. Treatments improved significantly in the 1960s, and this is the first generation of adults surviving into their 50s and beyond. Shine provides a range of specialist services for people with the conditions, and marks its golden anniversary this year.

Heritage Project Development Officer, Marc Lupson, commented:

“Bringing this hidden heritage into the open has been a challenging, but fascinating journey. This is really an exhibition about people; the pioneers, doctors, and most importantly, the thousands who make up the spina bifida and hydrocephalus community. I have only been able to scratch the surface of this rich and deep history.”


‘Heritage’ will initially be housed at the charity’s national office in Park Road in Peterborough over the summer. The exhibition will be open for public viewing by appointment. Contact or call 01733 421356 to book.

Acknowledging the global significance of this body of work, it’s hoped that part of the exhibition will then travel to Belgium in October for the annual conference of the International Federation of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. The charity is seeking a more permanent home for the exhibition in the future.


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