Telling Stories about Learning Difficulties

Project Details


Fanny Fust was born in Bristol in 1764, the only child and heiress to a large fortune, who would now be described as having severe learning disabilities. Much loved by her family and friends, she seems to have had a fearless and fun-loving personality. When she was 21, she was lured to a house in Clifton under the pretence of taking tea, by a group of conspirators led by a fortune hunter, Henry Bowerman, who abducted her and carried her to the continent where they were married. The story is one of excitement, comedy, detection and ends with a nail biting landmark legal case. It raises questions that are still relevant today: about consent, capacity, and about who gets to write history.

This project brings together academics from the University of Bristol and storytellers and artists with learning difficulties from Openstorytellers to research and present Fanny’s story. It speaks directly to the Brigstow theme of ‘living well with difference’ and to the methodologies of co-production and critical making.

It addresses the following research questions:
1. Who was Fanny Fust and what can her life tell us about the experiences of people with learning difficulties in the 18th century? What conversations might such a history spark about disability and consent in the present day?
2. What are the rewards and challenges of a research project co-produced by university researchers and people with learning difficulties? For disabled people, the barriers to involvement in knowledge production are often insurmountable. Placing their research agenda and accessibility requirements centre stage decentres the usual historical research process in fruitful and potentially illuminating ways.
3. What is the potential of storytelling as a methodology for the communication of research? How might university researchers work with storytellers to reach new audiences, and to encourage audience engagement with their work?
Effective start/end date1/02/1731/10/17


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