How often do you stare at other people in the street? As children, we are usually taught that it is rude to stare: children in a West Sussex town have spent time this year discovering how their town became The Town That Didn’t Stare.
This was down to the work of a brilliant surgeon, who treated hundreds of severely burned aircrew during World War II. Sir Archibald McIndoe set up a special burns unit at East Grinstead’s Queen Victoria hospital, also forming a drinking club called ‘The Guinea Pig Club’ as a way of providing psychological support.
McIndoe did not stop at that, however. He was aware that the men would find it difficult to integrate back into society because of how people might react to their disfigurements. Following his lead, the people of East Grinstead went out of their way to welcome the men and to make them feel accepted by young and old alike.
It is an inspirational story that makes me think that it is about time that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales became The Countries That Don't Stare. How could that be achieved?
‘Changing Faces’ is a wonderful charity that ‘supports and represents people who have conditions or injuries which affect their appearance.’ It ‘aims to transform public attitudes towards people with an unusual appearance.’
Find out here how you could support this charity www.changingfaces.org.uk/Home so that The Town That Didn’t Stare becomes The Countries That Don't Stare
During and after the war, Sir Archibald's burns unit developed surgical breakthroughs in tandem with vital psychological support. The piece of art to commemorate his work was sculpted by Martin Jennings, whose father was treated by Sir Archibald during the war and has created works of Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras station and Charles Dickens at Portsmouth. He said the statue showed McIndoe with a seated patient looking up a the sky he cannot fly in anymore.