The Thalidomide Society wins National Lottery Support!


Thalidomide Stories: an Oral History of Thalidomide Survivors


Louise bridge

The Thalidomide Society has received National Lottery support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Thalidomide Stories – an Oral History of Thalidomide Survivors.  Thanks to National Lottery players, the project will capture the voices of at least 46 thalidomide survivors over the course of the next two years. Our project is supported by the British Library and the Science Museum.

The project provides an opportunity for thalidomide survivors, not only to tell their stories, but also to be trained as oral historians who can conduct the interviews.  The project includes staff training with the British Library, a weekend training event for volunteers with an Oral History Society trainer and a number of exciting dissemination events across the UK.

Thalidomide was prescribed in the UK under the name Distaval and given to pregnant women suffering with a range of conditions including morning sickness, insomnia, anxiety and even some common viruses.  However, the drug had not been robustly tested and led to babies being born with a wide range of impairments such as missing or shortened limbs, missing or damaged eyes and ears, vital organ damage and facial paralysis. It is estimated that there were at least 10,000 pregnancies affected by Distaval in the UK and 2000 live births.

Today there are just 466 UK thalidomide survivors all in their mid to late fifties.  The recording of their unique first-hand testimonies will enable the Thalidomide Society to raise awareness and understanding of the impact of the thalidomide disaster among the wider population and future generations.

The recordings and transcripts will be transferred to the British Library Sound Archive where they will become part of one of the largest collections of recorded sound in the world.

Stuart Hobley, Head of HLF London, says: “Thanks to National Lottery players, thalidomide survivors will record their own life stories, ensuring the impact the drug had on themselves and their families will not be forgotten; this can now be shared with future generations.”

The Thalidomide Society says: “We are delighted to receive this support from National Lottery players.  It is so vital that our heritage – the story of thalidomide – remains alive in the public eye and is told by those who have lived through the experience of being born affected by an NHS-prescribed drug. This was a cataclysmic moment in medical history. Thalidomide affected so many people’s lives from all walks of life.  As we near the 60-year anniversary of the withdrawal of Distaval from the UK market, funding for this project could not be more timely.”

About the Thalidomide Society

We are a charitable organisation established in 1962 by the parents of thalidomide-impaired children. Most of our members are thalidomide survivors but we welcome people with other disabilities or interest in thalidomide. We provide our members with a social network enabling them to meet each other – face to face at events organised by the Society and via social media. We provide support and information to members, other thalidomide survivors, their families and supporters as well as people with similar impairments. In addition, we collect, archive and preserve documents relating to the history of thalidomide, to undertake historical, educational and research projects and to provide support and information to the general public, researchers, media, health professionals and any other research enquiries relating to thalidomide and the history and work of the Society.

General information about the history and work of the Thalidomide Society can be found on our website,

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported.

Further information

For further information, images and interviews please contact Dr Ruth Blue at the Thalidomide Society on 020 8464 9048 or