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Voices of thalidomide

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Mix media artwork made up of archive photographs and painted elements. The image shows a sepia toned photograph of a woman from the waist up standing with one arm resting on the handrail of a seaside walkway. In the distance is the horizon line of the sea meeting the sky and small distant figures on the sunlit sandy beach. The woman is smiling to the camera in a relaxed manner, her hair and skirt being blown by the wind. She is wearing a white sleeveless blouse. Behind her to the right the background of the photograph has been painted over with bright yellow textured paint above the handrail and light orange below. To the left of the image the beach scene is cut into strips and physically latticed into another archive photograph of an advert for a drug. The words 'Distaval' can be made out at the top and at the bottom the words, 'safe sedation' and 'sounder sleep'.  Resting on top of the advert are 3 white tablets in a transparent packet.
Maureen W on Eastbourne Pier c.1959. © Hollie Chastain for Wellcome Collection.

Nearly sixty years have passed since the last baby affected by thalidomide was born in the UK. The thalidomide scandal has had far-reaching effects on public trust in medicine, pharmaceuticals, the government and the law. But we rarely hear from the devastated families or the survivors, now adults, who continue to live with the consequences. In this series Ruth Blue uses a collection of audio interviews made by the UK Thalidomide Society to explore thalidomide’s history, from the shocking paucity of clinical trials that led to the drug’s prescription to pregnant women, to the stories of survivors, and the families affected.