Outbreaks of polio seriously affected communities across the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 people in the UK living with the late effects of polio today.

Local Birmingham artist Amy Mitchell-Meades met with three people who contracted polio as children. She talked to them about their experience and painted each of them, framing their smiles and character.

View the portraits and read more about Mike, Paul and Maureen’s stories below.


Michael Jackson

“My memories of hospital, in the wartime, was I was either in bed with my leg up or the siren would go off, and the nurse would come in and just put you under the bed! That’s all they could do.”

After passing his 13+ exams, Mike attended a Technical School and then college. Mike commenced his working life as an Engineer, progressing into Food Manufacturing management and finally ending up as a as European Manufacturing Controller for an International Company. Having contracted polio when he was two years old, Mike now suffers from post-polio syndrome.


Paul Robinson

“My brother is five years older than me. At 11, he announced he wanted to be a doctor and we were just a working class family. He told me, he became a doctor because of me.”

Paul contracted polio in 1961 when he was 10 months old. Now 59, Paul works for the AA, but suffers from post-polio syndrome and uses a mobility scooter. During Paul’s year-long stay in hospital he was placed on a danger list for 14 weeks, in which many were not expected to live. He continued to visit hospital until he was 12, undergoing countless operations.


Maureen MacDonald

“The girl next door had polio, my mum and dad were so worried about me getting it and took me to Ireland for six months. Unfortunately, I already had it.”

Maureen, or Mary as she was first named, contracted polio in Coventry in 1953, when she was three years old. Maureen never had an operation as doctors didn’t want to take the risk, so as a child she managed with callipers instead. Today, she scoots around after her seven grandchildren and whilst her legs require a lot of care and attention, she doesn’t let it stop her!