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Biography - Lou Townson

A photograph of Lou Townson

I have been involved in research for many years. I started out doing this when we were asked to go to a local Adult Training Centre which was being dispersed to find out what people who attended wanted. At the time I did not recognise that this was research, but went on to be a key member and now a Director of the Carlisle People First Research Team Ltd.

A photograph of Carlisle People First Research Group

Since then, I have been involved with inclusive research and a lot of partnership working. I think this is essential as most research is done by professionals and the findings are not made very public.

At the moment I am also a Director of People First Independent Advocacy in Cumbria and involved with the Social History of Learning Disability group at The Open University, which I really enjoy. I went to Iceland in May 2006 as part of the Grundtvig project which was really exciting. I have been involved with book editing and reviewing articles for the British Journal of Learning Disabilities and making recommendations. I am now co-book reviews editor for them as well as being on the University of Manchester Partnership Steering Group.

I really enjoy all aspects of research and as long as I can continue for many more years, I will be happy.



  • Chapman, R. and Tilley, E. with Townson, L. (2014) Advocacy in Health and Social Care: A Critical Introduction, Palgrave.
  • Chapman, R. Townson, L., Docherty, D. and SHLD (2014) Intimacy and oppression: Sexuality and Relationships in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, Jessica Kingsley.


  • Chapman. R. and Townson, L.  (2012) 'Researching Together: pooling ideas, strengths and experiences.' In Better Health in Harder Times: active citizens and innovation on the frontline, Bristol, The Policy Press.
  • Townson, L., Chapman, R., Blyth, C., Hughes, R., Blunt, C., Hayward, D., Frost, L. and Perry, B. (2012) 'Special Issue on the research and work of people with learning disabilities and their allies and supporters', British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40, no. 2.
  • Harkness, E., Townson, L., Docherty, A., Dias, J., Brownlee- Chapman, C., Eardley, M., and Chapman, R. (2012) 'Keeping Wartime Memory Alive: an oral history project about the wartime memories of people with learning difficulties in Cumbria', Disability and Society, Vol. 27, Issue 1, pp. 31-49.
  • Carlisle People First Research Team (2011 ) 'What do people labelled with learning difficulties think about their access to direct payments?', Learning Disability Today: Research Unpacked.


  • Harkness, E., Townson, L., Docherty, A., Dias, J., Eardley, M., Macauley, S. and Chapman, R. (2007) 'Carlisle People First Research Team: Project on Advocacy and Autism', Disability and Society, Vol. 22; 5, pp. 523-536.
  • Mitchell, D., Traustadottir, R., Chapman, R., Townson, L., Ingham, N. and Ledger, S. (2006) Exploring Experiences of Advocacy by People with Learning Disabilities, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Rolph, S., Atkinson, D., Nind, M., Welshman, J., Brigham, .L, Chapman, R., Ingham, N., Ledger, S. and Walmsley, J. (2005) Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties and History, Kidderminster, BILD.
  • Shoeters, L., Schelfhout, P., Roets, G., van Hove, G., Townson, L., Chapman, R. and Buchanan, I. (2005) 'Partnership working between university researchers and self-advocacy organizations: A way forward for inclusion?'. In 'England and 'Fine feathers make a fine bird' in Flanders', Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 9(4), pp. 345-357.
  • Townson, L., Macauley, S., Harkness, E., Chapman, R., Docherty, A., Dias, J., Eardley, M. and McNulty, N. (2004) "We are all in the same boat: doing 'people-led research'", British Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 32, pp. 72-76.
  • Townson, L. (2004) ‘There is no such word as ‘can’t’: My Story'. [Unpublished book].
  • Chapman, R., Spedding, F., Harkness, E., Townson, L., Docherty, A. and McNulty, N. (2002) 'The Role of Self Advocacy: stories from a self advocacy groups from the experiences of its members', Advocacy and Learning Disability, Jessica Kingsley, pp. 137-151.
  • Townson, L. (2002) 'The History of Carlisle People First (Part one)', Values Into Action News, Issue 107, Summer 2002.
  • Carlisle People First Research Group (2001) 'Planning a Project: Looking at the History of Self-Advocacy Groups', Community Living, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 25-27.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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