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Colchester ‘shines a light’ for World Leprosy Day

17 February 2023

For World Leprosy Day 2023, we were joined in solidarity by organisations and businesses throughout our home city of Colchester, who helped us ‘Shine a Light on Leprosy’ by lighting up some of the most iconic buildings in Britain’s ‘first city’.  

Buildings such as Colchester Castle, Town Hall, the famous water tower affectionately named ‘Jumbo’, The Mercury Theatre and Essex University helped us light up the historic city in Lepra’s distinctive colours.

Colchester occupies the site of the first Roman city and capital ‘Camulodunum’. There are written records of the site dating back over 2000 years, with further evidence of settlements as far back as the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. 

Construction of Colchester Castle began in 1076 when William I ordered a stone castle on the strategic route between East Anglia and London. Although leprosy is no longer present in Europe, the disease certainly would have been prevalent at this time, with the nearby St. Mary Magdalen’s hospital on Brook Street, built in the early 12th century to treat people affected by leprosy. 

For Colchester Castle to host our ‘New Faces of Leprosy’ exhibition therefore seemed like a fitting location. The moving images share the journey of people affected by leprosy, through diagnosis to treatment, and how they overcame the challenges they faced along the way, including discrimination and prejudice.

Over 100 guests joined us for the event in the Charles Gray room, with Professor Diana Lockwood and documentary photographer Tom Bradley. They kindly spoke to our guests about the origins of the project, and the importance of adopting a positive representation of people affected by leprosy. 

Our visitors also enjoyed exploring the castle’s various exhibitions, with archaeological finds dating back sometimes thousands of years, which were brought to life by the castle’s expert tours.

Thank you to Colchester Castle and everyone who supported the event, for helping us ‘Shine a Light on Leprosy’ in 2023. If you would like to see the exhibition or join us at future events, please contact


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