The History of InterAct Stroke Support

There is growing scientific evidence that the arts can help speed the recovery of a great many patients, as well as improve their quality of life. It was with this in mind that theatre director Caroline Smith first set up InterAct Reading Service, as we were first called.

Caroline had nursed her sick brother, a psychiatrist, throughout a terminal illness. Although an avid Radio 4 listener, once ill, he much preferred to be read to. Brother and sister got to talking about how the Arts and Health should be more mutually supportive.

Aware of the number of unemployed professional actors in Britain; people whose well-honed communication skills were not being used, Caroline wondered whether there was a potential marriage between professional actors and the Health Sector.

Bearing in mind the conversations she had with her brother she wondered whether there was a place for these unique skills in the health sector. To test the theory, she began reading herself on a voluntary basis at her local hospice, the Pembridge Palliative Care Centre.

After several months and having learnt a great deal - not least that no other organisation was offering a reading service - Caroline launched InterAct.

InterAct became a registered charity in January 2000, and we began reading in 6 hospitals in September 2000.

  • The following year, in 2001, we won the Best New Charity Award from Charity Awards UK
  • In 2003 we received a Tesco's Community Award
  • In 2005 we won a GlaxoSmithKline Impact Award
  • In Sept 2005 Nirjay Mahindru became Chief Executive of the Charity.
  • The charity won another Tesco Community Award in 2006
  • In 2009, InterAct won the Guardian Charity Award
  • We have now doubled the number of regional hospitals we work in.
  • We have expanded our stroke club work from 17 to 50 clubs.
  • We have created published reading manuals for our readers.
  • In 2008 we inaugurated our 1st ever Short Story Competition which is now held every two years.
  • In 2010 we celebrated our 10th anniversary at St Thomas' hospital and were invited to celebrate our Guardian Charity award at the House of Lords.
  • In 2014 InterAct joined the Steering Committee of the UK Stroke Conference, being an active participant since then in helping to organise and run the conferences in collaboration with other stroke partner groups.
  • In 2014, we changed our name to InterAct Stroke Support.