Posts Tagged 'events'

The Bedlam Bones: Excavation, History and Myth

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that we’ve long been pointing out the holes in stories claiming the skeletons unearthed at Bishopsgate as part of the Crossrail project were former patients of the Hospital. We even drew attention to the efforts of turn-of-the-twentieth-century chaplain, Edward Geoffrey O’Donoghue, to trace any references to the first Bethlem Hospital in local parish registers, which included the surprising revelation that “old Bedlam” (as he put it) “was not without its amusements, for on July 25th 1618, the burial is recorded of William Marshall, who died suddenly in the Bowling Alley in Bedlam.”1

Yet the ‘Bedlam Bones’ tag seems to have caught the attention of the media, and is now apparently well nigh unshakeable. This coming Saturday, however, visitors to the Museum will be able to hear the Bethlem Archivist explain the real history of the “New Churchyard by Bethlem”. The free talk starts at 2pm, and visitors will also be able to see a new exhibition in the space: Back From Holiday. In the last few years, many of our paintings have been out on loan around the world. This display features some of these temporary absentees, now back home in Beckenham, including work by Vaslav Nijinsky, Jonathan Martin, Richard Dadd and Louis Wain.

Other events coming up will focus on some of the works recently returned to the Museum. On 2 November, a free talk on James Tilly Matthews explores his sketch of the “Air Loom Gang” that he believed were persecuting him, while December’s Saturday talk (on 7 December) will focus on Nijinsky, whose drawing A Mask, is on display. For full details of upcoming events, visit our website: or join the mailing list.

 photo Masksmallc1919b_zpsa8fbd3a9.jpg

1 Under the Dome, vol. 3 no. 11 (30 September 1894), pp. 107-108.


Food for Thought: Wellbeing walks at the Science Museum

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s All Our Stories funding stream has led to some excellent community mental health projects, several of which have taken place in the London area. Mental Fight Club’s series of events exploring Southwark has sadly finished, although The Dragon Café’s excellent programme continues, of course, to run every Monday at St George the Martyr Church in Borough.

There is more great stuff to come, however, from CoolTan Arts, in their project to reinterpret the Science Museum galleries. CoolTan believes mental well-being is enhanced by the power of creativity, and one group of volunteers is bringing this creativity to the Science Museum in a series of guided walks at the museum’s Lates series. Tomorrow’s session is entitled Food for Thought. As the group notes:

Everyone is probably familiar with the saying “you are what you eat”, but is there such a thing as happy food? Perceptions of healthy food and drink depend, among other things, on the time, the environments we live in and the religious and moral beliefs we uphold.

This Wednesday, 28 August, you can join CoolTan volunteers on a guided walk around the Wellcome gallery at the Science Museum to explore the relationship between food and mental wellbeing from the 19th century onwards. Walks will start at 7.30 and 8.30pm, meeting at the entrance to the Health Matters exhibition. Further events are planned for future Lates, including a drop-in photography studio in September.

Science Museum Lates take place on the last Wednesday of each month. The museum is only open to adults on these evenings, from 6.45 – 10pm, with a host of themed events on varied topics and DJs and bars around the museum.

held: Restraint Symposium at the Institute of Psychiatry

This week, as part of Jane Fradgley’s held exhibition at the MRC SGDP Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, a public symposium focused on the difficult topic of restraint in mental health care. This was inspired, in part, by a focus group held last year at the Bethlem Gallery, in which service users, artists and doctors discussed the different ways in which restraint might be understood and experienced. Indeed, as one participant in the earlier discussion reflected, the very visible historical garments offered a useful focus to reach into less tangible modern encounters: rapid tranquilisation or physical holding, for example. A sedated person is less obviously restrained to those around them than someone in a canvas dress, although the person constrained might well not see this distinction.

Speakers ranged across the spectrum, looking at clinical practices, historical debates and personal experiences to reflect on the topic, questioning the very use of restraint, as well as the way it is managed. Particularly striking was the suggestion of one psychiatrist that, prior to being invited to speak, restraint had not been something he had really reflected on, although aware that it occurred in the unit in which he practiced. The way in which restraint was reported and understood was noted to be a shaky area: often being seen as a response to an event, rather than an episode that, in itself, requires to be understood, in particular allowing patients an opportunity to respond and explain their feelings. Acknowledging that restraint – even where it seems to be the only course of action – may nonetheless have important consequences for vulnerable people was agreed to be an important step forward. Guidelines, in particular, were shown to be inadequate: something highlighted in the recent Mind campaign on physical restraint in crisis care.

Today, The Lancet published an online editorial reflecting on some of the issues raised by the panel, who had a variety of different perspectives and experiences of mental health care. Some felt that restraint was entirely avoidable, and the ‘No Force First’ movement in North America was raised as a possible model for removing restraint from mental health care. Others insisted that restraint was inevitable in a system in which confinement occurs, and that other aspects of psychiatry might be more unpleasant for patients than physical restraint. All agreed, however, that it was an important discussion to have, and that the views and suggestions of patients on their experiences of constraint and how it might be avoided as well as best regulated – the impetus for the exhibition and symposium in the first place – was vital.

Raw Materials: New Exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery opens 29 May

Raw Materials: Work from Wood opens on Wednesday 29 May at the Bethlem Gallery. This exhibition of work from wood has been created by Sue Burbidge. Sue’s passion for raw materials manifests in a spectrum of creative outputs from sculptural forms, to turned vessels, crafted boxes and cabinets and monoprints taken directly from the tree’s form. Much of the wood has been locally sourced with some items on display created from trees felled from the Bethlem grounds. Also on show, will be a sculpture made for the Bethlem Orchard, a legacy from ‘Art in the Garden’ a collaboration between the Bethlem Royal Hospital Occupational Therapy Department, the London Orchard Project and the Local Food Project.

The Bethlem Gallery and Museum will also be open on Saturday 1st June, from 11am – 5pm. At midday, there will be a guided walk around the grounds by Sue Burbidge, starting from the Bethlem Gallery. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the spacious, peaceful site, which is criss-crossed by nature trails. Later that same afternoon (2pm), there will be a free talk in the museum. The Head of the Archives and Museum will explore the Guttman-Maclay Art Collection, which forms the backbone of the museum collection, including work by Louis Wain, Charles Sims and William Kurelek. Meanwhile, from 12 – 3pm, Art in the Garden will also take place in the O.T. Walled Garden on the Bethlem site. We’re hoping for sunshine!

Exhibition opening 29th May 3 – 6pm

Exhibition continues: 30th May – 21st June

Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm and Saturday 1st June 11am – 5pm.

Art in the Garden is open Friday 31 May (1 – 4pm) and Saturday 1 June (12 – 3pm) in the Walled Garden.

This exhibition is part of London Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2013 for more information visit:

Raw Materials Sue Burbidge

Escapism, Colour & Light: New Exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery opens this week

Escapism, Colour & Light is a new exhibition by Matthew at the Bethlem Gallery, opening this week (Wednesday 27 March). Matthew, a current Bethlem Royal Hospital resident, exhibits vibrant landscapes and abstracted forms, which engage the viewer in imagined terrains and simplified colourful shapes. His work reinvents familiar objects and visions through a sophisticated and playful artistic process.

Opening: 27th March, 3 – 6pm

Exhibition continues: 28th March – 19th April

Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm

Museum and Gallery open Saturday 6th April, 11am – 5pm

At 2pm on 6th April, there will be a final opportunity to tour the historic hospital boardroom, before the administration block is closed for building works. The Boardroom at Bethlem is located in the Art Deco administration block, soon to be temporarily closed for construction work on the new museum. It is something of a time capsule, with displays including heraldic crests dating back to 1547, the Bridewell Chandelier of 1757 and portraits from the art collection. This guided tour, starting at the Bethlem Museum, will offer visitors a history of the ancient hospital.

 Village in Yellow by Matthew

Village in Yellow by Matthew

Art History in the Pub

This year’s Art History in the Pub has so far focused on psychiatric history, and next week’s (Monday 25 February) will look at Bethlem in particular. Art History in the Pub is a series of events run by the Association of Art Historians (AAH): a series of relaxed yet informative talks held in The Monarch Pub in Camden. January’s talk, by Jennifer Wallis from Queen Mary, University of London, explored an unusual series of images: the photographs collected by asylum medical officers in the late nineteenth century. Jennifer works with the archives of the West Riding Asylum in Wakefield, which was well-known in the Victorian period as a hub for “asylum science”. The hospital had a pathology laboratory, and staff took regular photographs of what Wallis called “fragments of the insane body”, focusing in on growths or bone deformities with the use of fabric screens and close framing. These fragments, also including pulse tracings, microscope slides and post-mortem dissections, were all incorporated into a “visual record of bodily anomalies”.

Next week’s talk moves away from photography to look at the Bethlem art collections, focusing on a public exhibition of patient art organised by physician Theo Hyslop in 1900. Hyslop has often been dismissed by historians as, at best, the “representative of the psychiatry of degeneration in Britain”. Nicholas Tromans and Sarah Chaney challenge this view, by settings Hyslop’s work in the context of turn-of-the-century psychiatric practice – in particular, that at Bethlem. Historians of Outsider Art agree that the 1900 exhibition was the earliest recorded public display of psychiatric art, yet virtually nothing seems to be known of it. The exhibition, which comprised no fewer than 600 works, was curated by Hyslop, who had evidently been collecting patient art for some time. But why did psychiatrists of this period collect the art of their patients, and what did they expect to learn from it? And what was the place of art at Bethlem at the turn of the twentieth century?

Art, the Archive and the Avant-Garde Asylum, c. 1890 – 1914 takes place on Monday February 25, at 7.30pm at the Monarch, 40-42 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8BG (Camden Town or Chalk Farm tube). For more information on Art History in the Pub, visit the AAH website or Facebook page.

 photo paintingwithmusicIIa_zps661b58ce.jpg

Events: Anti-Psychiatry and Psychical Research

It’s already shaping up to be a good year for events and exhibitions in the history of psychiatry and psychology. First up is a conference at UCL at the end of this month, on the topic of Psychical Research and Parapsychology in the History of Medicine and the Sciences. As we have previously mentioned in this blog, physicians at Bethlem in the late nineteenth century were optimistic about the possibilities for hypnosis and suggestion in the treatment of mental illness, and many of them experimented in this field. Daniel Hack Tuke, a long-term governor of the hospital, was particularly interested in the connections between mind and body, and how the physician might make use of these in the cure of physical (as well as mental) illness. Tuke appears to have coined the term ‘psycho-therapeutics’ to describe these effects in his 1872 Illustrations of the Influence of the Mind and Body in Health and Disease (expanded in 1884). As this conference will demonstrate, research in experimental psychology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has often been closely associated with the investigation of phenomena perceived to be supernatural (many, but not all, of which were explained in psychological terms by members of organisations devoted to the study of the paranormal). The conference costs just £90 (£60 for students) for three days. The full conference programme is available online here, and tickets can be booked in the UCL Online Shop.

Meanwhile, a series of events at Nottingham Contemporary on 12-13 February explores Anti-Psychiatry and its legacies. Those who visited the recent Turner Prize Exhibition at the Tate will already be familiar with the work of Luke Fowler, whose film exploring the life of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing was nominated for the prize. All Divided Selves combined archive footage with new material, to create an evocative portrait of the doctor whose The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (1960) was influential in the anti-psychiatry movement. Another of Fowler’s films, Bogman Palmjaguar, will be screened on the second evening, following the legal battle of a trained conservationist and certified paranoid schizophrenic against this diagnosis. As with the previous evening’s film (Dora Garcia’s The Deviant Majority, From Basaglia to Brazil), the screening will be followed by a panel discussion with clinicians, philosophers and historians. The events are free, and can be booked online at the Nottingham Contemporary website.