Posts Tagged 'media'

This is your Hospital: Film Screening on 12 December

Concluding their current film series on Mental Health, Trauma and Rehabilitation, the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will be showing our documentary about Croydon’s Warlingham Park Hospital. This is only the third public screening of the film, and the first in central London. The session will begin at 12.45pm on Wednesday 12 December in the John Snow Lecture Theatre, in LSHTM’s Keppel Street building. For further details, visit the Centre for History in Public Health website.

This is your Hospital combines archive footage with contemporary interviews to explore healthcare and experiences in Warlingham Park Hospital in the 1940s and 1950s, and was made as part of an online education resource drawing on some of the same material. We are keen to expand this resource by featuring the memories of those who previously lived or worked at Warlingham Park, and are currently offering those who share their thoughts on the website a free booklet on the history of the hospital. Please submit your stories here.

The documentary uses several clips from the BBC’s 1957 documentary The Hurt Mind, and an episode of this will be screened following. This five-part series included an episode on Physical Treatments,  which includes demonstrations of treatments that have often been abandoned or modified in subsequent decades, including electroconvulsive therapy and an explanation of frontal leucotomy, as well as a session of ether abreaction. The last was a treatment in which a patient was given a drug (in this case ether), and subsequently encouraged to talk about difficult experiences, with the idea that the drug might break down mental barriers.

According to the British Medical Journal, who attempted to measure the impact of the documentary in changing public attitudes towards mental illness, approximately 15% of the adult population of the UK watched each episode. The authors of the BMJ article, G.M. Carstairs and J.K. Wing from the Institute of Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital, were given access to questionnaires and letters gathered by the BBC to analyse the impact of the series. These letters included requests for advice, complaints about doctors or hospital experiences, and advice on improving mental health services and reducing stigma. A half-century on, the article makes for fascinating reading, and can be downloaded here.


Bedlam in the Old Vic Tunnels

Two artists associated with the Archives and Museum are currently exhibiting in a new show at the Old Vic Tunnels. Bedlam is described as the third and final meeting of minds between Lazarides Gallery and the Old Vic Tunnels, creatively exploring the history of the institution. Like Nell Leyshon’s play at the Globe Theatre two years ago (and as we blogged at that time), the event seeks to explore the parallels between the hospital itself and a “world gone mad”, using the institution’s history as part of a more general critique of society, art, madness and genius.

Much of the work included reflects the interests of Lazarides Ltd, who pride themselves on their popularisation of urban and non-traditional art. The dark, cavernous space of the Old Vic Tunnels suits the material well, lending a haunting quality to the spray-painted canvases and muted video installations. From the near-total darkness of the entry-way, the artworks slowly emerge from the space, the lighting and context lending an uneasy fragility to some of the material, such as Tessa Farmer’s glass and taxidermy sculptures or the ominous presence of Doug Foster and Nachev’s Lidless – a huge weather balloon on which footage of an eye, staring and blinking, is projected.

We were particularly excited, however, by the opportunity to see work by Jane Fradgley and War Boutique. Jane’s striking photographs of the museum’s collection of strong clothing will soon be on display at Guy’s Hospital. Here, however, the large-scale projections emerge with slow beauty on the dark brick walls: ghostly, exquisite and unsettling all at once. These haunting images of late nineteenth and early twentieth century garments of restraint offer a much more complex perspective on mental health care and experiences past and present than the usual stereotypes that fall under the “Bedlam” tag. Jane’s own exhibition, Held, will open in Atrium 2, Guy’s Hospital, on 9 November.

War Boutique’s practice examines forms of conflict – whether physical, psychological or emotional. For Bedlam, he has produced The Noosphere (literally meaning “sphere of the mind”). The sculpture combines Victorian crinoline construction with modern military fabrics, and is based on ideas of rotational therapy for mental illness, which date back to Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia of 1801. The Archives and Museum collection contains a model centrifuge, seemingly made in Bethlem’s workshop at a later date and for unknown reasons. The Noosphere even offers visitors a chance to experience the spinning chair, perhaps providing a new visual perspective on the world beyond it.

Bedlam runs until 21 October at the Old Vic Tunnels, Station Approach Road, London SE1 8SW. Book your free tickets online here.

This Is Your Hospital: New Web Resource

The Archives and Museum launches a new web learning resource this weekend, This is Your Hospital, devoted to the middle twenty years of the life of Warlingham Park Hospital. Central to this resource are extracts from a documentary commissioned by the Archives and Museum which combines archive footage and interviews. The documentary was screened for the first time on 10 October, World Mental Health Day, as part of the BBCs ‘Reel History of Britain’ festival, and the Archives and Museum are grateful to the Trustees of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Langley Park Boys School in Beckenham without whose support this event would not have been possible. The website also includes photographs, scanned archive documents and patient files, and further learning resources for use in schools will soon be added.

Opened in 1903 as Croydon Mental Hospital, Warlingham Park Hospital was closed in 1999 in common with many other mental hospitals, but remains an important element of local history. The website aims to share the stories of local people: whether former patients, staff or simply members of the surrounding community. The title, ‘This is Your Hospital’ reflects the ideas of Dr T.P. Rees, the Hospital’s Medical Superintendent from 1935 to 1956, who was in the habit of encouraging patients to make some contribution to the life of the Hospital, and to think of it as belonging to them. “People come to a mental hospital”, he used to say, “to learn how to live”. The experiences of some of these people appear in film clips and written reports, and we hope that the resource will grow over time as more stories are added.

Do you have memories of living or working at Warlingham Park Hospital that you would like to share with others? Or do you have an ancestor who was a patient or a member of staff? Visit the website to share your stories.

Warlingham Park Hospital from above

A Dangerous Method – and Psychoanalysis and Literature Event

The recent BFI London Film Festival included a screening of David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’, based on the play (and screenplay) by Christopher Hampton about the relationship between Freud, Jung and Sabina Spielrein. The topic has widely been regarded an unusual one for Cronenberg, mostly known for his contributions to the horror genre. Rather refreshingly, the film doesn’t appear overly concerned with trying to either justify or deride Freudian psychoanalysis. Audience questions after the screening, to actors Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortenson and Michael Fassbender, centred on how the actors researched their roles, or whether anyone had objected that characters were not portrayed as they “really” were.

Surely such portrayal is a well-nigh impossible feat: more so given both the highly narrative and interpretative nature of psychoanalysis (and its history) itself and the difficulty of assuming that personality traits and attitudes are universal and unchanging through time. After all, it is a modern audience that the film seeks to reach, and thus contemporary concerns and ideals may often prove more pertinent than early twentieth century ones.

Nonetheless, some of the comments made by the actors spoke to the difficulty of interpreting historical concepts for a modern audience. Keira Knightley’s portrayal of the young Spielrein as a patient in Geneva has received both praise and criticism but, as she admitted after the film, it was hard for her to know how Spielrein might have behaved on admission. Knightley explained that the hospital casenotes included such descriptions as “has a hysterical fit” without ever explaining or describing what was meant. Indeed, late nineteenth and early twentieth century commentators often spoke of the “protean nature” of hysteria, a disorder considered capable of imitating almost any other disease. In late nineteenth century Paris hospitals, for example, hysteria was viewed as closely synonymous with epilepsy, while in a middle class London drawing room it might be a very different matter: associated, perhaps, with exhaustion, fainting, stomach pains or “emotional excitement”.

Psychoanalysis and literature have often been closely related, and blog readers might be interested in a forthcoming event at the Royal Society of Literature on 21 November, at which psychotherapist and popular writer Adam Phillips will reflect on the relationship between creativity and mental health, ask whether we try too hard to be happy, and explore his belief that psychotherapy is ‘a king of practical poetry’.

‘A Dangerous Method’ is out on general release in the UK on 10 February 2012.

The Art of Psychiatry

The question of how the media treat issues of mental disorder forms part of the inspiration for our ongoing series of Curatorial Conversations; and how patients use creative media in their recovery journey could be considered to be part of the sub-text of our monthly In the Frame posts. Next month (Tuesday 8 November) the Royal Society of Medicine is to hold a day conference treating both of these themes, at which event the Co-ordinator of the Bethlem Gallery will speak. Details of the programme and an online booking facility may be found here; early bird discounts expire today!

art of psychiatry

‘This is Your Hospital’: Film Screening at Bethlem

Enoch Powell’s famous ‘water-tower’ speech was given fifty years ago this year. In it, he expressed the British Government’s determination to halve the capacity of residential facilities for mental healthcare facilities, and spelt out what this meant for the future: ‘the elimination of by far the greater part of this country’s mental hospitals as they exist today’. As famous as Powell’s speech became, the ideas expressed in it were not new to those who were then at the cutting edge of mental healthcare, and in the 1950s and 60s nowhere was thinking and practice more radical than at one of SLaM’s predecessor institutions, Croydon’s Warlingham Park Hospital. It was the first mental hospital in the country to implement a thorough open door policy, and the first to open a dedicated alcoholic unit. In 1954, two members of Hospital staff, Lena Peat and Reginald Bowen, became the UK’s first community-based psychiatric nurses, heralding the kind of changes in mental healthcare that inspired Powell’s vision seven years later.

By the year of the ‘water-tower’ speech, the Hospital’s outpatient services had found a home of its own in London Road, Thornton Heath (later known as the Oaks treatment centre). In common with other mental hospitals, Warlingham Park’s inpatient services were wound down and eventually closed in the 1990s. Footage of the Hospital, along with testimony from former staff and patients and relatives of patients, will be shown in Bethlem Hospital’s Boardroom on World Mental Health Day – Monday 10 October 2011 – as part of the BBC’s Reel History of Britain campaign. The documentary, This Is Your Hospital, will form part of a new online learning resource on Warlingham Park Hospital and mental health care from 1945 to 1960, on the Bethlem Heritage website.

The free screening starts at 12.30 on Monday 10 October in Bethlem’s historic Board Room (in the main administration block), and will be followed by an opportunity for discussion. Refreshments will be provided.


The Book of the Series

UK-based blog readers may be interested in the Woman’s Hour Drama to be broadcast each weekday next week on Radio 4 at 10.45am (repeated at 7.45pm, and available for a limited time thereafter on iPlayer). It will be based on extracts from two limited-edition books compiled by David Clegg of The Trebus Project from interviews with dementia sufferers. The first print runs of Ancient Mysteries and Tell Mrs Mill Her Husband is Still Dead are almost sold out – they might be collectors’ items by this time next week – but readers of this blog who are quick to contact the author using the details available on The Trebus Project website  may not have to wait for the reprint. The alternative, of course, is simply to tune in to the dramatised broadcasts for a series of narrative insights into living with dementia that promises authenticity and poignancy without heavy-handedness.