We had a fabulous open event, a incredible turn out despite the torrential rain outside. Thank you to everyone who came along tonight and giving us such deep and heart felt comments.
We put on a picnic lunch in the museum so that people could enjoy the experience of looking at the collection and share their memories of what is was like to work in Stoke Park, Cosham, Hanham and Glenside Hospitals from the 50’s onwards.
Fewer people attended than we had hoped due to illness and bad weather. However, the discussions that took place were probably more intimate because of this. It was very moving to be given an insight into how it felt to work in both Stoke Park and Glenside hospitals.
One example of the depth of the experiences that were shared moved us all to tears. Mrs. D, was recruited in Jamaica at the age of 19 to work in Stoke Park Hospital, she told us of her experiences when she arrived in Bristol and went to work. She described herself as having been treated like a princess by her mother “My hands had never touched dirt”.
She went to be interviewed at Stoke Park at 9am in the morning and was given the job straight away. She was expected to begin work at ten that same day, provided with a uniform and ‘given’ a Ward to look after without supervision or training. Mrs D told us of the shock, horror and disgust she felt on seeing the profoundly disabled children. Mrs. D was very honest about her feelings. She had had no idea that “such people could live”. She talked about crying herself to sleep for “three months solid”. When asked how long she had endured it Mrs D replied “44 years”. Asked, what had kept her going back day after day she responded quizzically, “Love, of course, love kept me going. I knew that the children would suffer from the loss of me, would miss me, and thought that they had enough to endure.” There were nods and mutters of agreement from the other participants and not a dry eye in the house.
We plan follow up sessions with The Golden Agers because there is a wealth of material about the experiences of Caribbean nurses who worked in these hospitals that it bears further investigation. Ideally, we would like to collect stories, experiences and artefacts and make a permanent display in the museum to reflect the contribution made by Caribbean Nurses. We intend to fund raise separately for this project.
Pat Jamieson, 16/11/2016
Boy’s Don’t Cry Event, 1st/8th October 2016
I’ve hosted a men only event, split over two dates in the Museum. Each event was 2 hours… where we talked, questioned, exchanged experiences, debated and ate cake.
I want to say thank you to Paul and Viv, (two retired male psychiatric nurses who worked at Glenside) for sharing their experiences working in the hospital and providing us with an insight into what patients lives were like in the hospital.
I also want to thank the ten men who took part in the event. Here’s a selection quotes from event, in no particular order:
“how can anyone have time to contemplate with all the noise and distractions around us”
“Do you really believe there is someone in control!”
“People are susceptible”
“People go to doctors expecting an answer”
“Schools don’t teach the things we need to learn, like money”
“It would be useful to know what we are trying to do and to get out of this”
“I realised having two sons myself, I’ve become like my parents, telling them to go outside, play football, enjoy the sunshine… they come home, play games… they only talk to me, when there’s a problem with the computer”
“People are stupid”
“We are dealing with conflict, internally”
“It’s simple, turn it off!”
“How can you assume everyone is like that, you don’t know anything about me!”
“Life is simple really, we just make it complicated.”
“I’m feed up with seeing violence, blood and gore on tv, why do they have to constantly repeat it over and over… I’m complete desensitised to it, I can’t care anymore”
“There’s a reason we are made to feel incapable”
“I fully respect what you say, but…”
“You can choose to ignore TV!” “I have stopped watching TV, I watch YouTube and alternative media.”
“You can make your own choices”
“Nhs should use talking therapy” – “Nhs does use talking therapy”
“We’ve got to the end and haven’t talked about mental illness!”
We are well prepared for the first Unlocked Writing Workshop. Pat and I have made cakes and we’ve written copious notes. Anwyl brings strawberries. We sit round the large oak table usually weighed down with books below the photos of Victorian patients. There are ten of us – several volunteers from the museum itself and some artists new to the museum, an interesting mix. Pat and I have put together a series of exercises, some short and punchy to get things going and some longer with more time to observe, describe and reflect. One thing that strikes me when we share what we have written is that hearing everyone’s written descriptions of the cabinets is as exciting as looking at the artefacts themselves, sometimes more so. Something profound happens in the translation from looking to word. We write, read out and discuss. We had wanted to consider and talk about the assumptions that we bring to the place and at times the volunteers explain the background to contextualise some of the objects and photos that we’ve been looking at. Everyone here has brought their own histories and associations as well their own different writing styles. We collaborate to write a poem, each writing a line and then playing with the order to see what comes out.
Allowing myself the luxury of space travel
Colours shining, shimmering on white paper
Out of darkness comes forth sweetness
The organ sleeps
Its echoing voice silent
In the dim light
The patient act
Of being a patient
Stored in a cool dark place
There is so much noise here
The blast and tremor of the organ
Here are the keys to understanding
First stop to unlock
We seem to have arrived in the wrong section
We buy sandwiches, crisps and strawberries on our way to the Museum. Each of us has baked a cake and after a mornings research, we prepare lunch for the volunteers. The video screen is set up so that we can show our website, the trolley loaded with cake and sandwiches. We make the tea and put out the chairs. There is a good crowd and plenty to eat. We introduce Unlocked, explain why we are interested in the museum and to give an example of our approach and the kind of art we make, we talk a little about our last project – The Time Machine. We also speak about the individual artworks that we are making in response to the museum and the events that we are planning over the next months: the Writing Workshop on the 6th August, the Memory Workshop we would like to run with the volunteers in September, the Boys Don’t Cry Workshops and our contribution to the Open Heritage Weekend – Naming of Parts and Graphs. Many of the volunteers seem very interested. Bryan is particularly supportive and both Sue and Helen said they would like to come on the Writing Workshop. Stella suggests that volunteers who hadn’t worked at the hospital could choose a story from the museums existing recordings for the Memory workshop. Ann says she will bring the hairdresser and there are a few others that she is still in touch with.