Featured

ASYLUM JOURNAL

This is the post excerpt.

Advertisements

bexley1

This Blog is based on extracts taken from a journal I kept while working as an art therapist in the art therapy department at Bexley Hospital in Kent.

The period covers daily life in the department , the ebb and flow of the various creative activities , the movement and interaction of patients and staff, also volunteers , students and visitors .  It also details strong connections to other wards and departments at the time, i.e. Ashdown (The Drug dependancy Unit) and E1 (The Locked ward )

The art therapy department at Bexley Hospital (known as Oaklea 1) thrived for many years , offering  opportunities  to make art in a variety of ways and with a range of different media in its open sessions to  sometimes , the most challenging of individuals.  Its anarchic , active  and always creative atmosphere provided not only a facility in which to explore self ,  the world and others in it , but a sanctuary that encouraged  individuality and personal identity rather than the collective  nature of the large institution in which it was housed at the time .

The  art therapy department had begun life as a male bath house on the east side of the hospital and the middle of the three large studios that comprised the main body of the department still bore testament to this unlikely background , with its towel rails and pulleys ready to open the windows in the roof to let out the steam.
bexley2

WEDNESDAY 8th February 1984

WEDNESDAY 8th February 1984

b21Wednesday seems to be the day that drains are investigated and people are to be found peering round cavities and subterranean channels in the floor.

It was Chad again this time – who was very nice and cheerful and reassuring  – it’s an interesting and intriguing world  – the world of plumbing  – to be so immersed and involved and committed to drains and leaks and pipes.

And particularly important so it seems in an old Victorian institution like Bexley Hospital .  Its a different universe , to see the not obvious , the world beneath the floors and keeping it all functioning without impinging on the world above.  Strange and eerie to think of a network of cellars and corridors running parallel  below the world of corridors above .  Warm dark subterranean corridors  ,  a haven for the feral cats with their central heating pipes , all needing to be looked after , cosseted and coaxed , rusty and vulnerable through so many years of use.

It is difficult to see how they will survive to meet the millennium , probably they won’t.

Somebody told me that Ted Hersts   passion is the world of sewers  – it seems to me that psychiatrists and therapists might very well be interested in these subterranean worlds as they struggle to understand the world beneath the surface of the humans above.

(Ted Herst was a consultant psychiatrist at the Broomhills Therapeutic community at the time . Broomhills was part of  Bexley Hospital , though located in a separate house)

b22

Wednesdays of course is my general day of the week for reflecting , or it seems to be , probably because I am generally on my own in the department and then up to E1 , the locked ward by myself .  trundling the  converted tea trolley along the corridors.

And the session on E1 always leaves me with particular cause for thought and reflection .  Such a small knot of mad people up there at the moment .  It is an advantage  – NOT being so crowded .  remembering the days when I first started here in the early 1970’s , then  the ward was  teeming and of course there were  more people in the hospital anyway. With the cutting down of patient numbers there is however , a general shabbiness on the ward which does tend to enhance a bleak  rather run down  feeling.   The nurses are really trying their best but  despite this there does seem   a sense of incipient failure not only among the patients but among the staff as well.

People who have been brought into E1 have often reached the end of the line.  Their failure in life is manifested by their surroundings  – bleak shut off rooms  –  and they – with listless dazed apathy  – having reached the end of the line – ultimate betrayal by the world to which they often seem invisible  or not worth noticing  – surveying the existence around them  with dazed overmedicated apathy or the bizarre and restless manifestations of psychosis.

I already  know a lot of the people  who are bought in – I have seen them in the hospital before  – or I have seen them in E1 before .  Sometimes they look sheepish and self conscious , even hostile , that once again , I, and the other members of staff around  have been witness to their supposedly perceived failure and inadequacies.  But sometimes of course they are just relieved to see a familiar face.

A rather low key , even at times slightly apologetic approach seems to work the best, rather than being in the least over bearing or forceful .  I would never want to push art therapy onto someone who really didn’t want to do it  – why would I  – I would hate the idea of being forced if I were in a similar position .  If I do not know them , I approach  , – carefully  – I ask their name and I tell them mine ,  I ask them if they would be interested in doing some drawing , or some art  in general ? I suggest it might feel good to express how they feel .  I often sit next to one person and listen to them  , talk only if it seems necessary .  Often there is  an amazing sensitivity that emanates from both of us  or a small group in general .  We can be sensitive to each others needs .  And sometimes  there is a sense of concern for me  , which I find touching  – i.e. I have pushed a full trolley all the way along the corridors  to come to E1 and then  nobody  does anything  , there are those that retain a strong sense of what might be fair or fair .

Sometimes if I have known them before , it might be intuitively all right to ask them what has happened , why they are here etc  , but at the times not , it helps to have your antennae in full working order .  It just might be too painful .  Furthermore if paranoia is deeply entrenched questions are bound to be mistrusted . Where are the answers going to ?, who am I going to tell ?

Thursday 9th Feb 1984

Hopefully next Wednesday I may be able to fit in going to Tiranti’s off Charlotte Street to purchase some modelling tools for the art therapy department.

The underlife of the hospital never ceases to fascinate me .  Some people seem to be very status conscious in the choice of who they might mix with at work  – i.e. with psychologists , consultants .etc .  this doesn’t seem to work with me  – just the opposite in fact .  I seem to learn more about the workings of the hospital by knowing  the people who work in the stores , the electricians , John in the woodyard , Chad and the plumbers , some of the porters , and the  nurses of course .  It is they who are really the most important to the hospitals continued survival  – without them it would grind to a halt and disintegrate .  Well , I think the hospital is slowly physically disintegrating anyway !! but they keep sticking her together , painting her up , keeping the pipes unblocked .

Friday 10th February 1984

Peter Squibb has accepted my offer to work in the art therapy department .  This may not last all that long as he is very unpredictable  – but  a good prospect in the meantime .  i can see  some actual brushing and cleaning going on  – i.e. the sinks being actually CLEANED! The draining board actually CLEARED !.  Filthy corners being actually explored .  My heart has lifted at the prospect !.

This morning he gave us the benefits of his unique sociological observations , particularly about Sister S , who is new on the ward, having moved over from the old S2 .  Peters comments went as follows ;

‘She may have been all right with that  load of old women mate (S2 ward) but she’s no fucking good in R2 .  Bloody useless she is in there. She won’t last long – d’you know what she’s done ?  – she locks the dormitory during the day  – so nobody can get back in there – that means the women can’t change or put their lipstick on – you know , like they do and the men can’t change when they’ve been working on the gardens  – she’s bloody useless mate , I can tell you  –  and we’ve got a bloody stupid doctor on the ward  – and I’ll tell you something  – if she goes and doubles my Depixol  – I’ll smash the ward up .  I will . I’ll break all the windows – chuck the colour telly out of one  – I’ll murder her ‘.

My neutral replies were not somehow appreciated .  Its a difficult situation trying basically to defuse and lower  the mood .  Anyway he wasn’t finished yet ;

‘Nobody ever accepts what you say  – they’ve always got to argue  – especially these fucking doctors .  Argue , Argue  – so in order to prove I am right , to know how I feel I got to go fucking barmy to prove it .  Oh yes, she’ll say then , it doesn’t seem to suit you after all’

‘And what will happen to you  after you’ve thrown the coloured telly out of the  window ?’ I asked

‘I’ll go to E1 of course and then onto Rampton or Broadmoor , then out in a wooden box , thats what will happen  – but if they fucking listened to me it WOULDN’T happen  – but they’ve got to argue  – Sisters and bloody doctors and the nurses , everybody  – and then I come down to dear old Britta here and say all this and she says Oh yes but I thought she was very nice  – you’re not up there with her mate.  You don’t know ‘.

I couldn’t argue with that.  His philosophy on life had a gritty , realist and  logical feel to it .

BH, G and SE , all Ashdownians found this dizzying directness , a breath of fresh air .  One could almost use the word delightful .  No hidden agendas or coded messages , it was all out there , up front  .  Anything with such a ring of truth about it HAD to be listened to and taken seriously.

I think it was Peter’s remarks about doctors that really delighted BH as , at the moment he is carrying on  his own private war with Dr M , who he says is ‘pissing’ him about .

In fact BH rather laid himself open to such seemingly dictatorial actions during the community meeting over in Ashdown on Friday .  On being told that his passes were cancelled because he was late back  – he said he was taking them anyway.  He then sort of compromised by going home on Sunday  – taking his two hour passes etc .  But then ,  he was twenty minutes late , so Dr M could hardly ignore this  , all passes were stopped again .  Bit of a vicious circle .
b23Tea corner in middle studio of the art therapy department

So – no wonder BH beamed at every anti establishment word of abuse that Peter uttered .  He is quite enormously popular with Ashdown residents .  They can’t get enough of his down to earth philosophy and sociological observations on life in general and Bexley hospital and R2 ward in particular.  In truth Peter is very witty and intelligent with a sharp eye  that is uncannily accurate.

The art therapy department was very crowded this morning, nearly 30 patients in and out, rather too many for one art therapist.  Several new people, A from E1., and  S Q of old E1 fame.  She has been admitted into Ferndale and seems to have mellowed and changed.  I well remember past occasions on E1 , there was the memorable time , when , standing in an empty wardrobe for some considerable period , she suddenly and quite unpredictably came out and punched me in the head.  She was one of the few people who could strike fear, no , terror in my heart.  She cheerfully terrorised everyone on E1.  I remember her talking about chopping people up and chuckling gleefully to herself.

I also have a clear and disconcerting memory of her cornering a young psychology student on the ward at the time and placing her fingers round her throat.  The memories could go on and on. There was another time when I took three Goldsmiths art therapy students on placement with the art therapy department , up to the ward and just being able to divert disaster  , i.e. SQ suddenly striking out at M with a really hard well aimed punch that luckily missed due to my quick action.

My head of Medusa broke in the kiln  , it was a bad week of firing .  Sometimes it happens like that.

I went off to the ward round in  Ashdown during the afternoon .  The art therapy department is somewhere where Ashdown residents are quite comfortable  AND most importantly , creative , but it does have a hint of anarchy at times . We are all moving in the same direction  but Oaklea 1 tends to be a space where freedom of expression is entirely possible  and often takes place , i.e. as with PS.

Reassuringly though , with this connection in mind , Sister commented that BH had come back from the art therapy department and had said to her that Britta was trying to screw him up as well because she agreed with the Ashdown Team .  Dr M smiled broadly at this so that was a bit reassuring and Sister said wasn’t it nice that  we all (the staff) took a consistent approach with BH .  We all nodded like good children.

What with all the sensitivity about confidentiality in the meetings  , I had somehow wondered if I was being suspected as the mole .  I hope not   because it certainly isn’t me .

                        Asdown models in fired grey clay 

MONDAY 13th February 1984

 Outside contractors were called in to remove the effluence from the previously blocked drain that has been causing a fairly foul smell for the past few weeks and could have been some  sort of serious health hazard.

Even OUR department , though decidedly not one of the cleanest or the more hygienic departments in the hospital were becoming very aware and beginning to object to the subtle yet pervasive odour. The odour prevailed from the moment the door to the department was opened and increased almost with each step one took into the interior – finally culminating  to the foulest odour by the office and store room by the back door.

Even the most hardy of people have been suddenly saying to me  ‘Cor, whats that smell Britta’?

PS started work in the department today and the sinks look better already  – the corners , awful corners by the sink have been duly  explored and cleaned . On the housekeeping

b25

and hygiene front things are looking up  – if only he will stay .  His  spasmodic presence working here tends to be very unpredictable .  He is quite likely to come to me tomorrow morning and say ; ‘I’m going to jack it in Mate’ . We’ll just have to try and keep him reasonably contented , although I did try this with KB alias RJ and it didn’t work .  I think it is the R2  ethos /culture , whatever you might like to call it    i.e. ‘Bolshoi at all costs ‘etc.

Denise is not in today and what with that , the drains being cleaned , Dudley going to a funeral and Sheila not in work , there is o chance of anyone covering the department , so I couldn’t go to the Ashdown Community meeting but I let them know .

b26

Despite everything  , smells etc , it was a good morning, about 28 people in the department throughout the dining .  PTh didn’t come , but JB did and drew something for me  , also Rose M who said ‘I love you’ in that beautifully straightforward way of hers.

GG enjoyed himself on Thursday evening with J , evidently they went for a curry (Maharajah of Bexley) in Bexley Village ) and a pint afterwards .  Tonight he is being feted by R  – this time Italian style and a drink afterwards.  I said to him ‘My God G , it’s all right for some – we’ll soon have to book your company in advance’  To which he laughed.  Somehow he has been looking much warmer of late

 TUESDAY 14th February 1984

Jean just phoned over to let me know that Deidre is not very well and not coming in . It might be nice if Deidre could phone over to the department herself , being part of our team etc .  Knowing second hand somehow distances her from us.

Heard this curious noise from the middle studio as I was taking my coat off in the store room , a sort of jumping , climbing sound .  Peered out to see N1’s G perched on the edge of the bin and jumping down.  I did suggest he could perhaps do this elsewhere , health and safety a little bit in mind etc .  And so he did . Quite politely.

b27Wednesday 15th February 1984

 My weekly day  of meditation and reflection , interspersed with actual work of course. Looking back her the last two days it has been a very useful time.  Eileen’s chart system which she devised for me with the art therapy department in mind  – the breakdown of ward attendance is working very well indeed. In fact it is excellent.

It was my  earlier feeling that Mary Burden had quite lost hope that anything like administrative efficiency could be alive and flourishing in the art therapy department.  I WANTED to come up with a breakdown of the actual figures and was very good at the regular register taking  –  But a more in depth and detailed picture  of  attendance was definitely needed, – i.e.  from what ward and what client group using the department ? , when and  how often ?,etc etc  had eluded us .

Mary brought it up several months ago and kind , fair person that she is , had resignedly refrained from mentioning it again.

She phoned up yesterday to ask me something or other , quite unrelated to the vexing question of figures and statistics and I decided to break the news to her.

‘Mary’ I started off by saying ‘I wanted to speak to you about something’.

Pottery corner by the kiln in middle studio

‘Yes’  , she sounded faintly guarded , ie , possibly thinking ‘Oh dear  – is she going to order more art materials at phenomenal cost  etc , we’ve overspent our budget as it is and there is no money etc .’

‘Do you remember you talked to me some months ago about how you would like a breakdown of ward attendances?’

‘Yes’? the inflection in her voice faintly tremulous and rising – incredulous hope perhaps ?

‘Are you sitting down Mary ?’

‘I am sitting down Britta, I have a feeling  that I’m going to need to ‘

‘Have you taken a deep breath?’

‘I’ve just taken one ‘

So I launched into an account of how Eileen had   devised a simple but effective means of noting down ward attendances – one , which in fact only took up about three minutes of my time at the end of each session.  Mary , needless to say was  delighted and amazed .   Nice to do something like that once in a while , most exhilarating .

And of course I have to agree that it is very useful to know WHICH wards use the art therapy department.  My initial reluctance was not due to any disagreement about this , but rather a feeling of helpless inadequacy , of knowing my administrative limitations etc .

Actually I had had an abortive attempt some time previously  – I had devised a colour code with disastrous results.  Denise and Deidre both agreed it was very attractive to look at but fairly hopeless  as a quick and efficient means of gaining information.  Anyway it was a very agreeable surprise for Mary and I was pleased.

b28

                                               Ashdown artwork

Extracts from February 1984

Wednesday 1st February 1984

 1984_1
Got a shock when I walked into the art therapy department this morning .  The damp smell that has been troubling us for a few days was even more pervasive and the cupboard had been moved by the back door.

It was strangely unnerving to come into the department , prepared for a quiet morning as is usual on Wednesday when we are closed to patients ,- to suddenly , without any prior warning ,  see someone rise out  the floor , wet and foul and smelling of sewerage !.

Good thing my heart is fairly sound!

Evidently there is a blockage  in the drains  – certainly the end of the department by the back door (see  photo) and store room have been smelling very damp and the floor in my office is gradually subsiding into the labyrinth of cellars below.

Dudley helped me move the cupboard into the office.  Its a lot better in there anyway and , as he said , it could be to our advantage in the long run  – our floors might finally be seen to !
1984_2

I have warned people that if I do not emerge after a certain period of time from the office , please explore further , if necessary force your way in , – as I might have disappeared into the  dark maze of subterranean corridors below .  never to be seen or heard of again!  Another one of the unsolved mysteries connected to  Bexley Hospital.

Thursday 2nd February 1984

I think the drain blockage that plagued the department and filled our daily lives with horrible smells is now taken care of – although there are still eerie gurgling sounds from under the floor .  No doubt the water is draining away.

The department is slowly filling up. There are a few familiar faces .  AM muttering and laughing to himself just outside the office and AH saying ‘Sorry Nurse’ and ‘Can I have a cup of tea?’

PH put the kettle on.  This is more or less standard procedure . Hearing these sounds around me is always a reassuring  start to the day .

The department is slowly filling up . E,C,PT, and JPH, G and AM are in.  AM is trying to scrounge cigarettes.

GG is painting well today.  He seems to have found some direction , perhaps the visit to the Tate and BH has done a semi monster in clay , which he says , reminds him of  himself .

The evening session turned out to be quiet.  AG was quite overactive and strange , kept shutting himself in rooms and it necessitated someone following him around most of the time.  He also kept standing on chairs , muttering to himself and cursing .  It provided a surreal backdrop to the pockets of creativity in various corners of the department.  He even tried some clay modelling , which is very unusual  – unheard of really .

SF came down ‘Sorry , I’m late , Britta’ , she said and attempted a drawing .  She kept saying  ‘ Oh I can’t do it, it’s no good , I can’t do it’.  She then disappeared into the next studio and yelled,  ‘Get out of it , you parasite’ – presumably to AG who was still standing on chairs and jumping up and down .

Definitely the syndrome of Bexley Hospital at night again! L came in and he and GG played guitars and sang at the beginning of the evening session , which , despite the strange goings on with AG standing on  and off the chairs  did give the studios a nicely ambient relaxed feel , conducive to spontaneity and creative expression.

Monday 6th February 1984
It was a heavy community group over in Ashdown this morning .  People initially silent and the air full of unspoken anxieties .  There IS something about the groups though.  I have become accustomed to the puzzling silences , the non verbal clues of small almost imperceptible movements , expressions elusive to translation ,  sighs, grunts , groans etc .

I do have bit of a problem with Friday community groups in E1 .  I don’t quite know why  but the overall mood is more active and by the end of the week I am less active and have an added problem of a struggle with sleepiness . I realise it is a clear end of the week syndrome .  Also the trouble is exacerbated by the fact that i am not used to sitting down for protracted periods of time in comfortable chairs .  Sleep begins to drift around me like an alluring blanket and I long to give way to it . !

I did suffer the same tendency in Dr Brough’s ward round  and it’s certainly NOT a lack of interest .  Just the opposite in fact .  Perhaps I have a natural tendency towards narcolepsy?  whatever it is it is very annoying .  Perhaps  strong black coffee and dousing cold water on my face BEFORE I go over to Ashdown next Friday might help .

In this mornings group there was quite a long silence .  Dr M seems to specialise in silences on Monday morning .  Not sure why  – perhaps just because it is Monday.  About 10.50 she might make a remark along the lines of ‘It was a very verbal , noisy group on Friday and yet today nobody has anything to say’.

Mostly there is a long pause before anyone answers and then it is usually along the lines of ‘Well – there’s nothing much to say .  Nothing happened over the weekend .  It was just pretty boring ‘

And the group starts from there – T- a new patient was pretty scathing about everything , the food , the lack of  activities at the weekend.etc.

R didn’t come into the group.  The message was that he hadn’t slept the night before and was very tired .  The rest of the group seemed to feel pretty ambivalent about this  .  He was obviously angry and disturbed  – but arguably this was even more reason to be part of the group.

S voiced the general feeling by saying she often felt she didn’t want to come in to the group ,- nevertheless she did,  so she felt pretty angry about R not coming in.

The general consensus of opinion was that R seemed pretty withdrawn AND disturbed and maybe he wasn’t getting the right sort of attention , i.e. he wasn’t getting enough attention from the staff – particularly from his key worker DM.

Right at the end of the meeting BH pushed in a little remark in the very effective way he has at times.  And of course it landed with power and impact – i.e. it was a pity DM couldn’t be bothered to put in the same amount of time he had put in with JP who had left the previous Friday.

DM didn’t rise to this – but nevertheless did look quite annoyed.  I do understand his enthusiasm for some people and his indifference to others but it doesn’t always enhance the model of good practice – at least most health professionals might  TRY and maintain an overall sense of fairness ,  I did feel that BH’s remark was valid and justified .

Back in the art therapy department I brought JT into the session from the Cedars Day Centre next door .  I am still trying to get her to speak to me and she does respond very positively non verbally , which is a good beginning, i.e. she stands up as soon as she sees me enter the Cedars and then moves forward with a grimly determined air and we walk in to the art therapy department together .  I am very encouraged .

Sometimes she does quite rich and beautiful drawings  – usually of a building within a building  within a building  – the boundaries of each layer being worked on until a rich effect is achieved .  On a good day , she writes her name  , loosely and largely in one corner of the paper .  This is something that has an universal feel.  We arrive in the world and are given a name  –  an affirmation of existence

I went up to E1 for half an hour .  As always , there are some lonely lost souls  up there .  LD has been admitted .  We first met when I was art therapist at Joyce Green Hospital in Dartford. Working in a large hospital like Bexley is very different from working in a small unit like the one at Joyce Green .  On the whole though , I love working here, the challenges , the aliveness , the raw aspects of life uncovered , the struggle against institutionalisation .  And sometimes , paradoxically the unexpected contentment of giving over to it  , where repetition and routine are like a soothing antidote to the pressures of the world outside .  Although , often life within these walls is very sad .  I don’t love the sadness as such but acknowledge that it is a part of life – an essential and integral part of life inside or outside the hospital.

Occasionally  though , I look at the piece of graffiti in the middle studio which reads “I wish I was who I was when I wished I was who I am today’ (!)

When I first arrived on E1 .  LD and I looked at each other.  LD recognised me first and I did immediately think that there was something familiar about her face – but my memory of her was with long hair  – a careful strange face  , rather lovely in its way , with broad cheekbones and regular features , but often expressionless and impassive , with eyes that looked out  at you and the world  coldly behind large spectacles .  But here was somebody  – about the same age as myself , perhaps a little younger .  No glasses and her hair was short and sticking up in a very modern punk like style .  It was that I think that initially floored me .  LD and a punk hairdo didn’t  mesh in my mind at first .  It took time to acclimatise myself to the change .

She apologised for not coming down to the art therapy department  – I remembered at Joyce Green , her art work had been very striking  , restrained yet with an exciting depth of colour .She had liked art therapy. She explained further that she had not been able to find the department .

I sympathised . I had had the same problem upon my arrival at the hospital a decade or so earlier .  All the corridors seemed so similar .  It was like traversing a labyrinth.

She spoke very softly and quickly at the table and we looked at each other over pieces of paper .  I said as a sort of introduction to the session .  ‘Are you LD?’ and she said ‘Yes’

PW also joined us – he is quite mad at the moment and full of anger, intelligence and cunning .  He kept asking me my political affiliations and said his father used to belong to the Communist Party  of Great Britain and they used to meet in his front room in Woolwich. I remembered his passion for uniforms and security guards and keys .  He said to me  ;’Did your husband ever work in Securicor?’

I went over to the staff meeting in Ashdown  – they had started discussing the mornings group and I suppose I felt bit of an intruder .  The meeting was supposed to start at 11.30 but they were still discussing the mornings group so maybe I should rethink my policy of trying to attend the odd staff meeting over in the unit – a lot of it may be inappropriate  for me

Dr M was in the middle of talking of the way staff treat patients, the old us and them thing , of course  I must have missed a great chunk of it – so maybe what I heard was taken a bit out of original context.  She suggested that if staff felt a little mad themselves they would compensate for this by treating the patients like 2nd class citizens   Though sometimes if they tried to treat patient as individuals they might still end up treating them as 2nd class citizens .  We should always be aware that , yes , of course we were human beings with weaknesses and that we or our children could be just as susceptible to drug abuse as the addicts themselves .  nevertheless there WAS a difference between us and we should remember that and not lay ourselves open to being manipulated and used by the patients.  She mentioned the ‘leaks’ from the office  – patients often seemed to know what was being said by staff, implying that they had been told by members of staff  – this was a windup which could be avoided .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASYLUM JOURNAL

bexley1

This Blog is based on extracts taken from a journal I kept while working as an art therapist in the art therapy department at Bexley Hospital in Kent.

The period covers daily life in the department , the ebb and flow of the various creative activities , the movement and interaction of patients and staff, also volunteers , students and visitors .  It also details strong connections to other wards and departments at the time, i.e. Ashdown (The Drug dependancy Unit) and E1 (The Locked ward )

The art therapy department at Bexley Hospital (known as Oaklea 1) thrived for many years , offering  opportunities  to make art in a variety of ways and with a range of different media in its open sessions to  sometimes , the most challenging of individuals.  Its anarchic , active  and always creative atmosphere provided not only a facility in which to explore self ,  the world and others in it , but a sanctuary that encouraged  individuality and personal identity rather than the collective  nature of the large institution in which it was housed at the time .

The  art therapy department had begun life as a male bath house on the east side of the hospital and the middle of the three large studios that comprised the main body of the department still bore testament to this unlikely background , with its towel rails and pulleys ready to open the windows in the roof to let out the steam.
bexley2