DR KIRKMAN INVITES

A final day of discussion and reflection takes place at the Museum of East Anglian Life on Friday March 28 2014, when guests will be invited to speculate on what the Asylum’s longest-serving Medial Superitendent would make of our project – and the role museums play in telling the story of mental health care.

With the help of our various partners we’ll also be looking at the role of art in portraying mental health, challenging stigma and promoting well-being.

The St Audry’s Project has used art and writing to explore and express issues surrounding mental health and well-being, past and present. A series of creative sessions led by artist Juliet Lockhart has now resulted in a new textile wall panel which can be seen in a corner of the St Audry Room.

Using a quilting technique known as “crazy” patchwork the panel is made up of pieces that express people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. Juliet has also created her own work for the gallery, a hospital-style screen which raises issues of labelling mental illness.

We are also developing two audio visual installations – one featuring descriptions from the past and one considering the use of language in the present. These are being previewed at Abbot’s Hall on Time to Talk Day (February 6, 2014)

We continually come across people with unexpected connections to St Audry’s.  Among them, artist Lindsay Harris who told us how she became fascinated with the empty site while it was awaiting redevelopment, leading to an exhibition entitled “Echoes, A Celebration of St Audry’s”.

Another artist, Jen Hall, now lives at Melton Park or “Old St Audry’s”.  She writes:

“It is a peaceful and very beautiful place to live …  You drive through the entrance along the road that divides the neatly mown grass of the golf course in two, giving the impression of moving through the grounds of a stately home.  This changes of course once you get round the corner and see the old buildings nestling in amongst the trees, with the more modern houses surrounding them.The trees for me symbolise the time element to this place, and of course the architecture of the redbrick asylum buildings that have been converted into homes.  Here you will find huge ancient oaks, copper beeches, sweet chestnuts and ash trees, many of them if not all, with preservation orders on them standing like guardians around the buildings beneath and giving a sense of permanence, of stories to tell, to the place. The gnarled old oak and sweet chestnuts overlooking my back garden put on a magnificent show of colour in the autumn and then shed their leaves to stand bare and exposed until the spring.  Suddenly just after Easter, the silent buds literally burst forth and transform the light in and around my house into an intensity of green.  Life is back with an exuberance, which never ceases to amaze.”