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Exhibition to explore hidden histories of Whittingham Asylum

Posted on - 13th October, 2018 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - City Centre, Grimsargh, History, Preston City Centre, Preston News, What's On in Preston
Nurses in Ward 1. Left: S Best (standing) and M Martin. Right: G Heighton or M Dooley and Margaret Smith. Image courtesy of the Harris
Nurses in Ward 1. Left: S Best (standing) and M Martin. Right: G Heighton or M Dooley and Margaret Smith. Image courtesy of the Harris

An exhibition will explore the hidden histories of Whittingham Asylum through items including patients’ photographs, replica clothing and rare paintings.

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The Hidden Histories – Alternative Futures exhibition has been organised by the Whittingham Lives Association in partnership with Lancashire Archives, the Harris and Lancashire County Museum.

The exhibition is being held at the Harris from Saturday 13 October to Sunday 25 November. It forms part of a wider two-year project exploring the history and legacy of Whittingham Asylum, from its opening in 1873 to its final demolition in 2016.

The exhibition combines personal experiences with social, cultural and historical observations, with the aim of examining changing attitudes towards mental distress.

Whittingham Postcard courtesy Geoff Speight
Whittingham postcard courtesy Geoff Speight

Items such as patients’ photographs, reception orders from the early 1900s and postcards, will appear alongside creative responses including visual art, music, poetry and film.

The exhibition will include paintings by rock musician Kevin Coyne, who worked at Whittingham Asylum as an artist in the Occupational Therapy department from 1965 to 1968.

David Manley, Emeritus Professor of Art at Derby University and curator of Happy Little Fat Man – The Art of Kevin Coyne, said: “Kevin Coyne was recognised for his contribution to music, but he also had an important career as an artist. Much of his inspiration rested on the vital experience he gained as a young man working at Whittingham, where he developed his lifelong obsession with those on the margins of society, and a passionate interest in mental health.

“The exhibition features paintings and drawings from all stages of his life, but includes rare items made whilst in his job at the hospital.”

House on the Hill by Kevin Coyne. Image courtesy of David Manley
House on the Hill by Kevin Coyne. Image courtesy of David Manley

Another element of the exhibition, Dressed for the Part, will explore the link between clothing and the management of women patients in County Lunatic Asylums through the 19th and 20th centuries. Clothing items on display will include crocheted collars that have been made in response to those female patients would have worn.

The exhibition will also feature visual artworks created by members of the Preston-based Creative Routes and Free Your Mind projects, plus service users at Guild Lodge, the medium-secure mental health care hospital on the outskirts of Preston.

Read more: Exhibition captures final days of Preston Indoor Market

Cabinet member for culture and leisure councillor Peter Kelly at Preston City Council, said: “I’m delighted that we are supporting this superb exhibition, exploring the 150-year history of one of Preston’s most historical buildings; its significance to the landscape and how creative responses to the project examine attitudes towards mental health in the past and present.”

To get involved with the Whittingham Lives project, email contact@whittinghamlives.org.uk or visit the Whittingham Lives website.

Will you be going to the exhibition? Let us know in the comments below.

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