A unique collection housed in the Mental Health Museum at Fieldhead has inspired an exhibition at Wakefield One, which was unveiled on Friday 8 November by our chief executive, Rob Webster.
The event was launched in the atrium at Wakefield One by Rob and the Mental Health Museum, with the unveiling of two inspirational displays in front of project partners and guests. This was followed by a performance of short dramas and poetry written by members of local group, the Arts Café Players. The dramas imagined what may have happened in the lives of those who were committed to the Asylum in the 1800s that resulted in them being declared ‘insane’. The poetry reflected on some of the issues faced by service-users today.
Rob said: “It was an honour to unveil the exhibition and see the parallels between Mary Frances Heaton petitioning the queen and talking of her experiences and the service user stories in the stitching of their experiences. It was also profoundly moving to hear Jan recite her fantastic poems in expressive, soft Yorkshire tones and see the Players act out events from the 1800s”.
The ‘Empowering Heritage’ exhibition is a joint project between local community groups and the Mental Health Museum, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to explore this collection and take it out into the wider community. The aim of the project is to empower people to come together to combat mental health stigma and prejudice.
Mental health care in Wakefield started more than 200 years ago with the founding of the Wakefield Pauper Lunatic Asylum in 1818. Following visits to the museum, the groups, who are all from creative backgrounds themselves, were intrigued to find that creativity or ‘recreation’ as it was called then, was seen as an important part of life in the Asylum.
The exhibition looks at this topic through artworks created by the groups from objects they saw and stories they heard from the Mental Health Museum. It reflects on the positive role of creativity, in mental wellbeing and as a means of expression and protest.
The exhibition is on view to the public until May 2020 at Wakefield One, Burton Street, Wakefield WF1 2EB. It was co-curated by: Action Mix, Arts Café Players, Crafters’ Corner, Pontefract Arts Café and Portobello Craft and Camera Group, together with the Mental Health Museum.
Maria Ineson from the Mental Health Museum added: “This exhibition showcases some of the work from the first phase of the Empowering Heritage project. There will be further events and workshops over the next six months with lots of opportunities for staff, service users and the wider community to get involved. If people want to know more about the Museum and the project, we hope they will join us at one of our weekend open days coming up on Saturday 23 November and 7 December.”
The Mental Health Museum is open to the public Tuesday to Thursday 1pm – 4pm every week. Schools and group visits can be made at other times by appointment. Find out more about the Museum by coming along to the upcoming ‘Activity Saturdays at the Mental Health Museum’ on Saturday 23 November and Saturday 7 December from 11am – 3pm. The open days are free with guided tours, activities and refreshments available.