A Brief History of Healing

CAMPFA & ARCADE  Sep 5th – Oct 5th 2019

A Brief History of Healing is a collaborative partnership project between ArcadeCampfa, the Cardiff and Vale University Health board and visual artist and mental health service user Gail Howard. For the last two months Gail and artist/writer Sarah Featherstone have been working with patients, staff and visitors to University Hospital Llandough running basket weaving, creative writing and printmaking sessions via a repurposed drugs trolley. The trolley has been developed with artist and printmaker Alex Goodman.

Through dialogue and art making A Brief History of Healing traces the patient narrative, focusing on the value of a therapeutic environment, particularly within an institutional context.

Throughout September, all resulting work from the first stage of the project will be exhibited in ArcadeCampfa and the Hearth Gallery at University Hospital Llandough, with an accompanying series of events at both spaces. Alongside the main exhibition in Campfa will be a Museum of Healing - this will include patient made artwork from the 1950s on loan from Glenside Museum, and archival material from the Whitchurch Hospital Historical Society, with contemporary work by Koestler Trust artist Lee Cutter and BHoH artist in residence Georgia Twigg.

The split site show will be open at the Hearth Gallery, University Hospital Llandough from 12 - 30 September.


Gail Howard Gail Howard is an artist who works both collaboratively and independently, the work made for BHoH has been made in collaboration with the patients and staff at Hafan y Coed adult mental health unit, either working one to one or in groups, and focusing on the patient narrative.

Previously an inpatient at both Whitchurch Hospital, where she was treated with intensive Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), and more recently the new build Hafan y Coed unit, Gail’s practice as an artist is often  characterised by acts of collaboration, negotiation and re-imagination. Focusing on dialogue and engagement, her work is site and people responsive, with the act of hand making at the centre of her practice.

Despite the fact that patient access to creative activity is widely acknowledged to be of significant restorative value, for various and complex reasons, access to these activities is limited within the current healthcare system. Gail’s own experiences of this lack of meaningful activity and access to a creative therapeutic environment whilst an inpatient is the core motivation behind the BHoH project.

Sarah Featherstone comes from a healthcare background, having initially trained and worked as a nurse. She now works full time as an artist, runs creative wellbeing sessions in the community and has a studio at Kings Road Yard. For BHoH she has been collecting alternative prescriptions from patients, staff and visitors, alongside printmaking workshops, which form part of the exhibition both in ArcadeCampfa and the Hearth Gallery.

Georgia Twigg is an Occupational Therapist, art maker and conversation haver. Through their professional practice they explore different ways of working together and individually to enhance wellbeing and quality of life, through their art practice they make music about finding ways to say what you need to say with their band Charismatic Megafauna, have conversations about having better conversations with the support of artists group Keep it Complex, and will be exploring how to have a better dialogue with themselves and their friends and collaborators during their week in Cardiff.

Alex Goodman is a Bristol based artist who makes print, performance and participatory projects. She utilises old, low-fi or obsolete technologies to make her work. Her projects open up platforms for others to participate in making large scale relief and text based prints. She is interested in colour and text as a way of encapsulating and expressing experiences. Her work with colour has evolved from experimentation with natural dye plants as a way of connecting with landscape, place and nature. This was a starting point her current research into colour’s ability to directly embody and project emotion.

Lee Cutter’s practice as an artist began following a 6 year custodial sentence at the age of 17. Locked in a cell for 23 hours a day for the first 2 years of his sentence, Lee began to carve into prison issue soap bars as a means of occupation. He has subsequently completed an MA at the Royal Drawing school and is currently senior Arts and Exhibition Assistant for the Koestler Trust. His work is widely exhibited, nationally and internationally, BHoH is proud to bring his work to Wales for the first time.

Shaun James is an artist and printmaker whose  work has no singular direction. Instead he attempts to engage inductively with variables - playing, accumulating and allowing a process to activate, dictate or guide an outcome. The outcomes suggest new directions and potential futures continuing the notion that the simplest act upon an object or idea can have a resonating effect.

Denis Reed (1917-1979) was a Bristol born painter who studied art at the West of England College of Art 1934-38 and then at the Royal College of Art in 1938. He took up a lecturing post at Loughborough College of Art in the early 1950s, but became unwell soon afterwards, returning to Bristol and being admitted for some years to the Bristol Asylum. The five drawings exhibited here were made during his time as an inpatient,, and are on loan from Glenside Hospital Museum where a larger collection of his work can be seen.  

Glenside Hospital Museum is based in Bristol and holds an important archive of artifacts, images, and data from the Bristol Asylum and psychiatric hospital (1861 to 1994) and the Stoke Park Colony of Hospitals (1909 to 2000). The core purpose of the museum is to be a dynamic educational community resource and to challenge negative attitudes about mental illness. Many thanks to Glenside project manager Stella Man for the kind loan of Reed’s work as well as books and papers from the Glenside archive relating to the history of Industrial, Occupational and Art & Music Therapy.

The Whitchurch Hospital Historical Society are a small Cardiff based organisation whose aim is the preservation and sharing of information and artefacts relating to Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff. Formerly Cardiff City Asylum, the hospital was opened in April 1908, and finally closed in April 2016, replaced by the new build Hafan y Coed at Llandough. Many thanks to WHHS archivist Gwawr Falconbridge for supporting the BHoH project, and for the loan of archival material relating to the history of occupational and art therapy at Whitchurch Hospital.

This project has been made possible by funding from the Arts Programme within Cardiff & Vale Health Charity, the Oakfield Trust, and Arts Council Wales.