Bethlem Gallery and Museum public opening – what a week!

Whilst we have always known how significant our project is in the cultural landscape, we were still unprepared for what was really to come. Thanks to the wonderful press team across both venues and from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). We have lost count of all the brilliant coverage, but just to name a few; BBC breakfast television, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Big Issue, Time Out, Radio 4 Front Row, Standard, Bromley News Shopper, Getty images, Rex Features, and 12 international countries’ media. Our feet barely touched the ground.

 

Our amazing spokes persons; Artists Liz Atkin and Dan Duggan, Dr Deji Ayonrinde, Dr David O’FLynn, and Victoria Northwood – Head of the Museum of the Mind, have made a powerful impact. Their genuine and insightful words have communicated brilliantly from a position of knowledge and experience, making the message clear that the artists and people’s stories are at the centre of what we do. We especially enjoyed Dan’s prediction that “the 21st century is the century of the mind”.

 

As a result of all this hard work, our ‘soft launch’ week has been an unprecedented success, we have had over 400 visitors in two days – that is the same amount as we would usually average in a month. We at the Gallery feel very privileged to be working along side the Museum. It’s been such an exciting week to see our visions come to life and complement each other so well.

 

Next stop is the VIP launch later in March at which Grayson Perry will be kindly giving a speech. We are looking forward to enjoying and celebrating the space with everyone who has supported the project.

 

Dr Deji Ayonrinde wrote to us after visiting the space last week.

One of my proudest moments last week was when I spent some time “mystery shopping” in the museum and gallery.

– Warm, authentic and enthusiastic reception by volunteers. 

– A group of school age youth commenting on the exhibits and ideas for a school project.

– A service-user overheard telling an accompanying nursing assistant that should his family visit, their attitude to him would change.

– A couple disagreeing over the “Mental Health Act” challenge – “yes” vs. “no”

– A member of the public (builder) skillfully running his hands over surfaces and commenting- “they did well”

– A consultant psychiatrist observing – “amazing what has been done with this building”

Hearing this wonderful feedback has made it all worthwhile.

 

Dan Duggan, Bethlem Gallery Artist wrote:

“It has been a pleasure and a sincere privilege to represent the new gallery and museum as an ex-patient and bethlem artist. It is so wonderful to see both the gallery and museum getting the attention they deserve and putting creativity on the cultural, mental health landmap.

I think we now have two professional spaces to communicate the importance of art and history in mental health and to carry that legacy forward. I look forward to many happy hours in the new building, as a visitor and a contributing artist.”

 

We extend our deepest thanks to the Maudsley Charity, SLaM, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the many other smaller trusts and foundations for believing in us and for making this project happen. The new space has turned our collections and artist’s work from having a marginalised representation into becoming an equal contender within the National and International Museum and Gallery world. We hope this is a resource you can be proud of and that can act as a lasting legacy for all.

Don’t miss our coverage on BBC and Radio 4’s Front Row.

 

Beth Elliott, Gallery Director