Art & Protest: What’s there to be mad about?

Bethlem Gallery

7th September – 8th November

“The first time I walked into the Bethlem Gallery’s Art & Protest exhibition, I nearly cried. A collection of artwork curated by Dolly Sen, the show takes a piercing, unwavering look at what oppression looks like – and how we can fight it. The result is something incredibly special.”

Emily Reynolds writing for Disability Arts Online

Bethlem Gallery is pleased to present this group exhibition of artworks and protest ephemera curated by artist and activist Dolly Sen. Dolly became involved in mental health activism after her own experience as a psychiatric patient and as a witness to other’s experience.

There are people who rise up against what has hurt them, whether it be psychiatric coercion, benefit cut deaths, austerity, or any other form of oppression. Art & Protest: What’s there to be mad about? is a celebration and acknowledgement of the role of art in political activism by those who take a stand.

Dolly says: “This exhibition will honour our right to be ourselves and to be treated with humanity and respect, and even our right to stay alive, by using art to confront, to embolden ourselves with, to stand tall, and to show others they are not alone. 

“We need to protest to reject the status we have been given. It is art to create an effect and affect; it is to change things; it is switching the power relation to make perpetrators look like twats.  

Art is our armour to go into battle with; a way to create a world where we can claim some of our soul back.”

The mental health protest movement has been around for decades, this exhibition presents and rejoices in some of the current and recent work coming out of the UK and aims to provide a platform for dialogue around art, activism and the mental health care system.

Featuring: Bobby Baker, Chas de Swiet, Colin Hambrook, Dolly Sen, Nat F (F.E.E.L. – Friends of East End Loonies), gobscure, Hamja Ahsan, John Hoggett, Mad Chicks, Mad Pride, Nick Lloyd, Paul McMichael, Rachel Rowan Olive, Recovery in the Bin, Speak Out Against Psychiatry (SOAP), Thompson Hall, the vacuum cleaner and Hana Madness, Vince Laws and BA Curating students from Goldsmiths College.

Events Programme

Workshop: Protest t-shirts: what’s there to be mad about?

Saturday 7 September 2019
Bethlem Gallery

What makes you mad? Join us to print your own protest t-shirt. Inspired by our new exhibition ‘Art and Protest—what’s there to be mad about?’ we will be designing our own slogans and stencilling them onto t-shirts. Bring along your own t-shirt to upcycle. We will be looking at art by activist Vince Laws which has been used in street protests and in parliament.

Workshop: Art of Protest: 1

Saturday 28th September 2019
1pm-5pm. Drop-in. No need to book. Bethlem Gallery

Join artists and students from Goldsmiths College, UoL to make banners, placards and protest objects for the ‘Art of Protest’ march for World Mental Health Day on 10th October.

Workshop: Protest banners: what’s there to be mad about?

Saturday 5 October 2019
Bethlem Gallery

Have your voice heard! Join us to make your own protest placard. Pick a cause you are passionate about, be it the environment, human rights or mental health rights, create a slogan and use stencils, paint and tape to get your message out there. BOOK HERE

Workshop: Art of Protest: 2

Saturday 5th October 2019
1pm-5pm. Drop-in. No need to book. Bethlem Gallery

Join artists and students from Goldsmiths College, University of London to make banners, placards and protest objects for the ‘Art of Protest’ march for World Mental Health Day on 10th October.

Workshop and march: Art of Protest: 3 and march

Thursday 10th October 2019
11am—4pm, ORTUS, Maudsley Hospital site. Drop-in. No need to book.

Join artists and students from Goldsmiths College, UoL to make banners, placards and protest objects for the ‘Art of Protest’ march and join the march.

The Robert Dellar memorial lecture 2019

Saturday 26th October
Bethlem Museum of the Mind, Wolfson Room

Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network will be delivering the annual Robert Dellar Memorial lecture. Co-founder of Mad Pride, Robert Dellar was a talented writer, survivor, advocate and activist for improvements in mental health services, and was a key force behind the Mental Health Resistance Network. Robert Dellar passed away in 2016. BOOK HERE

Workshop: Protest zines: what’s there to be mad about?

Saturday 2 November 2019
Bethlem Gallery
Join artist and writer Rachel Rowan Olive and artist Beth Hopkins for a workshop exploring the political power of the zine and have a go at making your own zine. BOOKING  AVAILABLE SOON.

Performance: Dolly Sen and Chas de Swiet: mad passports

Saturday 2nd November 2019
12:30-2pm. Drop-in. No need to book. Bethlem Gallery

Dolly & Chas are on the border of mad heaven. Border controls check to see whether people are suf ciently mad enough to go in. Dolly is dressed as the doctor in charge, Chas is the pharmacist who has morphed into a non-binary cyber punk. Dolly interrogates people and when they have satis ed the questioning the are given a mad passport, then they are allowed into heaven with… well, wait and see.

Discussion: BETHLEM SALON #13 ‘The Art of Protest’ – POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE (apologies for any inconvenience)

Saturday 2 November
Bethlem Gallery

Join artists, researchers and activists to discuss the histories and ongoing impact of mental health activism through the arts.


Monday 11 November 2019
6:30–8pm. Drop-in. No need to book.
Dragon Café

Join Dolly Sen and a group of artists, activists, writers and performers for a resurrection of Bonkersfest, the celebration of all things creative, eccentric and crazy. Line up TBC!

Art & Protest: What’s there to be mad about? Is running in parallel to the Bethlem Museum of the Mind’s exhibition Impatient! Stories of service user advocacy.

Impatient! Stories of service user advocacy

7 September 2019 – 4 January 2020

Those with a history of contact with mental health services have sought representation, support and advocacy for centuries. Service user advocacy groups are varied in nature: from grassroots to national, informal to established, conservative to radical, they reflect the diversity of society. This exhibition highlights the material culture of some of these groups, and charts the development and impact of their voices, and the challenges they have faced.


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