Bamburgh Clinic creates unusual art project

Posted: 14/01/20

Patients at Bamburgh Clinic have created an art project designed to represent what life is like in a medium secure unit.

The project, which has been over a year in the making, features two sets of lockers that highlight the fact that when patients are brought into a unit like Bamburgh Clinic their possessions are put into lockers. Items in rooms are kept to a minimum and many things we would take for granted are restricted.

The project is part of an ongoing joint venture with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. The initial stage of which saw the collection of objects reflecting what it is like to live and work in the Bamburgh Clinic. This came about after realising that while there was plenty of historic records from the Trust, there was nothing in way of a contemporary collection.

The first locker is covered in butterflies, which change in colour from black to gold, symbolising the patient’s journey moving from the dark, difficult times towards brighter, better times.

A soundscape has also been installed to go alongside the locker, developed with musician Tim Hutchinson. The music is said to represent butterflies’ beating wings. The intriguing sound gently reverberates around Bamburgh Clinic’s forum area, which has become somewhat of an exhibition space.

The second locker is split into four themes, destination, art, safety and prison, with each of them meaning something to the individual that created it.

The destination theme explores the patient’s love of music, describing it as ‘a good companion when you don’t know where you’re going’. The safety theme features a glass jar with a razor inside. A light above is there to remind everyone to be aware of the dangers that both razors and glass can pose in the Bamburgh Clinic. The prison theme includes a cushion which a patient has hand-embroidered with intricate detail, while the art theme lists an individual’s creative skills on a hand, the tool which has enabled their work.

Michael McHugh, who is part of the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’ wellbeing and outreach team, worked with the service users on the project. His particular interest lies within creating unusual exhibitions in unusual locations.

Michael worked with the group to think about how to create art for display purposes, who the audience is and what they wanted to say.

The lockers have been a truly collaborative project which has developed the artistic skills and creative thinking of both patients and staff.

Jane Akhurst, Arts Project Manager at the Bamburgh Clinic, said: “The project has been a great way to explore creativity within the constraints of a medium secure unit.

“We hope that people enjoy the artwork and that it will inspire others to be more creative. The artwork has a lot of personal meaning and being able to create something like this in an environment like Bamburgh Clinic is extremely advanced and progressive.”

Not only has the project provided patients with a meaningful experience and a purpose to create something, it has also shaped some of their clinical pathways. Patients can find that an interest in art leads to creative opportunities at a future stage of their recovery and rehabilitative journey and can be supported by the team in this.

Dennis Davison, Associate Director for Secure Services at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are immensely proud of this project and it has been great to see patients exploring their creative expression and finding new skills and talents through art.

“The benefits of involvement in art have been proven time and time again so we really value the work the arts teams do. It’s a joy to see the patients getting involved.”

There are plans to do another phase of the project with more lockers so that more patients can get involved. The lockers will remain in the Bamburgh Clinic and the team are also looking at the potential for them to be exhibited elsewhere.

Bamburgh Clinic is an award-winning acute facility for men who have a mental health disorder and who have come into contact with the Criminal Justice System. It is part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, a provider of mental health and disability services.