Saturday, 11 June 2011

Glenside 'Lunatic Pauper Palace' - Bristol


Another family day out, another lunatic pauper asylum; this time an incredible display at the Glenside Hospital museum, near Bristol.  I was delighted to see that Princess Anne opened the ITO workshops at Glenside back in 1969. I'd like to think the ceremonial opening of the facility (her first civic duty as a royal), inadvertently released some bad juju, which eventually manifested in Ian Ball's failed kidnap attempt. 

What's interesting, browsing the exhibits, is the desire to document normalcy, epitomised by the psychiatric hospital hairdressers. Perhaps the patients under the hoods of those old bakelite hairdryers represent a paranoiac critical double of the ECT experimentation that was carried out with great zeal at Glenside. Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion works at Thurloes beauty parlour prior to her psychotic collapse. But at least the vast hospital ship of the asylum attempted to create a sense of community, mirrored by the omnipresent boutique in the parade of shops in any residential area. Any residential area but the new housing estates. I'd like to imagine that when the outbreak of psychosis visits the residents who dwell in complexes such as St. Audry's, they'll be wild tousled crazies, not a stiff blue rinse nor a neat brylcreemed side parting in sight. Philip K Dick's wonderful dissection of psychiatric disorders in The Clans Of Alphane Moon, restaged as  The Abandoned by Vidal Sassoon.