WELCOME TO ALL FELLOW CAMPAIGNERS for DISABILITY RIGHTS - a pan disability blog connecting my work with, EQUAL LIVES, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) and the Survivor History Group.

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Survivor History November Notes

Next Meeting: Wednesday 27.11.2013 1pm Together, 12 Old Street London
EC1V 9BE Everyone welcome.

Since the last meeting we have learnt that we will not be receiving a
grant from the Barham Trust for 2013/2014. This is because the
Charities Aid Foundation (who supply the grant) required
documentation, including an annual report, by 5.11.2013. Andrew
Roberts was not in a position to prepare the documentation by then.
Andrew has written to the Barham Trust expressing our appreciation of
its generous support for the Survivors History Group in the past and
apologising for not being able to provide the necessary papers. The
financial position of the Survivors History Group still looks
healthy. Andrew hopes to provide up to date information by the next
meeting. We appear to have sufficient resources to see ourselves
through to August 2015 (when Andrew will be retiring from the group)
and plenty of time to plan the future of the group up to and beyond
that point.

Also since the last meeting, an official complaint against Andrew has
been received and withdrawn by a member. This relates to the Internet
Forum. The complaint has been withdrawn because the member believes
he cannot receive a fair hearing from the group and because he does
not wish to undermine the group by complaining about another member.
Andrew has withdrawn from the Internet Forum and Anne Plumb and Peter
Beresford have taken initiatives to stimulate a discussion within the
Internet Forum about its future management. Several members of the
Survivors History Group have advised that we do not make any hasty
decisions about the future of the Survivors History Group as a whole
following this complaint.

Peter Campbell and Andrew have continued work on the book "Survivors
History 1800-2015: The mental health service users movement". This
book is based on the Survivors History website
http://studymore.org.uk/mpu.htm and will draw on the work that many
survivors, and others, have put into survivor history. At our last
meeting, Clare Ockwell gave useful verbal feedback on the draft of
the chapter on "1800 to 1969", which features: Mary Lamb (England) -
John Thomas Perceval (England) - Cesare Lombroso (Italy) and some
other psychiatrists (sane) - Charlotte Mew (England) - Clifford
Whittingham Beers (USA) - August Natterer (Germany) - and Peter
Whitehead (England). The overwhelming majority of characters of our
story are survivors and so the occasional sane character is
identified as such.

We plan to complete this book for circulation and/or publication in
2015. Palgrave are still considering publishing the book, but require
a revised proposal, which Peter and Andrew are working on.

Attending our meeting on 25.9.2013 were Andrew Roberts, Sheila
Beskine, Ian Ray-Todd. Peter Campbell, Peter Barham, David Kessel,
Clare Ockwell and Peter McGeary. Peter McGeary took and supplied the
notes for the meeting.

The group agreed with an earlier suggestion from Frank Bangay that,
if a member feels pressured or vulnerable during a meeting, the Chair
should take the opportunity of calling for a break.

We did not have copies of "Ravaged Wonderful Earth - A Collection for
David Kessel", published by Outsider Poets in collaboration with
F.E.E.L. Andrew was requested to purchase more for sale at meetings
and he has done so. Peter Barham described the work as "a beautiful

Clare Ockwell outlined her presentation for the conference called
"Our voices, Our choices, Our futures" held in Milton Keynes on
Wednesday 16.10.2013. Participants from secure hospitals attended
this as "an opportunity to learn, share best practice and network"
and were invited to make presentations or posters about service user
led initiatives. The conference was organised by Together, the Priory
Group and Rethink.

We agreed that survivor history is as much about the activities of
people who are inside and confined as it is about people outside who
are at liberty. We also thought that greater communication with
patients in secure facilities is desirable - their history is our
history. There needs to be more dialogue, even if supervised by
custodians. Clare thought that patients in secure hospitals should
have right to access the internet with supervision

We discussed the central role that patients in secure hospitals have
played in survivor history. John Perceval was confined as a lunatic
and formed the ideas from which the Alleged Lunatics Friend Society
developed (1845) through writing his ideas down in the asylum. He had
a struggle to secure pen and paper, but managed to write the first
draft of his first book. He said that it was through writing that he
managed his madness. Perceval commented that he had more reason than
most to fear "dangerous lunatics" as both his father and a close
friend had been assassinated by people suffering from delusions.
However, their rights had to be protected and Perceval regularly
visited the criminal wings of Bedlam, published the poetry of one of
the patients, and campaigned for better conditions and for the
release of patients he could argue were wrongly confined.

We noted the prominent role played by some who were said to have
learning disabilities. Andrew spoke of the inspiration he and others
received as in-patients in the early 1960s from reading the life
story of Peter Whitehead, defined as 'feeble- minded' with an IQ of
90 and confined in Rampton Secure Hospital. Peter was released
following a writ of 'habeas corpus'. Cases like his resulted in
thousands of patients being held as wrongly confined and to the law
changing in 1959.

Tommie Ritchie founded the original Scottish Union of Mental Patients
in the secure wings of an old asylum. We noted The Broadmoor
Chronicle - Broadmoor patients' magazine - as a possible archival
research for survivor historians in Broadmoor. We also noted that the
words with which the Declaration of Intent of the Mental Patients
Union (1973) start were based on an angry outburst by Nathan Morris
of Broadmoor Action Group at one of the MPU's founding meetings.
"Slow down Nathan, we want to write it down" (Liz Durkin, now

Declaration of Intent of the Mental Patients Union

"We proclaim the dignity of society's so-called mental patients. We
challenge repressive psychiatric practice and its ill-defined
concepts of 'mental illness'. We state that the present appalling
situation in 'mental health' primarily arises from the acute problems
in housing, unemployment and social inequality. Mental patients in
our society are treated as people with no human rights. We are
stigmatised, and our accounts of what happens to us in mental
hospitals and outside are taken as symptoms of an 'illness'. Most of
us are never even given the opportunity to speak about what happens
in mental hospitals, as we are incarcerated there and subjected to
'treatments' which destroy our memories, confuse our speech and co-
ordination, destroy our incentive and intimidate us. Our first intent
in forming ourselves into a union is to fight against the 'conspiracy
of deafness' that confronts us."

Sheila Beskine enquired if people in secure treatment might be
interested in developing art therapy? Sheila gave her recollections
of experiences in art therapy. She referred to correspondence from
the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) and showed us copies
of BAAT News for 1974. She also spoke of Withymead "The Jungian
Community for the Healing Arts", that existed near Exeter from 1941
to 1954. We thought a pin-board exhibition of some of Sheila's ideas,
associations and archives would be very interesting and Sheila
suggested that it might be useful to have an open discussion of
experiences, with a small group of people, focusing on the exhibits.

David ended the meeting with some lines of original poetry.

As several other items of news have come in since the last meeting,
it is hoped that we may be able to send out a supplement to this

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The Tough Tenor (when I could walk)!

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