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Madlove

Madlove

Right at the heart of our school values is the statement that we want our school to be a healthy place for our bodies and our minds. With John’s ‘Get Up and Go’ sessions, numerous opportunities for children to be active and Mustafa’s brilliant lunches, I think we’re doing quite well with the healthy body bit, but what about the school’s mental health?

I was inspired last weekend by a visit to the Wellcome Collection to see ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’. This brilliantly curated exhibition examined the history of how society deals with issues of mental health, taking the Bethlem Royal Hospital as its starting point. The exhibition uses historical material, medical records with individual testimonies, and much of it, like the care of James William Norris, is rather shocking.

In the 1980s I was a regular volunteer at Harperbury Hospital near St Albans. The wards were strangely similar to the one in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, and the patients were every bit as brilliant. My Friday visits were something I looked forward to and were hugely rewarding. Admittedly it was sometimes quite hard to tell the difference between the patients, staff and volunteers, myself included. It was quite clear to me that the Mad Hatter was absolutely right: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.’ It just depends how you look at these things.

The conclusion of the Bedlam exhibition is a consideration of how the asylum might be realised today in order to promote positive mental health in the future, through a wonderful project led by artists Hannah Hull and The Vacuum Cleaner (what was his mother thinking?). Their project brought together a range of people, with and without experience of mental health, to consider the question ‘What does good mental health look, taste, sound and feel like to touch?’ The result is the rather brilliant ‘Madlove – a Designer Asylum’, a utopian model designed to provide a very safe and beautiful space, with opportunities for learning, creative thought, music, drama, art and exercise; with delicious healthy food and opportunities to work outside.

I shared this vision with our children in assembly last week. They said it sounded just like Highgate Primary School.

William Dean

Headteacher