Sunday 7 June 2015, 8pm
The Philadelphia Association was founded in 1965 by a group of psychiatrists led by R.D. Laing, to challenge accepted ways of understanding and treating mental and emotional suffering.
In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Philadelphia Association’s residency at Kingsley Hall in London's East End, R.D. LAING 50 will explore some of their radical approaches to "anti"/psychiatry through conversation, film, and music. By unfolding this "soft" historiography of the Association's work, we can hopefully better contextualise its lasting impact on a diverse range of fields, as well as add something to our received history of the time.
The evening will bring together practitioners from Kingsley Hall, and artists who have researched and been inspired by its specific time/space.
“For people who had been diagnosed as being psychotic and hospitalised, but who found psychiatric treatment unhelpful or harmful, or for people who likely would be diagnosed as psychotic and hospitalised if they found themselves in a medical/psychiatric context, Laing and colleagues wanted to offer the possibility of a place where they could live with others and be safe from unwanted treatment (in all senses).
Such a place might be a place for communal and collective research into the understanding of severe sufferings of the soul, or psyche, and/or damaged sense of one’s own being and relatedness to others, without that being ‘medicalised’ and ‘treated’ by means of conventional psychiatry.
If actualised, and this is what at least some hoped might happen at Kingsley Hall, that could offer the possibility of fresh ways of understanding self and others and coming to discover who one was and wasn’t…when the conventions of psychiatry and society were put in question and not privileged.
50 years later, I’m an old man and have tried to honour the spirit of that research into the origins of suffering and responsible responses to suffering…in self and others. I remain a perpetual beginner….which may be both too modest and too grand a claim.”
Dr Leon Redler, March 2015
"My life at KH was lively, enlightening, exhausting, difficult, infuriating and productive. This is not just because of my involvement with Mary Barnes, but because I was part of a continually changing community which revolved around a charismatic leader, Ronnie Laing.
Dr Joseph Berke, March 2015
British artist, filmmaker and musician Luke Fowler (1978) has developed a practice that is, at the same time, singular and collaborative, poetic and political, structural and documentary, archival and deeply human. With an emphasis on communities of people, outward thinkers and the history of the left, his 16mm films tell the stories of alternative movements in Britain, from psychiatry to photography to music to education. Whilst some of his early films dealt with music and musicians as subjects, in later works sound itself becomes a key concern. Fowler lives and works in Glasgow.
Leon Redler qualified in Medicine in New York (1962) and left a psychiatric residency there when invited to work with Maxwell Jones and R D Laing in the UK.
"Joe Berke introduced me to Laing who, in turn, invited me to join him and his colleagues in what he hoped could be an asylum and refuge from an increasingly dysfunctional world for some of the founders, Laing, Esterson, Cooper, Briskin and others…but especially an asylum, or place where one wouldn’t be violated, for people immersed in ‘mental’ (but can it really be isolated?) suffering and/or feeling or being felt to be disturbed and disturbing to others."
He remains one of two honorary members of the Philadelphia Association, albeit in a more peripheral role, continuing to constantly question and challenge the direction and nature of the Association in an evolving and increasingly regulated field. In his own words; "Perhaps there are times when playing at the margins, as well as playing with the margins (taking an inspiration from the late philosopher Jacques Derrida, in diverse texts and contexts) is a better option than the alternatives."
He remains in London, practicing psychotherapy and teaching. His paper, We All Go Astray, can be read at the on-line journal, Radical Psychology (Volume 7, Issue 2)
Joseph Berke is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working with individuals and families. He is a lecturer, writer and teacher and has lived in London since 1965, after completing his medical training in New York.
Dr. Berke moved to London to study with Dr. R. D. Laing and assisted in establishing the Kingsley Hall Community. There he helped Mary Barnes, a middle-aged nurse who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, to pass through a severe regression. Barnes later became a noted artist, writer and mystic. The book which Barnes and Berke co-authored (Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness) was adapted as a stage play and has been performed in many countries. It has now been optioned as a feature film.
In 1970 Berke and colleagues founded the Arbours Housing Association In London in order provide personal, psychotherapeutic care and shelter for people in emotional distress. Later he founded and was the director of the Arbours Crisis Centre.
Berke is the author of many papers and books on psychotherapy, social psychiatry, psychosis, therapeutic communities as well as religion and spirituality. His forthcoming book, The Hidden Freud: His Hassidic Roots, will be published in June by Karnac Books.
Now that UFOs have been proved conclusively to exist, The Bohman Brothers have chosen to celebrate with a suite of apposite compositions: a threnody for wineglasses, a karate weaving song and a berceuse to Quality Control.
‘I LOVE them, for they are my friends’ is Blue On Blue-turned-microcosmic-research-project, dedicated to further understanding the work of Mary Barnes. It is named after a line from one of her poems. It has performed only once, in the building where Mary lived during her treatment by/with R.D. Laing ("Ronnie"), Joseph Berke ("Big Bear") and Leon Redler among others. It is an ongoing physical and conscious collation of texts, images, site visits, recordings and memories.
'I LOVE them, for they are my friends' is also Dee Sada and Billy Steiger. This will be its second performance.