Special UKAN edition CD of slide shows by artist Andrew Voyce

Asylum Life - Ladies' Day - Rude Boys - Rude Boys (Strange Days)

Special edition slideshows cd by Andrew Voyce

Image from Asylum Life
Image from Asylum Life

Image from Asylum Life

Image from Asylum Life 
These four slide shows by Andrew Voyce are a brilliant portrait of life on acute psychiatric wards. Imagine The Simpsons set in the mental health system with inmates and nurses instead of Homer, Bart and the rest of the Springfield community and you get something of the feel of it. Vivid colours, distorted bodies and faces, surreal conversations are in stark contrast to the banality of the surroundings and the everyday routines.

Rude Boys, parts one and two, both deal with the mechanics of that great ritual, the depot injection. Andrew captures perfectly the bored nonchalance of the nurses and the ever-present threat of violence.

Asylum Life is an account of a unit between 1974 – 81, capturing the daily routine – waiting for ECT and the first cup of tea on awakening from the anaesthetic afterwards, lunchtime, a clothing sale, blood tests, the handing out of fags, the TV room, a patient being forcibly removed from a ward round. The banal and the violent go hand-in-hand and sometimes it’s hard to know which is which.

Ladies' Day is set in an old psychiatric hospital in 1977 and follows a host of patients through their daily routine, all to the evocative sound track of Patsy Cline’s classic ‘Crazy’. We meet characters like Thelma, terrified of the ECT she is about to receive; Iris, a rather crumpled figure who is told off for smoking in the corridor and is given her depot; Joanna, who can't get her Dodos; and June, who wants to pursue a sexless marriage with Terry, who throws a table through a window in his anxiety at the prospect. There is even a cameo entrance by a chocolate eating nurse named Jo Brund, who dreams of a future as a stand-up comedienne satirising these goings-on even as she gives injections and is herself satirised.

These four films are a tremendous record of a way of life, which sadly is little changed over the last three decades. There are some gripping images. The one that stays with me is from Rude Boys where a blonde woman has bared her buttock for the injection. We read the nurse's inner thoughts sizing her up ‘not a bad looker really’, as he mouths platitudes. We cannot see her face but she tells him she has been reading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and quotes, ‘At the very threshold you must say to yourself: my life is over, a little early to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom’.

Anyone who has done their time on an acute psychiatric ward will know exactly what she means.

Terry Simpson

Why Andrew Voyce supports UKAN

Andrew Voyce Andrew Voyce cartoon
Since the early 1990s and the advent of community care, UKAN has been a beacon for the expression of service users' choice and aspirations. UKAN has been a bastion of independence and has been proud of its ethical stance. There has never been any question of UKAN having any conflict of interest with its goal of informing mental health service users and of seeking their empowerment.

By buying one of my CDs you will be acquiring something that may be evocative of the past and be a discussion point. Let's not go there again. Let's keep organisations like UKAN afloat, something your purchase will help ensure.

Andrew Voyce

Price: £5.00 per copy (includes p. & p. within UK). To enjoy Andrew's slide shows and support UKAN at the same time, please either download and complete an order form or write us a letter stating your name, address and how many copies you would like and send with a cheque or postal order made payable to UKAN to: UK Advocacy Network, c/o 8 Beulah View, Leeds LS6 2LA.