Funding: Little stars of Bethlem
25 January 2007
A new docudrama will tell the history of Bethlem Hospital ('Bedlam'), which has been central to changing perceptions of mental illness.
Founded in 1247, Bethlem Hospital has been a place where families disposed of embarrassing family members, a detention centre for political activists, and a tourist attraction. More positively, the outcry at the shameful treatment of inmates was instrumental in the adoption of more humane treatments for the insane, while the attention Bethlem received helped to focus thought on the nature of mental health and insanity.
But what was life really like for Bethlem's inmates? Seneca Productions, which has been awarded a history of medicine public engagement grant, will use a historically accurate docudrama format to bring to life the experience of patients and their doctors.
It will feature colourful characters such as Margaret Nicholson, the mild-mannered would-be assassin of George III who spent 48 years in Bethlem, and James Carkesse, a writer and poet who savagely lampooned the bizarre treatments he was forced to endure – to the extent that his physician refused to sign his release papers until he recanted.
The final film is due to be screened in 2008.