Gary Snyder writes of art and performance in relation to ideas of gift exchange (Back on the Fire 2007) and to me this captures the spirit of our Art Lab. This first image shows jam, made by Eve Thomas from blackberries harvested in the grounds of the old Mid-Wales Hospital, and given freely to people who came along. She also made jam-filled cakes, shared at the evening events, gave a wonderful reading of her own and other’s poetry, and spoke about the art processes behind some of the work she undertook during the project. Click here to read what she said and see some of her photos. And see her instagram post to read about what the project meant to her.

Here’s another of her works, inspired by human and natural ephemera found on the site.

It was hard to stop people giving their time and energy freely. As well as slides, weaving and thaumatropes incorporated in co-produced works, there were animations and free-standing sculptural pieces made during the course of the project accompanied by poetry and writings. Click here for an example, and to read one participant’s experience of the project. And click here for more poetry and animation).

Visitors added artworks through the drop in sessions and took videos which have been shared on A Private Land facebook pages.

Thanks to the warm and welcoming atmosphere at The Muse, people participated to the full at whatever level felt right to them. Some  of the 155 visitors stayed for the majority of both days, looking, engaging, chatting, having a cuppa and simply relaxing. 40 visitors gave written feedback, and many more commented verbally. People came mainly from a 30 mile radius, but also from Bristol, Cambridge, London, Newport, Cardiff, Hereford and the Midlands. Most moving was the way people came especially to share their stories and memories – of their own or loved one’s experiences of care at the old Mid-Wales Hospital and elsewhere.

The gift exchange continued with photographer Barry Hill’s donation of photographs he took of the old site in 2010, which were much admired and prompted many conversations. Powys Archives and Talgarth Museum have both benefitted from Barry’s generosity and his photos will now be available to the public through them.

Angela Morton was a poet who wrote partly of her experiences of mental illness, including time spent as an inpatient at the Mid Wales Hospital. Her daughter, Becky was going to read  from Angela’s collection the holding ground, (the collective press 2002) at the Art Lab but our dates coincided with a trip away, so she liaised with close friend and colleague, poet Graham Hartill, who read for her, shared his own memories of Angela and reflected on her poems.

The evening event proved to be the heart of the project, but the group discussion on Sunday gave us new insights into archiving, attitudes to historic records and artifacts, from casual disregard to intensely protective. About 25 people came along, including Brecon and District Mind members, Stella Man and Cerys from Glenside Hospital Museum, Psychotherapists, curators, historians, artists, participatory arts workers, a psychoanalyst and doctor. We scheduled the discussion for one hour, but the buzz and continued conversations afterwards showed us how much more there was to say.

Here’s just a little of the feedback we received about A Private Land and the Art Lab:

‘I feel a deep resonance between the works here and my own lived experience as someone impacted by mental health issues. Privacy, emotional intelligence, confidence and self expression explored and shared here in a nurturing space has been profoundly affecting. Thank you for this unique experience facilitating the unfurling of much of my vulnerability.’

‘LOVE this so much – the art feels really alive and so many different elements. Immersive, intriguing and fascinating reaction and response to a place – its’ history, stories and its’ demise. The way the artists have involved others in the creative process including at the exhibition itself is great – the slide making is a huge hit with my son! Thanks.’

‘An emotive exhibition which captured the negative and supportive lifestyle of people in the hospital.’

‘Evoked so many memories of people we have known and loved.’

‘We really enjoyed this show and loved the way it had interactive parts! Wonderful! Hauntingly Beautiful with a dose of playful innocense. Loved it! ‘

‘Thank you so much for the experience and the opportunities brought by this event. Words are not enough.’

‘A Private Land’ stretched my thinking, so many threads spinning on conversations had and no had. Thank you.’




This post is mainly about my own arts process intermingled with co-produced pieces, as shown in A Private Land Art Lab. Take a look at Susan Adams for the work she developed.

Although I no longer work as an art therapist, the underpinning theoretical frameworks from art psychotherapy and systemic psychotherapy, and the learning from the people I’ve worked for and with over the years still run deep in my art practice.

During this project, core questions for me have been: where do we – as an individual or as a group feel others position us? Do we agree, comply with or rebel against that positioning? Where do we position ourselves in relation to others, and what are the pressures that inform that position, perpetuate it or allow it to be changed? These ideas ripple through the work I’ve been doing, sometimes covert and at other times coming obviously to the forefront.

The artworks arising from these questions have coalesced into related but discrete bodies of work: sculptural forms in the shape of hides, shelters or traps: images of patients, drawn from the archives (1900-1923) and a video that charts something of my personal journey through the project.

All these works are a kind of mapping of outer and inner journey and experience, formed through walking, drawing, mapping, marking, performing: observing where I feel myself positioned in relation to geographical, societal and relational pressures. Am (are) I (we) where I (we) want to be? In our final events I hoped that  the artworks might communicate something of this and invite a kind of parallel experience.

So I was delighted when visitors to our Art Lab temporarily inhabited and animated my shelters last weekend. Some people found them spiky and felt off-balance whilst others found them comforting, reminding them of making nests in bushes as children. Other associations to them include human weaver birds, personal observation domes, non-waterproof deep-sea divers’ helmets. One person made a direct allusion to clinical / mental health issues when he said that his was a voluntary admission, but that he wouldn’t be staying long.

Made mainly from nettles, brambles, briars – plants that are slowly taking over the grounds of the former Mid-Wales Hospital, Talgarth – the shelters are patched with weavings done in workshops with members of Brecon and District Mind.

Another strand of work arose from the visit to Powys Archives, described in a previous post (12th May 2023)

It was an astounding experience to spend a day viewing the hospital records and reading accounts of people admitted between 1900 and 1923: where they came from, what kind of crisis led to admission and what became of them. Most extraordinary of all was to see photographs taken on admission, which spoke so vividly of their life experiences and emotions at the instant the photo was taken.

We were not permitted to share names or identifiable information, but it seemed important to honour their memory in the in the best way we could, through our artworks.

Many of the original photos had distortions introduced as part of the speedy photographic processing that makes them so lively. I tried to give a feel of this by drawing on photographic paper, then pouring water on them. To emulate the original records and the system they represented I used recycled manilla folders with redacted details of previous contents.

Over 75 drawings were supported by a structure, with a centre piece showing video of 130 slides made in workshops with members of Brecon and District Mind and Felindre Ward at Bronllys Hospital.

You can read more about how the slides were made in a precious post

They could also be handled and seen in slide viewers of different kinds and visitors could make their own to add to the collection.

A version of the Slides video can be seen at:

Thanks to PeakCymru, who lent us tablets to use throughout the project, the slides were also shown on a tablet (lower) alongside a series of photographs by Eve Thomas (middle) and an anonymous account from some-one who had memories and experiences of a short time in the the old Mid Wales Hospital (upper).

There were so many strands to our project, and it prompted so many visual responses in me. I had a wealth of images and ideas, that all grew out of the experiences we shared together, but sometimes the complexity was baffling. How did all the diverse elements connect? The second mentoring session with  Mel Brimfield was key in helping me find a way through this dilemma, and I started to put sequences of imagery and video together in Final Cut.

Eventually this became a 30 minute sequence with 6 chapters reflecting my own personal experiences through the project and something of how I chose to position myself in relation to its complexity and multiple challenges. Huge thanks to Lyndon Davies, for his soundpiece, amplifying and carrying the narrative. To see and hear a tiny clip, click here.

Lots more about the participant’s contributions can be seen on the A Private Land / Tir Diarffordd FaceBook page.