Badger Saves Man From Lifetime of Pain
Hal Camplin is an unusual traveller. His life has been a journey from being depressed about illness to using it to enjoy a bit of creative anarchy. Camplin developed a chronic pain condition after an operation for a spinal disease in 1995. He then painted his first self portrait called ‘Ghost’. It depicted a view of the disease inside his neck and started a train of dark and brooding figurative imagery. “At the time I was just trying to make something using the pain that never left me – a sort of groundhog day passion. My body was suddenly changed and I discovered a new alien world inside it. I made images from scans and my imagination”.

Fast-forward ten years and Camplin started making paintings with his cat. This paved the way for more drastic action. In 2007 he started dressing up as a giant badger called Barry and appeared on a BBC3 talent show Upstaged and went on extensive tours through England up to Edinburgh and even found himself in Berlin. You wouldn’t think it was the same person let alone artist. It is a strong advert for the power of imagination to transform lives. This art is about being more alive.

You can let physical sensation control your mind or you can intervene. Taking a more anarchic approach to life can disrupt depression. All this for Camplin is framed in his creations that shifted from painting to installation right through to live art. It was the illness that triggered the very tension that seems necessary to make challenging art. And Camplin has used his internal chaos to explore his strange imagination- both wild and disturbingly funny, warm and engaging.

‘Everyone has experienced pain, experienced with different levels of intensity as a result both of our lifetime’s experiences and – it seems – of our reaction to it. Here is the expression of one person’s long creative journey in a landscape of pain, at once serious but also wry and whimsical, shockingly intense but also playful and humorous, deeply personal but also universally uplifting.’ – Alan Ransom, art critic

This project is the story of how Hal Camplin found a way to be more alive … through illness and anarchy.

First planned show in Bristol @ Hamilton House March 30th – April 5th 2017.

Further projects in planning for early July.



Art therapists cannot hope to help develop community cure if we only provide services to a select few who have had to go through crisis and medicalisation for the art therapist to pick up the pieces.

Early intervention and prevention of declining mental health is not being provided by current systems. We need a new model of delivery and access that can at least help us to grow as communities.

This show is not just an advert for art therapy it is more about asking how we create the best possible conditions for the future wealth and health of all. Art therapy can breed hope for individuals and a way to understand themselves better. It is not a utopian ideal we ned a real discussion about what could be possible within the limitations we perceive or accept. We can all grow from where we are.

Art therapists are being trained in greater numbers and increasingly supporting people in high degrees of distress where words are not enough. The main benefit from art therapy gives space and time for people to access and play with those deeper parts of themselves in their unconscious. With the compassionate guiding presence of a therapist the desired change can emerge. This affects the external world in collaboration with other forms of support and care co-ordination. Art therapist do not provide the panacea – we need everyone in society and local communities could offer more care. This may mean a crossing over of local communities to challenge inequality.

Building on the work of James Maskell and ‘The Community Cure’ (2019) art therapy could play a part in changing models of healthcare and needs to be accessible to all sections of society and experience.

That means mixing people who have not experienced adverse childhood experiences with those that have. If we separate people in society, we focus too much on differences. We need to grow care for the stranger. We may pay our taxes or donate to charity and leave the job for others. Increasingly art therapists will need to be activists to take the weight off the NHS and social care organisations and find new ways to grow community cure.

Therapists do not attempt to fix people – they help them grow from where they are. We are all in a different place internally as well as externally and we all have room to grow.

Art therapy is uniquely placed to support people to self soothe, find calm and express themselves, understand what has happened to them and access unconscious strength. One way of making it affordable is a self-funding model where those that are can afford to subsidise others access the therapy themselves ideally as part of a group art therapy alongside 1:1. We need to then lower the base rate by reducing the overheads such as rent-free space. That is where art therapy in people’s homes becomes useful. This links to the idea of residential art spaces. Then everybody gets access to therapy without turning it into this niche that is only wheeled out when all other medical interventions have failed.

Art therapy is beneficial for all human beings. We are all unwell at times and we are all vulnerable and pull up defences that just harm us in the long run. For those that feel lucky and privileged in life don’t have to feel guilt at accessing resources just because they haven’t experienced serious chronic trauma. The aim of art therapy ultimately is to change how people relate to their inner world with so much confidence that they can challenge and influence all other external relationships. If people who access art therapy can continue this practice of GROWTH and share, educate and support strangers to do the same the world will be a more compassionate place to live in for all…


So when I met Jon Kay and his microphone I was trying to stop the garage door slamming into his head -and his son’s. I think killing your audience especially if they have a microphone is the sort of accident that even one as dark as I would not contemplate.

Instead my voice is on this piece by Jon about Window Wanderland(1hr 42mins in)- a project where people threaten to brighten up festering february by putting ‘stuff’ in their windows. Expressing themselves.

Well I put 3 giant lightbox drawings in my garage and nearly set them alight. The images of spines – symbols of my lifetime of chronic pain drawn many years ago and since I’ve become a changed man. I still love spines. Just badgers too.

Go to 1hr 42mins on this Radio 4 broadcast this morning and I’m in the mix alongside Keith ‘s dale the dalek


Back in 2007 around the same time Mark Wallinger had won the Turner prize for dressing up as a bear, Bristol was competing for the Capital of Culture with Liverpool. I decided to add my little piece of art anarchy and entered the prized Arnolfini as Barry the Badger and waltzed around with faces agog. Some were not amused. We had fun in the book shop picking up a copy of Sensation the infamous Young British Artist thing which I remember seeing. I thought what a triumph in marketing. And what has art become? Well at best it can be an open house to eccentricity. All art should be alive art and express a little bit of anarchy. And for that my very British humour with badgers and all I offer no apology in creating a scene.

And thanks to the artful Deb Weinreb who caught it on camera.

This photo below is one of the prints in my new show and project Illness and Anarchy. Starting in Bristol on March 30th at Hamilton House Gallery.