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Inside Out: An Audiotour

6 / 10 The John Howard Centre, formerly F Block

‘Listen to the whispers in the wires. The conspiracies at the windows. The voices sore and stinging. The aches and complaints singing…’

Hackney Hospital Group Management Committee minutes, 11th May 1973: ‘Hackney Hospital is in a state of acute decrepitude. Worst of all are the geriatric and psychiatric wards in F Block.’

J.L. Reed, Consultant Psychiatrist, wrote: ‘The clerical staff are scared to go down to the F Block basement because of the dirt, dark and dampness … I have no doubt that the clearing and redecorating might be dealt with as an occupational therapy task by some of our patients.’

In 1973, Andrew Roberts and his wife Valerie founded the Mental Patients’ Union with four others: ‘The Union was about representing people, about acting together, about doing things collectively. At those stages, the old asylums were running down and you could walk into them and out of them, and do things, in a way that you can’t now. They had the occasional locked ward, but generally places weren’t…’

Andrew and Valerie’s home in nearby Mayola Road became the Union headquarters.

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No Through Traffic sign next to the John Howard Centre, 2016 © Patrick Henry
Mental Patient's Union, 1970s, courtesy of Andrew Roberts
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