Our exhibition was accompanied by a dynamic programme of public lectures, panel discussions, film screenings experiential audio performances, and events specifically for young people.
We also ran guided tours of the exhibits, as well as networking meetings and discussion events for voice-hearers, their families and carers.
Scroll down to find out information about the events organised from November 2016 through to February 2017.
5 November 2016: 'Voice-Hearing – What does the future hold?'
This day-long event consisted of short presentations, panel discussions and interactive sessions with academics, clinicians and experts by experience, and explored future directions in voice-hearing research, the treatment of distressing voices, mental health services, public understandings of voice-hearing and the international Hearing Voices Movement. The event featured a public lecture by Marius Romme and Sandra Escher.
Rai Waddingham (Chair, Intervoice) shared her vision for the future of voice hearing in an inspiring talk, which can be accessed online. Other speakers included Professor Charles Fernyhough (Director, Hearing the Voice), Dr Angela Woods (Co-director, Hearing the Voice), and Guy Dodgson (Clinical Lead, Early Intervention in Psychosis services, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust).
You can read a short account of the day here.
16 November 2016: 'Who can speak about voices?'
Palace Green Library Café
We invited a panel of experts to host a lively discussion of the politics and ethics of representing unusual and often stigmatised experiences. Enabling these conversations was essential for the Hearing Voices exhibition to reflect the diverse and complex ways in which experts by experience represent voice hearing, which can be considerably different to how voice hearing is represented in society.
This event was facilitated by Dr Angela Woods, Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities at Durham University and Co-Director of Hearing the Voice.
The panellists included:
sean burn, a writer, performer and artist.
Mary Robson, the producer of a number of short films on voice-hearing, including Adam Plus One and Believe Brian. She is also the co-facilitator of Listen Up! – a series of creative workshops in Leeds, Bradford and Durham for young people who hear voices. The workshops resulted in artworks challenging the stigma associated with hearing voices which were on display in our exhibition.
Dr Victoria Armstrong, CEO of Disability North and convenor of Mad Studies North-East.
Dr Helen Spandler, a Reader in Mental Health and the University of Central Lancashire and editor of Asylum magazine.
This event was preceded by a guided tour of the exhibition and a networking event for voice-hearers, their families and carers. It was followed by a screening of two documentary films, Believe Brian (produced by Mary Robson) and In the Real (produced by Conor McCormack) at Durham’s Empty Shop.
17 November 2016: The Good Story? Arabella Kurtz in conversation with Angela Woods
Why do we feel the need to transform our experiences into a more or less coherent story? Is life inherently narrative or is narrative rather a means for exploring, interpreting and understanding life? What role does narrative imagination play in our beliefs, emotions and social interactions? Can a narrative approach to traumatic events or experiences of psychological distress help extricate meanings and plan better actions?
Dr. Arabella Kurtz is the author, with Nobel Prize winning author J.M. Coetzee, of The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy (2015). In conversation with Angela Woods, she addressed the benefits and stakes of a narrative approach to experience, both in everyday life and in her clinical practice as a psychotherapist, and reflect upon the importance of the interdisciplinary encounter between psychotherapy and literature around the narrative nature of life and mind.
6 December 2016: 'Inner speech and the voices within'
5.30 -7.30 pm
An important scientific theory about why people hear voices explains it in terms of inner speech: the ordinary silent conversation that people have with themselves. According to this theory, individuals hear voices when they produce some inner speech but, for some reason, do not recognise it as their own. In this event, Professor Charles Fernyhough (Project Director, Hearing the Voice) and Dr Peter Moseley (Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Hearing the Voice) considered some of the problems with the inner speech account of hearing voices, and described some of the scientific work that is being done in Hearing the Voice to develop and refine the theory.
8 December 2016: The predictive brain
5.30 pm – 7.30 pm
Dr Ben Alderson-Day (Co-Investigator, Hearing the Voice) and Dr Sam Wilkinson (Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy, Hearing the Voice) explored how the predictive processing framework can lead to a better understanding of hearing voices and other unusual experiences.
14 December 2016: 'Their voices made them do it? Media stereotypes, violence and voice-hearing'
14 December 2016, 5-7pm
When someone who hears voices commits a violent crime, it is often reported in the media as if the fact they heard voices is sufficient explanation. Is this true, or is there much more to the story?
In this event, we explored the way in which responsibility, safety and control is understood and experienced when someone hears voices urging them to harm themselves or others. We were joined by:
- Rachel Waddingham (someone with experience of hearing violent voices and not acting on them)
- Akiko Hart (London Prisons Project)
- Dr Hugh Middleton (University of Nottingham and author of Psychiatry Reconsidered)
- Dr David Jones (University of East London)
- Dr Ruvanee Vilhauer (New York University, pre-recorded video contribution)
By examining the role of the media in reporting on mental health and violent crime, we unpicked media stereotypes and questioned the link between violent voices and violent acts.
We developed a safe and respectful environment to allow for of space for discussion and interaction.
This event was preceded by a guided tour of the exhibition (3:30-4:30pm). It was followed by the UK premiere of Jonathan Balazs’s documentary They Heard Voices at Durham’s Empty Shop (8pm).
January 2017 – A focus on Literary Voices.
10 January 2017: The Isle is Full of Noises
6pm – 8pm
An evening of short talks, live music, and readings exploring the nature of voices and the interpretation of them through creative forms. Victoria Hume guided the diverse audience through the evolution of her work The Isle is Full of Noises, talking about how she worked from and interpreted contributions from voice-hearers, and performed excerpts from the piece. There were open mic slots for anyone to perform music or read their own poetry or prose. There was also an option to contribute writing that was then read – or voiced – by someone else.
The Isle if Full of Noises has now been installed online, and can be accessed here.
13 January 2017: An Evening with Daniel Paul Schreber'
7pm – 10pm
Memoirs of My Nervous Illness offers vivid, insightful accounts of Daniel Paul Schreber’s extraordinary experiences – bodily miracles, mental and physical penetration by God’s rays, persecution by little men, and transformation into a woman – intended to furnish proof of his divine mission and to argue against his incarceration in a psychiatric asylum.
On Friday 13th of January, Durham’s Empty Shop was offered to interdisciplinary sound artist Richard Crow, novelist Alex Pheby, and academic Angela Woods for a rich exploration of Schreber’s world. Text met sound, radio became theatre, analysis became playful. Logic was defied. Sherry was even served.
The evening’s protagonists included:
- Daniel Paul Schreber, a distinguished jurist who was spent years in the Sonnenstein Asylum (Germany) at the end of the nineteenth century. Self-published in 1903, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness is still in print and has established Schreber as “the most quoted patient in psychiatry.” Starting with Freud and continuing to this day, Memoirs has inspired over a century of analysis, debate, and creative expression.
- Richard Crow, an inter-disciplinary artist working in the field of experimental audio research, live performance and site-specific installation. He utilises sound and noise in a performative way, for its disruptive and subjective qualities and above all for its psycho-physical implications for the listener and viewer. His “Radio Schreber, Soliloques for Schziophonic voices” investigates the recurring theme of ‘hearing voices’ in sonic and literary works by paying homage to Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness.
- Alex Pheby was born in Essex and moved to Worcester in his early childhood. He currently lives in London, where he teaches at the University of Greenwich. His first novel, Grace, was published in 2009 by Two Ravens Press. His second novel, Playthings – about the life of the Daniel Paul Schreber – was published in 2015 by Galley Beggar Press. Widely acclaimed in media from the Guardian to the New York Times, and called “the best neuro-novel ever written” in the Literary Review, Playthings was shortlisted for the 2016 £30,000 Wellcome Book Prize.
- Angela Woods is Co-Director of the Hearing the Voice project, and a major contributor to the Hearing Voicesexhibition on at Palace Green library until 25 February. She has written about Schreber in her book The Sublime Object of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia in Clinical and Cultural Theory (Oxford University Press, 2011), and has also blogged about Schreber and the bicentenary of the Sonnenstein Asylum.
Explore our website for further information about Daniel Paul Schreber, and broader experiences of suffering, surviving, healing and empowerment.
16–20 January 2017: Samuel Beckett's 'Company'
16-20 January 2017
Performances were held daily at 3pm, 5pm and 7pm
Both moving and mysterious, Samuel Beckett’s Company is the story of a voice that comes ‘to one on his back in the dark.’ This voice, which can neither be verified or named, ‘tells of a past.’ In a reading of the text that was at the same time immersive and exploratory, each member of the audience was invited to lie in one of the nine beds placed in the chapel, thereby becoming the central character in this enigmatic story world.
Performances took place daily at 3pm, 5pm and 7pm in the darkened Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Producers: Marco Bernini, Mary Robson
Voice: Peter Marinker
Sound designer: Martin Hodgson
Light designer: David Martin
In collaboration with Jonny Heron and the FAIL BETTER Beckett Lab (Trinity College Dublin)
You can learn more about the work and life of Samuel Beckett here.
18 January 2017: 'Recovery Stories'
Palace Green Library Café
4:30 – 7pm
An informal gathering around the experience of recovery from mental distress and an opportunity to share stories and personal recovery journeys. The discussion was punctuated with live music, performance, and spoken-word poetry. Facilitated by Mary Robson.
Our guests included:
- Callaloo Carnival Arts UK
- Launchpad, Newcastle Recovery College, and the Durham Recovery College joined this event as well as a guided tour of the exhibition.
This event was followed by a screening of Healing Voices at Durham’s Empty Shop.
Learn more about the role of communities and collectives in empowering people to cope with the voices they experience, and addressing the discrimination that often contributes to the suffering that some voice-hearers live with.
Information about finding support for the experience of hearing distressing voices is available here.
20 January 2017: Voices, knowledge and ignorance: Reflections on experiences of 'Company'
20 January 2017
12pm – 2pm
Samuel Beckett wasn’t particularly tender with academics. He withdrew from a promising career at Trinity College in Dublin at a very young age, and consistently resisted academic scrutiny of “those bastards of critics,” who were asking him for elucidations of “mysteries that are all of their making” (Letter to Alan Schneider in 1957). Far from an attitude or a pose, Beckett’s negative stance towards academic explanations, knowledge and interpretations was due to his attempt to deliver what he calls in another letter an “acceptance of ignorance” – about our self, our minds, our human quest for meaning. Among the mysteries that Beckett’s work is asking us not to grasp but to experience is our drive to concoct stories about ourselves; an incessant activity that supports our feeling of identity and coherence. In Company, he challenges the structure of our inner storytelling by letting us perceive the paradox of being at the same time creators, narrators, and characters of our life in/as narrative.
Renowned Beckett scholars and performers were invited to challenge their knowledge of the author and of the text by attending a performance of Company in the Holy Cross Chapel in Durham. In this public event, they reported on their experience of the performance, and on how this affected, confirmed, enhanced or called into question previous understandings of the author, of voices in his work, of the text, and of their own human inner storytelling activity. In this “little session of autology” – as Beckett defines introspective moments of exploration – knowledge and ignorance alternated in an ope discussion about the enigmatic need for stories, voices, figments and company.
21 January 2017: Literary Minds
1pm – 6pm
Do novelists and poets ‘hear’ the voices of the characters and speakers who people their imaginary worlds? In what sense can voices from the literary past enter a writer’s creative process? Do readers experience fictional beings as heard presences?
This public symposium explored the minds of writers, readers and characters as participant agents in literary experience. With a lecture by Professor Pat Waugh on Virigina Woolf, followed by a conversation with the acclaimed novelist Pat Barker and a panel discussion led by Professor Linda Andersonfrom the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, the symposium opened up new perspectives on literature in order to challenge our understanding of creativity, reading, fictional minds, narrative and inner speech, memory, trauma and therapy.
Listen to visitor reflections on the Literary Minds symposium in this podcast.
26 January 2017: Dr Peter Garratt on ‘Dickens and Over-hearing’
Learning Centre, Palace Green Library
Dickens’s universe is thronged by innumerable well-defined voices, and his fiction carefully renders the acoustics of individual human speech and utterance. But what does Dickens reveal about what it’s like to overhear others? In this lecture, Peter Garratt suggested why overhearing can help us unlock Dickens’s writing and creativity. Overhearing is a special form of listening: it implies being drawn into secretive, fragmentary and possibly unsolicited auditory contact with proximate voices. As a novelist, Dickens felt he overheard some of his characters in the act of inventing them, such as Mrs Gamp, the alcoholic nurse from Martin Chuzzlewit, who would whisper incessantly to the author around the time he was writing the novel–a jovial torment Dickens was unable to fight off. At another level, the narrative style of his novels positions the reader at times as an overhearer, while overhearing becomes a dramatic device of its own when voices travel and escape from context or cross boundaries in key scenes. And, related as it is to eavesdropping and spying, overhearing divulges narrative secrets and misinformation. Most strikingly perhaps, Dickens’s most autobiographical fiction suggests that memory can take the form of overhearing oneself.
Explore our website to learn more about Charles Dickens and the characters he ‘overheard.’
February 2017 – A focus on visionary voices.
11–25 February 2017: 'Tuning into the Light'
Chapel of the Holy Cross, Durham Cathedral
Daily, 10am – 4pm
An experimental sound installation which engaged with the experience of hearing spiritual voices by blending together in infinite uncontrived and unforeseen ways rich accounts of mystical experience with sound, music and silence.
16 February 2017: Professor Tanya Luhrmann on 'The Voice of God'
Wolfson Gallery, Palace Green
God is in some ways the ultimate uncertainty, since God has no material trace which gives certain evidence of presence. The great achievement of the cognitive science of religion has been to demonstrate that evolved, “natural” qualities of our minds readily generate intuitions about supernatural agency. Yet it is also true that Christians also report that faith is hard: that it takes effort, and that this effort arises from the uncertainty of God’s presence. This talk made the case that people find evidence of God’s presence in mental events; that different practices of attending to mental events shape mental experience; that different cultures and different theologies emphasize mind and mental process in distinctive ways, and that this has consequences for the way people experience God. Professor Tanya Luhrmann compared the experience of hearing God speak among charismatic Christians in Accra, Chennai and the Bay Area in the United States, and found that God’s voice is recognized differently and experienced differently in these theologically similar but culturally different settings.
Tanya Marie Luhrmann is the Watkins University Professor in the Stanford Anthropology Department. Her work focuses on the edge of experience: on voices, visions, the world of the supernatural and the world of psychosis. She has done ethnography on the streets of Chicago with homeless and psychotic women, and worked with people who hear voices in Chennai, Accra and the South Bay. She has also done fieldwork with evangelical Christians who seek to hear God speak back, with Zoroastrians who set out to create a more mystical faith, and with people who practice magic. She uses a combination of ethnographic and experimental methods to understand the phenomenology of unusual sensory experiences, the way they are shaped by ideas about minds and persons, and what we can learn from this social shaping that can help us to help those whose voices are distressing.
Tanya was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and received a John Guggenheim Fellowship award in 2007. When God Talks Back was named a NYT Notable Book of the Year and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. She has published over thirty OpEds in The New York Times, and her work has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Science News, and many other publications. Her new book, Our Most Troubling Madness: Schizophrenia and Culture, will be published by the University of California Press in 2016.
18 February 2017: 'Voices, Visions and Divine Inspiration'
St Chad’s Chapel
1 pm – 6 pm
The symposium went on to feature an engaging panel discussion with Durham University’s Chris Cook, Hilary Powell, Adam Powell, David Dupuis, Isabel Clarke (clinical Psychologist, author of Psychosis and Spirituality) and Satyin Taylor (Department of Spiritual, Religious & Cultural Care East London NHS Foundation Trust). A wine reception between 5pm and 6pm featured readings of specially commissioned works by Gillian Allnutt, winner of the 2016 Queen’s medal for poetry.
Learn more about divine and demonic voices in the middle ages by listening to podcasts and reading further information here.
8 February 2017: Charles Fernyhough on 'Children, voice-hearing and imaginary friends'
Between a third and two thirds of young school-age children will engage with imaginary friends, invisible characters with whom they converse and interact. In the past, imaginary companions have been seen as a cause for concern and even a marker of future mental illness. The contemporary view, however, is that they are associated with many positive developmental outcomes, and may provide children with important opportunities to explore the differences between reality and fantasy, and gain insight into the workings of their own minds.
In this talk, Professor Charles Fernyhough explored how the phenomenon of imaginary friends in childhood and adulthood relates to the more unusual experience of hearing voices (or auditory verbal hallucinations). Charles compared two accounts of why children engage with imaginary friends, arguing that they may result from specific features of the phenomenology of a developing child’s experience. He asked how the experience of imaginary companions, in its varied forms, bears commonalities with and differences from the experience of hallucinations, and how a greater attention to the wide variation in voice-hearing experiences can illuminate both phenomena.
Learn more about the continuities and discontinuities between experiences of imaginary friends in childhood and hearing voices in adulthood.
Guided Tours / Films
Tours were held on:
16 November 2016, 3.30pm – 4.30pm
14 December 2016, 3:30pm – 4.30pm
18 January 2017, 3:30pm – 4.30pm
25 February 2017, 3:30pm – 4.30pm
Our film screenings included:
Believe Brian and In the Real
On 16 November 2016, 8pm
Produced by Mary Robson (Creative Facilitator, Hearing the Voice) Believe Brian is short film about one man’s experience of psychosis.
In the Real is an hour long documentary about the lives of the Bristol Hearing Voices Network – a peer support group for people who hear voices or have other unusual experiences. Directed by independent film maker Conor McCormack.
UK premiere of Jonathan Balazs’s ‘They Heard Voices’
On 14 December 2016, 8 pm
A documentary film exploring the hearing voices (HV) movement, chronic psychosis and the schizophrenia label.
On 18 January 2016, 8pm
Healing Voices: a feature length documentary which explores experiences commonly labelled as ‘psychosis’ or ‘mental illness’ through the real life stories of individuals working to overcome extreme mental states and incorporate them into their lives in meaningful ways