Saturday, September 8, 2012

Kingsley Hall

Just reading in the Guardian about Dominic Harris's new book The Residents, which looks into the world of R.D. Laing's experimental therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall in the 60s. "The sprawling house," Sean O'Hagan writes, "became an asylum in the original Greek sense of the word: a refuge, a safe haven for the psychotic and the schizophrenic, where there were no locks on the doors and no anti-psychotic drugs were administered. People were free to come and go as they pleased and there was a room, painted in eastern symbols, set aside for meditation. There were all-night therapy and role-reversal sessions, marathon Friday night dinners hosted by Laing and visits from mystics, academics and celebrities, including, famously, Sean Connery, a friend and admirer of Laing's." Amazing photospread here.

I was encouraged to track down a few photos of Kingsley Hall's most famous resident, the late painter Mary Barnes.


  1. Interesting post. R.D. Laing continues to divide long after his passing. I once worked with Laing's son, Adrian, who wrote a brutally honest biography of his father which seemed to encapuslate the famous lines by Philip Larkin:

    "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you."

  2. I was obsessed with RDL some years ago, discovering him 4-5 yrs after his death, chased everything I could about him and devoured it hungrily.

    Adrian rightly likened RDL's career arc to that of a Pop star riding atop the froth of the excitable 60s. I continue to enjoy some of his writings but his larger 'work' as therapist/organiser/talking-head seems to amount to vivid anecdotes, suitable for collecting, some of which recount the solace his peculiarly-intense presence could offer some in distress. There's still life in the cult of course, as with that other deceased guru, Gurdjieff.

  3. Would love to see some photos of Sean Connery there...