The Great Escape Bed Push 2005-2008

Welcometo the Great Escape Bed Push

The Great Escape Bed Push protests took place in each summer from 2005 to 2008. We symbolically escaped psychiatric institutions, dressed in pyjamas and 'hot-tailed' it with a psychiatric bed to a place of safety and celebration. We aimed to raise awareness about the over-use of forced treatments in mental health services and the need for holistic choice based services.

image03The publicity shoot in Hebden Bridge image01Still crossing the Pennines image02Day One ends with a well-deserved rest on our non-injectable backsides image03George's long-suspected nicotine habit is finally exposed image01 image02 image03 image01 image03 image01 image02Ex-psychiatrist Phil Thomas rouses the rabbles image03 image01The fabulous samba band who provided our soundtrack for the final mile image02 image03 image01The bed joins the Kiss It! campaigners as we all take over Piccadilly Gardens for a lap of honour image02 image03Rufus gets his groove on image03 image01The bed push becomes a demo and things turn political as the Pyjama Party hits Manchester

2006 Brighton to Bedlam

Sunday 6th AugustOff to a good start

We were off to a good start: The Independent on Sunday published a full page interview with Rufus and invited readers to join the Great Escape campaign. It also mentioned that forced treatment is due to be discussed at the United Nations on August the 15th at the convention for people with disabilities. 

On Sunday afternoon the Bradford crew, consisting of Amy, Adam, Menzie and Rufus, set off to the tropics of Brighton complete with an 8-foot syringe, a psychiatric bed and George The Dummy. We were welcomed by Jo and Odi in Hove at Odi's fantastical flat, complete with sea view. After 2005's bedpush and a year in a garage, George was in desperate need of a make-over and was duly clad in a new set of pyjamas, a bright pink feather boa and a fabulous lilac wig. Not being the most organised bunch, we put together some sheets for the sides of the bed and made the final, last-minute preparations for the Crazy Escape 2006.

Odi cooked some great food and we drank a toast to Menzie's birthday. Amy and Jo headed into Brighton for some well-earned kip at Jo's. The rest of the crew went down to the sea to, in Odi's words, pay homage to nature, freedom and change.

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Monday 7th AugustBrighton

Another good start: an interview with Rufus on the local radio station made our bedpush headline news and people were talking about us before we had even started! Raring to go and dressed in stripy pyjamas with a giant syringe dancing around behind us, we stood in the psychiatric hospital grounds while staff entered the hospital by the back door. Only the communication manager dared to approach us: "If this won't bring psychiatry down a peg or two I don't know what will." TV crews from both ITV and BBC local news filmed us running away from the hospital, with George The Dummy happy to be liberated from the psychiatric institution.

As we paraded through Brighton City Centre, we offered the public free electric shock treatment and explained our preference for consensual hugs rather than forcefully applied drugs. Radio and TV news broadcast regular updates of our exploits.

In Churchill Square people were keen to give us some money for the cause. People couldn't believe that electric shock therapy (ECT) was still happening. One woman said how good it is that we are trying to campaign for a mental health service that allows people to talk about what they've been through rather than one that just drugs them up.

Some teenagers were intrigued by the psychadelic decorated bed and enjoyed talking about the dangers of mechanisms of social and thought control. As they cheered us on our way we told them "Be mad!" Despite still being in Brighton at 2pm - way behind our schedule - we managed to power up to Ditchling Beacon, down through Ditchling village and on towards Haywards Heath, our planned stop for the evening. However, upon arrival in Haywards Heath George The Dummy was pounced on and romantically ravished by a local youth who had perhaps had one too many shandies. After very quick consideration we decided to walk the extra 2 miles to Lindfield. Here we found a lovely pub that fed us and let us park the bed in their car park.

Today was a great first day. The public gave us loads of support and we encountered some very patient drivers! 

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Tuesday 8th AugustSussex

We started out from Lindfield a little later than planned but began to make our way along the winding country roads....blisters aside, everyone was in very good spirits, especially considering we had another 20 miles to complete that day! Along the way, Rufus disappeared up a tree and ended up having a conversation with a rather bemused woman as she sat drinking tea in her garden. When we stopped for lunch in a pub called the Hedgehog we met an American whose T-shirt said he was on a psychic tour.  We told him about our quest for fairer and more peaceful mental health service: "We're all crazy" he said... "Mind you, your dummy look strikingly like George Bush and needs all the help he can get! >As we walked we found some feathers which we put in our hair to symbolise freedom, and fed some friendly ducks when suddenly some huge fish came up and gobbled up all the duck food.

We went through a town called Smallfield which turned out to be one house in a small field, but it had an amazing witch weathervane. It reminded us of the persecution of witches - so similiar to the oppression of 'the mad'.

The narrow country roads were beautiful to walk along and local people were happy to offer us money and support and listen to what we were up to. It must have been quite a surreal experience to see us coming, rattling over the potholes in our pyjamas!

We then picked up the pace and spent the early part of the evening making our way towards Bletchingly, our home for the second evening of the bed push.

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Wednesday 9th AugustSurrey

More quiet country roads today and a very, very steep Reigate Hill. We walked over the South Downs down into the outskirts of London today. Lots of curious onlookers. Drivers were very patient and lots of hoots of support. We hooted back with our giant red plastic horn. Adam approached a primary care health centre where he met a health visitor. She refused to give out his leaflets as she said she was restricted by her professional code of conduct. Adam replied that he had a similar code of conduct but that didn\rquote t stop him campaigning for a peaceful approach to mental health. "Tut tut" she said disapprovingly. Our spirits picked up however when a shopkeeper ran after us with rice crackers and morning coffee biscuits. A large bald man solidly applauded us as we passed him by. As we arrived in South Croydon, Rufus's friend Mary welcomed us into her garden flat. We relaxed with some wine and curry and discussed art, the history of imperialism, and how we need to reclaim spirituality from religion ... the usual stuff. Meanwhile, Rob ventured up to London town for the night and Eleanor, Amy and Jan went to reside at The South Park Hotel to have themselves a time (ample parking day and night, humble folks without temptation). On the way there, Adam reversed into a stationary vehicle with our hired support car. A small price to pay for the vast achievement of this journey.

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Thursday 10th AugustLondon

We set out from Mary's house and made our way through a busy Croydon and were met by lots more curious onlookers. Some more big hills around Crystal Palace but as we made it through Camberwell we were greeted by Creative Routes for a demonstation outside the Maudsley psychiatric hospital, which has recently implemented about 4 million pounds worth of cuts to user-friendly services. We were joined by Gem the dog and a giant sheep called Dolly. Baaa rmy!  Then on to Bedlam, now the Imperial War Museum (fitting). Aidan Shingler and the Kiss It! crew were there plus many people from across the country. We had a dance at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, and made some speeches.

We've come along way but we've still got a long way to go... to a peaceful mental health service. Madness is a creative way of dealing with pain, brutalising someone does not help them.  We need to listen deeply to people in crisis.  Psychiatry is effecting more and more people's lives. 400,000 prescriptions for Ritalin (an amphetamine based drug) for children last year.  We know that labelling and drugging people does not work - we have to speak out.  The Government still plans to extend compulsory treatment powers into the community (Community Treatment Orders - CTOs). Directly and indirectly coercion kills. We who have experienced and witnessed forced psychiatric treatment, we are the flame of the candle - it's hot but we can illuminate the way for things to change if we we tell our truths.

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2007Bristol to Bath

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2008St. Ann's Hospital to Parliament Hill

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OrganisingYour own bed push

We have found it useful to have these things when organising a bedpush:

A series of planning meetings with the people interested in taking part.
A hospital bed with good wheels (we used a porter's bed).
A giant syringe (you can make this or artists can help here).
A good leaflet.
Somebody to send press releases to local newspapers radio TV and chase them up.  
Take a picture of what you might look like for the press release.
Have some people willing to talk to the press about the experience of forced treatment and the alternatives.  
To organise accomodation if it is a long journey (camping / friends houses/ cheap accomodation).
A loud horn for blowing everytime you start to push the bed a bit further (good for morale).
A megaphone for telling people what you are doing on the journey .Use humour 'We have escaped the psychiatric hopital!' 'We are mad, but they are madder!'
A map! Use roads where you can, it's important to (peacefully) disrupt the traffic... this is an important human rights issue!
A sound system at times can be good for morale ('all you need is love'.. 'Madness' songs etc).
A party at the end of the bedpush: speeches, samba band music, cake, drumming, dancing etc.