Spring’14 #4 Royal College of Physicians: Bewitching Poison

bewitching poison

If there was a prize for the friendliest of venues we have visited this year, and the one with the largest array of free handouts and the loveliest cloakroom facilities, and the most helpful of reception staff – then it would surely go to the Royal College of Physicians.

Space-age, Grade 1 listed and uber-welcoming, the RCP is currently displaying their permanent collection of silverware, medical instruments, and Delftware apothecary jars in the context of a temporary exhibition on alcohol and addiction: ‘Bewitching Poison’ exploring 300 years of drinking history, and including artwork from Hogarth to Paula Rego.SAM_5372


Select an object from the permanent display (nipple guard? walking stick with secret chamber housing a vial of alcohol? double ended spoon?)

Take a phrase from one of the speakers in the films on display.

Use some of these  key words: temper, temperance, dutch courage, gin lane, beer street, spirit, sobriety…

Think about the connections between the bigger social picture and the individual – historically and right now.

Taking the theme of maps –  the College Museum and Architecture, its Medicinal Gardens, and the route back to Mary Ward via the derelict Temperance Hospital…


Back at base we shared our writing (see page: Bewitching Poison: Beer Street and Gin Lane) compared notes on our urb-ex’ing sorties, and read from John Healy’s Grass Arena.

About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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