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> > > Poems on life in the asylum by David Trippas

David Trippas is a photographer and poet. He was a founder member of Survivors Speak Out and helped create the free Glastonbury festival in 1971, as a young homeless man.

He says: Often finding madness and particularly schizophrenia (my label) rarely feature in disability culture on any media I thought I would signpost DAO readers to my two websites at and

Black and white photo of settee with cigarette stubbs

Highcroft workhouse and asylum 1970's. Photo by David Trippas

Sunny Sparkling Otters

In the day room,
Mary lay on the plastic settee,
pleasuring herself,
in her washed to rags ward clothes,
a fag burns its way into the fabric,
she cackles through her rotten teeth,
having had the electric brain fukk cure,
their is nothing left,
except a dazzling smile,
when she wakes up from a deep dreamy sleep.

The charge nurse,
in his spotless white coat
and shiny shoes,
did his national service in Shrewsbury,
he keeps silent about his black dog,
for fear of the loneliness,
we are the only friends he knows,
it is his sad duty,
to teach angels that they are mortal.
Helen with the spirit of Howard Hughes,
is gentle in her spotless cleaning,
we do not look for a meaning,
buy her a bottle of bleach,
some new marigold gloves,
as if she was dying of thirst
and we gave her a cup of water,
from the well spring of a pure life.

Jane the head nurse,
talks to the polyester shrink at medication time,
motto, we do real harm,
an inmate hovers,
"can you cure me doctor"?
"what is wrong with me doctor"?
they ignore her,
compare notes,
on the medication chart,
the banality of state dealers;
the old lags line up,
begging to be sent to Valhalla.

Streaky bacon for breakfast,
some stolen by the trainee nurses,
Janet strips off her clothes again,
throws the Formica table to the ground,
a courageous flash of sanity,
before she is bundled of to a side room
and the punishment of forced drugged sweets.

Mondays and Thursdays are electro shock days,
on Fridays it's fish fingers,
everyone gets plugged in,
less science more abuse,
to make us silent with fear,
oh dear.

Down the long corridor they have been begging fags,
for a century or more,
clothes not fit for Oxfam,
those malnourished bodies,
that would not see sixty,
having been forced to work at industrial therapy,
making Christmas crackers to you mate,
for forty years,
five pounds a week in wages,
at the end the free barbers,
with only one style,

In the basket weaving class,
they are to have a party,
we are gathered,
the therapists dress up beautifully,
as post-boxes and faeries,
using up the years supply of crepe paper,
we largactyll shuffle,
in our worn down shoes,
only allowed one half pint of beer.
No one has a diagnosis,
no history is taken,
a quarter of a million human beings,
since 1840,
men women and children,
destroyed with uniform indifference.
There is no record of this place,
Auntie keeps away,
one in every town,
no wedding gown.
I talk to John,
who was a tail end Charlie,
survived a tour over Germany,
a young nurse comes over,
he makes a noise like a chicken,
she goes away;
"give them what they want" he says,
"you're a professional nutter now".
Someone does a ragged jigsaw puzzle,
their are three pieces missing,


Black and white photo of vans and tents on festival site

Stonehenge free festival 1984. Photo by David Trippas

Stonehenge Free  
Does sulphate of amphetamine,
cause your brain acid rain?
has your mother packed you of to Stonehenge free again?
and don't score of the first dealer you see,
it might be uncle Henry and he owes me.
So with a cheery wave
and a redundant bus pass,
I headed to the holy road hitching mass.
Stuck at the services with the sun going down,
road people sharing stories, 
as I stood to attention and smiled at the fools,
lo and behold a lighted spliff van broke the rules.
As of we travelled to a Stonehenge night,
dodging the amphetamine children asking for a light,
as another free festival medievally waits for the dawn,
does sleeping child in a bender feel warm?
Oh piss on the iron age graves,
as the sun freckle girl nourishes her infant,
in the shade tent were old hippies,
shout out their bewilderment
and the kids look a little shocked,
at naked families
and tarpaulin rubber dawns.
That creep over old stones.
And a £1 line of champagne wizz,
will keep you loose dancing.