The face and social (re)integration, Seale Hayne, 16th June 2014


This workshop took place in the unique surroundings of Hannah’s at Seale Hayne, recalling their brief past as a centre for rehabilitation for soldiers suffering from shellshock following the First World War. The day combined research in health and social psychology with presentations from the chief executives of the two UK charities associated with the project, Saving Faces (director Iain Hutchison) and Changing Faces (led by James Partridge). James Partridge gave a powerful presentation on the background to his work with Changing Faces, ranging from personal experience to his discovery of the limited literature on disfigurement and stigma in the 1970s, to the foundation of Changing Faces and the variety of initiatives which the organisation has undertaken since then. In particular, James gave an overview of advocacy work for improved psycho-social care for those living with a disfigurement and of the recent Changing Faces campaigns for face equality.

James Partridge

Iain Hutchison explained the background to the foundation of Saving Faces and of the Saving Faces art project, exhibited in part in the Chapel Gallery during the workshop. Iain referred in particular to the therapeutic potential of the art-works produced by Mark Gilbert and, equally, of their production. During a tour of the Chapel Gallery, we viewed a selection of the Saving Faces works in dialogue with work by Paddy Hartley, artist in residence on 1914FACES2014 (curated by Cristina Burke-Trees). The afternoon sessions were devoted to Psychology research concerning body image and facial difference. Professor Nichola Rumsey presented on ‘Developing Interventions: Promoting Social Integration for People with Visible Differences’.

Iain Hutchison

James Partridge, Iain Hutchison, Dale Weston

Nichola Rumsey

Nichola spoke on facial difference and personal identity and on the way current representations of the face and the body affect these. Nichola is Professor of Appearance Research at UWE and is Co-Director of the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), which she founded at UWE in 1992.

The final paper was entitled ‘Understanding interactions between individuals with and without a facial disfigurement’, and was presented jointly by Dale Weston, Manuela Barreto and Thomas Morton of the University of Exeter. Dale, Thomas and Manuela gave details of the experimental work carried out to date within the framework of the 1914FACES2014 project. The focus of this work is on assessing how individuals without visible social stigmas imagine and approach interactions with others with facial stigmas, and the psychological processes that are elicited by imagining and anticipating interaction. A key finding from both these studies is that imagining or anticipating interaction with another individual with a facial stigma is cognitively distracting – suggesting that people have to ‘work hard’ to think about interactions with partners who have facial stigma, and more so than  is the case with partners who have other forms of stigma (eg to the body). Moreover, although people expressed confidence when actually anticipating an interaction with an individual with a facial stigma, there was evidence of a disconnection between the confidence people felt and the way they acted in preparation for the interaction itself (ie with more distance). Future plans to delve closer into this disconnection between what people say about such interactions and what they actually do were outlined and discussed. The final part of the day was given over to free-form discussion and networking.

Mazeeda B, post-op by Mark Gilbert

Sailor Walter Yeo by Paddy Hartley

1914FACES2014 / Saving Faces, Hannah’s at Seale Hayne

The 1914FACES2014 / Saving Faces exhibition, curated by Cristina Burke-Trees, opened on 5th June 2014 in the Chapel Gallery, Hannah’s at Seale Hayne.

The exhibition features work by Paddy Hartley, artist in residence, including a uniform sculpture based on the life story of Walter Yeo. Yeo was badly burned at the battle of Jutland in WWI and Paddy’s sculpture refers both to Yeo’s wartime experiences and the pioneering facial surgery he underwent after returning home.

The SAVING FACES art project, meanwhile, presents us with a unique opportunity to study the present-day collaboration between the maxillofacial surgeon Professor Iain Hutchison (St Bartholomew’s) and the acclaimed Glaswegian portrait painter Mark Gilbert.

Iain Hutchison established the Saving Faces project in 1999, funded by a small legacy following the death of his mother, Dr. Martha Redlich. Painter Mark Gilbert took up the offer to work within the surgical department of St Bartholomew’s and soon started painting the portraits of patients before and after (and occasionally during) facial surgery. At the outset it was hoped that the project would illustrate, in a form that was accessible to the general public, what is possible with modern facial surgery, and show that people with facial disability are able to enjoy happy, successful and fulfilled lives. Iain also wanted to give an artist the opportunity to paint these unique faces as they progressed through their surgical and emotional journey. Finally he felt that sitting for and seeing their portraits might have a cathartic effect, allowing the patients to come to terms more rapidly with their altered appearance.

Our presentation of the Saving Faces exhibition is part of the enquiry into questions of social reintegration which we are conducting within 1914FACES2014. On 16th June, we put the exhibition into dialogue with a workshop on Facial difference and social (re)integration. The Psychology sub-project of 1914FACES2014 considers the factors that affect social relationships between people with visible facial difference (VFD) and those without this difference, and these will be discussed by researchers in Social Psychology and other experts including Professor Hutchison. In its concern with social reintegration and rehabilitation, this event draws upon the rich history of Hannah’s at Seale Hayne, including its brief spell as a military hospital for soldiers returning from the trenches with shell-shock.

Acknowledgements: our thanks to Clemency Horsell, Suzanne Steele and, above all, Cristina Burke-Trees. Grateful thanks to Paddy Hartley, Iain Hutchinson and Saving Faces.

Images: SM Steele / DJ