School of Health

Unmasking Pain Exhibition at Leeds Beckett

Unmasking Pain is an UK Arts Council funded project that seeks to find a voice for people living with pain, through creative collaboration with artists and pain specialists. On the 26th of January 2023, we hosted our inaugural Unmasking Pain Exhibition in partnership with the Balbir Singh Dance Company and Space2, an award-winning arts and social change charity based in inner East Leeds.

Professor Mark Johnson presenting at the Unmasking Pain exhibition

Our exhibition included talks and artistic performances against a colourful backdrop of art products created by people living with pain. Dr Ghazala Tabasam (Leeds Beckett) and Emma Tregidden (Space2) welcomed delegates, and I started the event by outlining gaps in our understanding of pain. Balbir Singh, Artistic Director of the Balbir Singh Dance Company talked about the concept of Unmasking Pain and Dr Paul Chazot (Durham University) presented initial findings of scientific research conducted as part of the project. Dr Frances Cole (Live Well with Pain) explained some of the strategies used to help people live well with pain, and Dr Kate Thompson (Leeds Beckett) discussed a research study to find out what Unmasking  Pain means to participants.

Balbir Singh presenting at the Unmasking Pain exhibition

There were short videos about the project and jaw dropping solo dance performances by Kali Chandrasegaram and Devika Rao, demonstrating the power of non-verbal vocabularies to tell stories about life with pain. The panel discussion was lively and covered a wide range of topics

Devika Rao demonstrating the power of non-verbal vocabularies to tell stories about life with pain

The audience comprised students, academics, and health care professionals from the Leeds Primary Care Network and ‘Rethinking Pain’, an innovative chronic pain service that connects clinical and community care for NHS patients in Bradford District & Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. There was a lively panel debate and much curiosity about the potential of art to change the way we think about pain and its management.

Dr Paul Chazot presenting at the Unmasking Pain exhibition

A few days after the exhibition, the Unmasking Pain project won a FUSE award!

A summary of the project is available in this BBC radio interview and this short film.

Do not hesitate to Professor Mark Johnson if you are interested connecting with the Unmasking Pain project.

Photographer Karol Wyszynski.

Unmasking Pain exhibition

Professor Mark Johnson

Professor / School Of Health

Mark is Director of the Centre for Pain Research and leads a vibrant team of researchers. He has published over 200 research articles and book chapters and supervises PhD students. Mark teaches across all levels of our taught course provision.

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