Press Pause and Breathe :
A look back at the Bloomsbury Festival 2022

Bloomsbury Festival is an annual celebration of culture, arts, science, literature and debate. From 14 – 23 October, institutions and people with a connection to the Bloomsbury area of London (where UCL is based) presented a programme of over 100 events for the general public. The theme of this year’s festival was ‘breathe’.

For our third year of involvement with Bloomsbury Festival, we teamed up with researchers at Moorfields and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and other experts to present the a series of activities, focused on two themes:

  • Living and coping with Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS)
    CBS is a condition which affects many severely sight-impaired people, who sometimes see disturbing hallucinations connected to their sight loss. We explored how breathing techniques and mindfulness can help people cope with the stress of CBS. Find out more about living with CBS

  • Uncovering the links between air pollution and eye health
    We looked at UCL/Moorfields research showing links between high levels of ambient air pollution – a particular problem in urban areas – and some of the most common forms of eye disease: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and cataracts. Find out more about the research

Painting entitled 'Say what?!' by Nina Chesworth

Say what?! by Nina Chesworth

Our activities

Letting the Mind Breathe – mindfulness session

This 40-minute breath workshop was run by holistic therapist Nina Chesworth, who works with people affected by Charles Bonnet Syndrome. It took place on Saturday 22 October in Senate House, where we were joined by around 30 members of the public. The free workshop was followed by a Q&A session, where the audience asked Nina about her experience of Charles Bonnet Syndrome and how it compared with other types of visions and hallucinations.

Members of the public attending the 'Letting the Mind Breathe' mindfulness session at the Bloomsbury Festival.

Press Pause – soundscape

This captivating immersive soundscape was produced by sound artist John Avery and inspired by the life experience of Nina Chesworth, a visually impaired holistic therapist. We follow Nina as she navigates her way around her home town on a routine errand. The soundscape played continuously during the Discovery Hub at Senate House, with members of the public invited to take some quiet time out to listen, away from the bustle of other activities.

Due to the sometimes disturbing nature of the hallucinations described, we recommended an age suitability of 14+.

Bloomsbury Radio interview on Charles Bonnet Syndrome

As part of their involvement with the Bloomsbury Festival, Bloomsbury Radio invited us to hold a discussion about the history, causes and effects of Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) with Judith Potts, who set up the CBS support charity Esme’s Umbrella, and holistic therapist Nina Chesworth.

Listen on

From hallucination to inspiration – art display

This display of prints by artists inspired by the strange and sometimes disturbing hallucinations associated with Charles Bonnet Syndrome was on show in the Crush Hall at Senate House as part of the Discovery Hub. The two artists whose work was shown (Nina Chesworth and Samantha Rosa Leftwich) are part of the ongoing Windows of the Soul art project.

Painting entitled Night Time Light Show by Samantha Rosa Leftwich

Night Time Light Show by Samantha Rosa Leftwich

Smoke gets in your eyes – educational activity

We presented an NIHR Moorfields BRC stand at the Discovery Hub in Senate House from Thursday 20 to Saturday 22 October, where we ran an interactive learning activity for people of all ages. The aim was to help visitors understand the sizes of different types of particle, and how some of them can enter the body, and the harm they can do to us.

Over the course of the three days, we interacted with dozens of pupils from local schools and a wide range of members of the public, from local students to families and older adults. The activities proved popular, if challenging, with even the most knowledgeable scientists struggling to put the particles in the correct size order!

Watch the video to see how our particle size activity worked.