Muriel and Doris Lester &
The Heritage of the Kingsley Hall Community Centres

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R D Laing

This page will be used for information about the time RD Laing was involved at Kingsley Hall, Bow.

For the index to the RD Laing Archive at Glasgow University – click here

For information about the forthcoming film “Mad To Be Normal” about RD Laing with David Tennant as Laing – click here

The following article is about an event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his work there.

On the 12th June 2015 the film/documentary "ASYLUM" was screened at Kingsley Hall, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Association formed by R.D. Laing and his followers, back in 1965.


A panel discussion led by Rebecca Greenslade, founder of the R.D. Laing in the 21st Century Reading Group, followed the screening, with some notable guest speakers:

Adrian Laing, Laing’s son and author of R.D. Laing: A Life,

Dr. Morton Schatzman, an American medical doctor and psychiatrist, who came to London in 1967 to work with RD Laing and lived at Kingsley Hall with his wife Vivien for one year, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Arbours Association

Francis Gillette, one of the former Kingsley Hall resident, also featured in the film.


About one hundred people joined the event. The discussion went from memories shared by the guest speakers, to the current impact R. D. Laing approach initiated, lived and also narrated in many of his books still generates today, influencing and questioning the efficacy of present day mental health system.

There was a good public participation.


The radical therapeutic community resided at Kingsley Hall between 1965 and 1970, on a five years lease offered by Doris and Muriel Lester. Doris had started suffering of dementia in her late years and Muriel considered Laing's view of an alternative approach to mental health a source of hope for her sister condition.

Unfortunately Doris passed away that same year (1965), while Muriel died in 1968. Once the lease expired it was not renewed since it seemed that the locals did not get along very well with some of the new Kingsley Hall residents.

There patients, students and other professionals shared the same roof; some of them might have been severely unwell, going through psychosis states unmedicated, while other were experimenting psychedelic drugs such as LSD, which were very popular in those years.


Filmmaker Peter Robinson, together with his small crew, collected material for ASYLUM in 1971, during a seven week stay in R. D. Laing's controversial Philadelphia Association residency in Archway.

"We entered the world of anarchic madness and healing compassion unlike any other that was initiated by R. D. Laing at Kingsley Hall in 1965, where the inmates literally run the asylum." Richard Ware Adams.


The screening was organised in collaboration with the R.D. Laing in the 21st Century Reading Group, F.E.E.L. (Friends of East End Loonies) and the Kingsley Hall committee. Supported by Claremont Project.


In order to allow anyone to participate entrance to the film screening was by donation.

The Three Bees Cafe was open exceptionally for the evening and worked very well. All the proceeds and collected funds went for the maintenance of Kingsley Hall.



Photos: Nat Fonnesu