Film ID:
YFA 5455



Visitor Tabs


This is a promotional film to encourage people to take up nursing in a mental health hospital as a career.  It takes the form of following a young woman as she begins nurse training at the Retreat hospital in York.  The film shows the work of the Retreat, the provisions for staff, and also explains its philosophy.

The film you are about to see “Light through the clouds” produced in 1954 by C.H. Wood (Bradford) Ltd. has been selected by the National Film Archive for permanent preservation in the country’s collection of films of national interest and historical value.

Title – Light Through the Clouds: Nursing at the Retreat
Throughout this film the roles of patients have been played by members of staff at the Retreat.
Devised and written by Alan H. Pickard
Directed by P. Thomas Oliver
Photographed and produced by Charles H. Wood MBE, FIBP

The film begins with a group of school girls returning from a game of hockey.  One of the girls, Kathleen Kemp, is singled out as someone who wishes to train for mental nursing, like her friend Janet.  Kathleen writes home to her parents to explain her wish, stressing that the mental patients are there to be cured.  Kathleen’s parents agree to her applying for the position of a nurse and her application form is shown, giving her home address in Guilford, where she attended St Margaret’s School, and that she was born in 1938.

Kathleen packs her suitcase and arrives in York by train.  There is a view towards York Minster from the city wall near the railway station, and each of the city wall bars, the Minster and several other places in the city are also shown. 

Kathleen arrives at the Retreat, where she is welcomed in and introduces the matron.  The matron gives an overview of the hospital, including its founding by William Tuke, the York tea merchant who founded it in 1796.  There is an aerial view of the hospital, which has 270 beds and a nursing staff of 100.  Much of the grounds are shown and relatives and friends of the patients walk around the gardens.  A cricket match is being played nearby.  The stress is on knowledge and loving care.  She is given a uniform and is accompanied to the nurse’s home by another nurse, Joan, meeting her friend Janet on the way.  In her room, Kathleen struggles to put on her nurses apron, and Janet gives her a hand.

Together they walk in their gowns from the nursing home to the hospital.  Kathleen brings a meal to a female patient in bed, while Janet helps to turn another patient in bed.  She takes a sample in a glass tube to the laboratory for testing.  Here a laboratory worker analysis the sample and research is undertaken to see how mental disorders may be related to bodily illness.  A sample of blood is being analysed.

A group of new nurses, male and female, are being taught in the nursing school, at the beginning of a three year course, with the sister tutor doing demonstrations on a plastic model of a body. Kathleen rolls her eyes as a skeleton is shown.  They next attend a lecture on mental processes and illnesses, where the lecturer uses a blackboard to talk about “failure in human relationships”, how this relates to early family life, and the role of insulin.  Insulin doses are prepared in the morning, and a patient is woken to receive an injection.  It is stated that insulin coma treatment offers the best cure for those whose illness is of a deep seated nature.  It is explained that the patient goes into a coma for an hour, during which time the brain can relax, and consciousness has the chance to set out on a new path when consciousness returns.  A nurse wipes the face of the patient during the coma as it causes perspiration.  The patient is awoken through a dose of glucose, again injected, with nurses are on hand to provide a friendly face.

The patients then sit for breakfast.  Then a young woman suffering from mental depression is administered electro-therapy.  First a relaxant drug is given, which reduces the muscular reaction.  A headband is placed over the patient’s head and electric shock is administered, producing instant unconsciousness with no pain. The patient is then wheeled to the recovery room.  Here they are watched while the recovery, taking twenty minutes, takes place.  Another patient undergoes psycho-therapy.

Several elderly female patients are taken for a walk around the grounds, while several young male patients are taken to the occupational therapy building where they carry out various practical activities, such as making sandals. Female patients do knitting and sewing.  In the physiotherapy department a female patient is on an exercise bike, and other exercises are shown in the gymnasium. There are also thermal treatments and massage.  A group of patients are seated outside painting as part of art therapy, which, it is claimed, can sometimes help doctors in “their probing of the unconscious mind”.  They also make glove puppets which the staff use to put on a humorous performance for the patients.

A patient has an x-ray taken, and is later taken to the hospital’s own operating theatre.  Then the nurses’ building is shown, including the facilities that the rooms have.  Nurses relax in the common room, with some playing table tennis.  There is also a library, where Janet looks at a copy of ‘Psychosomatic Medicine’ by Edward Weiss, while another nurse looks at Nursing Mirror.  Kathleen joins several others for a game of mixed doubles tennis on their own courts.  Others are swimming in the staff’s own swimming pool, which is also used by patients.  The staff are dancing together and with patients.  A nurse comforts a patient in stress, with the narrator emphasising the importance of providing a comforting environment and support.

A staff meeting is being held, bringing together all the different professions, and where they discuss particular cases, recognising that these are people and not simply ‘cases’.  They stop for prayer, with the narrator noting the Christian impulse behind William Tuke’s vision, “the recognition of the sanctity of human personality”, “that all are equal in the sight of God” and that “all are bound up in the suffering of any one”.  It is also stated that the Retreat began, and is continued, “as a venture of faith”.  The staff then sings a hymn.
One patient, a young man named Tony, is being discharged four months after admission.  He gets into a Morris Minor and waves goodbye to staff.  As the car departs an ambulance arrives, and the film finishes with the narrator asking whether, “you will take up this interesting career and help to bring light through the clouds.”

Title – The End
C.H. Wood, Bradford