I remember reading the volume of Spike Milligan’s memoirs which dealt with his army service during the war. It was called Adolph Hitler: My Part In His Downfall. The main reason it sticks in my mind is that I was banned by my wife from reading it whilst she was watching TV as I would frequently burst out into spontaneous laughter. One of the parts which triggered the giggles was when he recounted what he said was the quickest ever promotion in British military history, an accolade bestowed on a new recruit whose surname was Parts. On his first day in the forces he was promoted to Lance Corporal as it was thought that being known as Private Parts would not convey the gravitas needed during the heat of battle. One glance at the title of the exhibition I am writing about will explain my mind meander.
The aim of the exhibition at Thackray Museum of Medicine, which is situated in St James’s Hospital, is ‘to address stigma surrounding intimate healthcare and identity.’ It aims to create a safe space where visitors can learn, discuss and explore the nuances of the diversity of the human body. This is something which I am sure is needed now more than ever with the detailed discussions needed between the medical profession and patients, especially when dealing with the discussions surrounding gender identification.
I must say that, being a gentleman of advancing years who seems to spend more and more time talking to doctors about the nether regions of my body, I find it very odd to hear how they refer to private parts and associated problems. As a reasonably intelligent chap I tend to lose confidence very quickly when speaking to a doctor who refers to the product of my bowel movements as ‘poo’. I stopped using that when I was about seven years old. I also noticed the other day that it is the word used on the NHS website.
The characters created by Bobbi Rae
Anyway, Private Parts will feature presentations by storytellers, actors, medical experts and artists in a ‘comfortable space to talk about uncomfortable things’. It also features illustrated characters representing Health, Pleasure and Identity, created by artist Bobbi Rae. Films bringing the characters to life are by Hungry Sandwich Club.
I realise that I am making light of a problem which I am sure affects many people who find talking about the intimate parts of their anatomy very difficult, but I am a great believer that humour can do its part in breaking down barriers. Judging by the illustrations I would venture to suggest that Bobbi Rae is of the same mindset.
Anyway, if my doctor is reading this, I am closing now as I need to go for a wee-wee.
Private Parts is at Thackray Museum of Medicine until 11th May, 2023 and further details can be found by following the link. https://thackraymuseum.co.uk/privateparts/
All images provided by Chapter 81