Head, breasts, back & toes, back & toes

2 Dec 2012 - 1:00 pm to 15 Dec 2012 - 1:00 pm

Art by Pam Winbolt 


My mother suffered with Dementia, the memory was visibly playing tricks with her, seeing a vibrant past through today’s dark shadow . Shadows don’t have to be dark, as my son so delicately puts it, 'shit happens' but use shit and you can encourage new growth.


The English writer Fanny Burney recorded the agony of the mastectomy she endured in October 1811. Burney was given a glass of wine cordial, stretched out on the bed with only a transparent handkerchief over her face. Now began 'the most torturing pain.'

When the dreadful steel was plunged into the breast - cutting through veins - arteries - flesh - nerves - I needed no injunctions not to restrain my cries. I began a scream that lasted unintermittingly during the whole time of the incision - & I almost marvel that it rings not in my Ears still! So excruciating was the agony. When the wound was made, & the instrument was withdrawn, the pain seemed undiminished, for the air that suddenly rushed into those delicate parts felt like a mass of minute but sharp and forked poniards that were tearing the edges of the wound.

Burney goes on to recall in excruciating detail 'the terrible cutting' and the knife scraping against the breastbone. The operation lasted for twenty minutes - twenty minutes of 'utterly speechless torture' performed on a fully conscious woman whose sole anaesthesia had been a glass of wine.

Fanny Burney went on to live for almost thirty more years after her operation.

How lucky we are today. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a mastectomy under anaesthetic and returned home the next day. The one that got away!


Dancers are physically strong and flexible although sometimes the pain, due to the stress put onto the body, can be unbearable, but as soon as the performance begins the pain disappears. The mind rejects the pain and gives the strength needed to dance allowing a freedom to move.


The ballerina is depicted as a woman not bound to the earth, so dainty she can balance on a flower. When she rises on point she achieves an ethereal lightness, an otherworldly grace. She appears to hover and skim the stage weightlessly. To achieve this quality the feet of female dancers are squeezed into hard-ended point shoes, causing not only blisters and deformities but a change in the shape and size of the foot.

Other Works include 

Ageing: ageing is another fascinating process which everyone goes through daily no matter what our age, yet it's something most seem to dread. It is a colourful adventure to travel through to old age. The lines, wrinkles and wisdom which age brings to a person's face are wonderful.

As our skin ages the elasticity starts to give and lines appear, although the more the elasticity fails the softer the skin is to the touch. The lines start to feel loose and sag. This is a process everyone will encounter with age, but is it negative? Our society says yes, I say no. It’s a fascinating changing process that brings texture and interest to the face.

Water: water is necessary to sustain life, we drink it when thirsty, we allow it to delight our senses as it trickles through our body. It protects us from disease keeping us and our environment clean, giving us a feeling of purity as it pours over us. The pleasures it gives us as it allows us to play in its caressing movement. Yet this delightful substance has the power to destroy us and all we know.

Biographical note

Pam Winbolt

I was lucky enough to pursue a career as a ballet dancer, starting in London before moving on to Germany where I was also co-founder of a youth ballet company, choreographer and teacher. On returning to England I ran a ballet school for 6 years before the restrictions of arthritis took me along another path into the world of the visual Arts.

I obtained a Fine Art degree at the Norwich School of Art and have since exhibited in America, Germany, France and throughout England. I have worked on many community projects and have received several awards during my career. I founded 49&Rising and have been an Artists Advisor for professional development with Suffolk County Council.

My work is inspired by the mind and body, how the mind functions when the body is in pain and how the nervous system manages to cope under pressure. Taking a look “inside” is a fascinating and beautiful journey. The mind is an instrument of such complexity so that with such little knowledge I can only pretend to tinkle a tune.

Using the mind with discipline and energy gives the human body strength through its fragilities. Looking inside is a fascinating and beautiful journey. Life’s shadows can create new begins.

See also

The Events calendar holds a full listing of events, from Choir concerts and Chapel services to reunion events for our alumni.
All the recent news from King's College, from the latest cutting-edge research to announcements from the Chapel and Choir.