Instrumental evening, Love Arts Festival, October 2012

As part of the Love Arts Festival, Instrumental hosted a great evening at Swarthmore Education Centre.  This quick film shows the highlights of the evening.

I interviewed Dave Lynch who represented High Royds Memorial Garden and Mike Jolly from Cloth Cat, a music charity in Leeds.  Dave talks about how music helped him express his feelings and Mike Jolly encourages people who are in receipt of means tested benefits to take a free course.

The artists involved were Lunar Calling, Georgette Hilton, Dave Lynch, The MoMo’s, Instrumentalists and Biscuit Heads & the Biscuit Badgers. They were each very different in style and the talent really was outstanding.

Instrumental promotes gigs in Leeds to raise awareness and money for mental health causes. The evening was a collaboration between Arts and Minds, Cloth Cat and High Royds Memorial Garden.

A very inspiring evening..

Thanks Vicky 🙂

Do you feel S.A.D?

Time-to-Change S.A.D. Photography Project

Time-to-Change Leeds has just opened up their Seasonal Affective Disorder Photography Project for public submission. The start of this project was planned to coincide with the clocks going forward, a time when many people feel the effects of the darkness as our days flicker out an hour earlier. Click on the photo above to navigate to the group’s Tumblr page, where you can view submission from others and submit your own text/photo/video/link/quote posts around the subject of light and mood during the winter months. I’ll write more on this soon but keep an eye on this project!

Christian 🙂

Poetry as Healing

Chris Tutton led a workshop at Leeds Central Library as part of the Love Arts Festival on the 25th October which explored this theme.

What exactly is it about words that is so powerful? Chris told us that 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, people wrote on papyrus which was then dissolved in water and ingested, in the belief that the written symbols would heal. In ancient Greece Apollo, the God of Medicine, was also the God of Poetry. The soothing words of a friend in need, the lullabies or rhymes we tell children, are known to be helpful, but (I hear you ask) is there any clinical evidence that words ‘work’?

Apparently there is. Matthew Liebermann of the University of California has researched the effects of writing poetry on the brain and found that it has profound healing effects. Likewise James Pennebaker of the University of Texas has done research about the therapeutic effects of writing things down (even if you don’t then share them).. In England Dr. Robin Philipp did a study that showed that 2 out of 3 people said reading reduced stress and writing was an outlet for their emotions. 10% said that reading poems improved their mood. 13 said that poetry had helped them to stop taking anti-depressants or tranquillisers. He said poetry worked as an “emotional catharsis” allowing people to get their thoughts onto paper. “Three quarters of people said writing poetry helped by encouraging them to bring disorganised thoughts, feelings and emotions.”


Writing is one of the most accessible of art forms – you just need a pen or pencil, and something to write on. Writing down what happened to you today is a way of enjoying the good bits again, or making sense of the bad bits and coming to terms with them. There’s a whole school of psychotherapy called ‘journal therapy’.which involves noticing and writing about what you think and feel each day.

Chris suggested a lot of powerful ideas, but led the mixed bunch of people in this workshop very sensitively. He suggested that the NHS could save £200 million per year if they taught poetry instead of giving anti-depressants. Writing poetry is a way of ordering thoughts, which once you’ve started can be applied to other aspects of your life. He read us Stevie Smith’s poem, ‘Not Waving But Drowning’, and we talked about what it meant for us. Then we tried it for ourselves. Chris invited us to imagine an animal that represented how we were at that moment, and we wrote about that. We had in the group a very lyrical bat, two badgers (very topical!), a solitary cat, a greyhound, and a mole. Each voice was quite unique and everyone found the experience of writing (and being listened to in a sympathetic group) very useful. Personally I wrote a poem about an old circus leopard (!)

Afterwards everyone was very enthusiastic about doing more of this work, if the library can find some funding. As one person said in summary ‘this is better than any anti-depressants’.

Stephen King says: ‘Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up’. (Stephen King, On Writing).

Measuring up

Most of our lives we are measured by others; our weight, height our IQ and often we  compare ourself against some standard or average. I feel this can be a detrimental factor in our mental well being.

A recent incident brought this home to me. On a course of study that I’m undertaking I had to submit a piece of  written work, identifiable only by my ID number, it was intended both as a preliminary informative piece for staff appraisal, the main purpose being  an opportunity for students to get acquainted with the marking criteria of the institution  We had previously been asked to study the University marking guidelines and then use that knowledge to grade another student’s work, however many still got got hung up on their mark.when their piece was returned, I wasn’t  immune to this sentiment. I had been given 5/10, a 2:2 in higher education, I managed to console myself by remembering what the main object of the exercise was, knowing also that the tutor would give the final result and feedback……I could be marked down….or up! At my present stage of life, third age, marks out of ten are irrelevant to my confidence or happiness, however I do want to pass to the next level, 4/10 is essential for that.

It appears that many young, first time students are content to achieve this kind of mark early on,  they are aware it doesn’t count to their final degree classification, a strategy no doubt, most seem to shape up later by the second year. For me it is the opportunity to use the extensive library facilities, discuss and consider ideas new and old and improve my ability to articulate them…..to address  issues I’ve never previously been privileged to, rather than any grade I achieve. I have a strong feeling that students recruited from non-traditional backgrounds, like myself, have been grouped together for some activities, perhaps there is some wisdom in that.

I had struggled long and hard to write my  short piece, as I do with these contributions to the Wellbeing blog, my  ‘learning style’ is classed as a specific learning difficulty, akin to Dyslexia, I was not assessed until well in  mid life, at that time I felt some kind of relief as it made sense of the disparity between my intellect and academic work in the past, particularly at school…… my eyesight (myopia) was an added factor as it was not identified until I was a teen..’rager’, therefore I missed out on visual learning, I spent a long time day dreaming, …… library books, the Bible, associated religious publications and some dog eared family poetry book were my educators.

Not having the advantage of knowing the educational background of the persons work I was given I had decided to mark it up, primarily as a morale booster, the work was not well constructed, not proof read, poorly punctuated AND horror of horrors, seemingly plagiarised, I still gave it 6/10. I also thought that the expectation of the institution in question was unrealistic, we were expected after a few whirlwind weeks to make sense and comment on huge political issues, dating from the run up to World War 2. The person next to me was quite distressed at her mark, she had fathomed out who had marked it and had her daggers drawn!! she clearly thought that person was less capable than her.

Having a  statement of Assessment of Need together with a mental health diagnosis or other disability can lead to both financial and practical assistance, applying for them well in advance, gives the best chance for jumping the first hurdles.

Su

Creativity and Madness – AL Kennedy, Love Arts Festival

Do you have to be mad to be creative?  Could too much creativity drive you to madness?

A L Kennedy is an Author and Comedienne. Recently she spoke about Creativity and Madness in a Radio 3 documentary. Tom Bailey of Arts and Minds listened to the piece and invited her to talk at Waterstones as part of the Love Arts Festival in Leeds.

The talk began by examining the supposed link between creativity and madness. Mozart and Van Gogh were hailed to be creative geniuses and it has been said that this creativity is connected to their madness.  Kennedy’s view however is that some people experience mental health problems and some people are very creative – but that the two are not inextricably linked. She wittily critiqued the school of thought that   ‘It’ll make you mad ‘  by comparing the risks of poetry writing with those of boxing.

A L Kennedy suggested that certain creative jobs may allow a person the freedom to be themselves. As a writer she doesn’t have to work with people and tone down her personality to fit within a culture. Could this be interpreted as madness?

She reminded us that these views were simply her opinion. In contrast Twitter re-directed me to two articles this week which suggested there is a link between creativity and mental health. One was a BBC Health News article – Creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness,’ the other a blog on Creativity and Madness which talked about Bi-Polar disorder in particular and describes mania as driving intense bursts of creativity.

One thing I do know from my own experience is that spending prolonged periods alone isn’t good for my mental health.  I am writing this blog post in a coffee shop as spending too much time in my flat is something I have to avoid and does make me mad!

Check out the Love Arts Festival Programme online for further events in October. Also there is a listing for  Events at Waterstones Leeds.

Cheers Vicky J

Ping Pong, the Movie – ‘Never Too Old For Gold’

Ping Pong the Movie is really worth seeing. Specially brought back to the Hyde Park Cinema by OWLS (Older Wiser Local Seniors), as part of the Love Arts Festival, it’s a really well put together documentary about a world championship table tennis tournament for seniors that took place earlier this year in Inner Mongolia. We follow 8 people from the US, UK, Germany, Sweden and China as they make their preparations to get there, and then the tensions of the actual competition. I’d somehow expected a ‘feelgood’ type movie, with a positive take on age, and a glossing over of the tougher aspects of aging, but it wasn’t at all like that. It WAS a feelgood movie, but what I loved was that you got to see the struggles too – the fight with illness and increasing mobility problems. One of the characters has increasing ill health through the tournament, and afterwards has to fight for his life in hospital. By the time the film was completed he’d been successful, but the touch and go nature of his fight put the whole thing, (and for the viewer our own lives), in perspective.

It’s great the way each of the characters is so individual. It contradicts that basic element of ageism that people get less interesting and distinct as they get older. Some of the players in the film are deeply competitive, some philosophical and laid back, some trained hard down at the gym, some didn’t bother. (My favourite was the 85 year old Chinese man whose training seemed to consist of having a beer, a fag and a laugh with his mates, much to the dismay of his obviously doting daughter). The sense of camaraderie and love these people have for each other is really beautiful to see – and the seriousness with which they try to beat each other, and the anguish when they lose, only adds to that. Really a good watch – hope it gets to your TV soon, or comes back around – or see the Ping Pong website for how to get hold of a copy.

One of the stars, Les D’Arcy from Wakefield was present at the screening at the Hyde Park, along with his Olympic torch. He gave a talk before the start, and read some of his inspirational poems.

Healing Voices at the Love Arts Launch (2/10/12)

The Love Arts Festival got off to a great start on Tuesday evening with a brilliant art exhibition at The Light, along with a deficit defying, calorie charged cake and cookie decorating extravaganza, and a heart warming session of songs from the lovely and mellifluous Healing Voices Choir.