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

3 thoughts on “Creativity and Madness – AL Kennedy, Love Arts Festival

  1. The connection between ‘madness’ and creativity has often been debated, possibly most people are somewhat ‘mad’ and creative but don’t have the circumstances which ‘enable’ these tendencies to become full blown.
    Thanks for the article, the very useful links and for sharing your own struggle with mental well being.


  2. When I was at school the world of writers and artists just looked so much more fun than anything else in my life. When i first heard poetry in the form of songs like ‘it’s alright ma’. It was a lot more interesting than anything else on offer I think I was happy to invite a bit of madness if it was the price for not dying of boredom. Didn’t know it would make such a mess of course. I don’t think creativity and madness are the same thing but they both come into play when things are stuck and need a jolt, so the realms overlap, I think.


  3. Thanks for your comments ! I think you are right about circumstances and creativity. There is definitely something about creativity that can touch a part of us or move us which is connected to emotions and an inner world, such as a piece of music or poetry…


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