Events and courses and other things to do which may have a time frame and date. Helping give people structure the chance to learn and grow and socialise which hopefully prevents isolation – helps people build and maintain a support network.
The heavens have decided we need some entertainment down here in Leeds, Planet Earth. So on the 21st December 2020, they’ve kindly scheduled a show for us. Saturn and Jupiter, the two largest planets in our solar system are coming together to create, the poetically dubbed, Christmas Star. The last time this phenomena occurred was 800 years ago!
Witnessing planetary events such as this can help to create a feeling of awe within us, research finds that some people are more sensitive to this than others. For me, this feeling of wonder changes me both physiologically and psychologically, momentarily I forget my problems as I look out into a starry sky, watch birds at the feeder, visit a place of outstanding natural beauty or watch a river flow ferociously after a storm.
What is happening when we feel like this? Studies have found that a feeling of awe can diminish our sense of self in that moment and give people a perception that they have more available time, can increase feelings of connectedness, enhance mood and also interestingly, decrease materialistic feelings. I mean, that’s pretty awesome in itself! I guess these sights are a reminder of who we are and what we are part of. For me they can help me put things into perspective.
Leeds is urban and so does have quite a lot of light pollution, and so it may help to find a pocket of Leeds that has less light pollution to view the Christmas Star, here is a map with a postcode finder search tool, you can check out the amount of light pollution where you live.
So if it’s not overcast, I may try and venture somewhere close by that has a little less light pollution and create a little awe.
Each year at the beginning of September there is a Heritage Open Day Festival. This year it’s happening from Thursday the 8th September to Sunday the 11th September and it will be a great opportunity to see places of interest not normally open to the public.
The program is extensive and therefore it involves being selective, many events though free are bookable. Local programes are available on-line but if you prefer a hard copy program, start searching for them earlier on in August, public libraries usually have them.
It’s understandable, says Sue Margaret that if emotional and/or mental distress is part of our lived experience, to focus on that, but Next Monday, the 20th of June, will be an opportunity to focus on something which might aid our emotional wellbeing.
Focusing on photography is the theme of a five sessions community activity organised by Leeds City Libraries.
The first session which I attended, took place a couple of weeks ago during Mental Health Awareness week (MHAW16). The focus of MHAW16 week was the value of people’s relationships on their all round wellbeing. Few would doubt the value of relationships to wellbeing, whether that relationship is with self or others, and it would be hard to have one without the other.
Having an absorbing hobby is well known to be a useful aid in having a happy relationship with yourself, and having hobbies and interests help many transcend the cares of their everyday life.
The intention of the ‘Focus on Photography’ sessions is to bring local folks together to collaborate on a short photographic project, it will involve discussion and practise.
Participants will be encouraged to bring along any existing photographs they’ve taken, as well as engage in a local field trip.
Getting involved in group activities can be anxiety provoking for many, especially if it’s the first time. Meeting strangers may similarly be nerve wracking. The event took place at my local library, a place with which I feel ‘at home’ and this helped dispel any reservations I might have had.
It was obvious that the sessions being launched in MHAW16 would include some mention of mental health. A simple quiz about mental health acted as an ice-breaker.The main focus however was on photography and relationships. Nevertheless people did feel comfortable enough to share some of their experiences and observations about mental wellbeing in the community.
Bramley Library is flooded with natural light because not only does it have huge windows but it also has two art deco glass roof domes. These allow our wonderful, ever changing moody English skies, to influence the mood of this particularly, ideal photographic location. The location has on previous occasions inspired and enabled me to capture some atmospheric shots.
I’ve no particular ambition time or money …..yet! to be more than a phone camera snapper. I do have other digital cameras but they are less convenient. Like many people nowadays my phone is always conveniently to hand.
I’m particularly interested in the results reflected light and reflections in glass add to photographic images so I think I’ll make this my focus…..
‘Reflections on a Summer of Light’
If you are in the area at 5pm on the dates mentioned below look forward to sharing ideas and photographs.
This is a workshop hosted by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing at the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University on Thursday, 10th September 2015 from 09:30 to 12:30 to examine how wellbeing evidence can be used to improve community wellbeing. The workshop is an opportunity for you to inform the early stages of a key evidence programme which will have national impact.
The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is a UK government-funded initiative recently launched by the What Works Network to enable a range of stakeholders to access independent, high quality, accessible evidence syntheses on wellbeing.
This workshop will explore how wellbeing evidence can be useful in the day-to-day work of those working in a range of sectors including local government, the voluntary and community sector, public health, housing and the private sector. It is aimed primarily at those in the Yorkshire region.
We will be focusing on policy areas related to place and community, including planning, housing, built environment, social capital, participation, public health, green space, transport, and community development. The issues the What Works Centre focusses on will be determined based on this stakeholder engagement, so these workshops represent an important early opportunity to influence the Centre’s work.
During the session we will be tackling questions such as:
•What ingredients are important for community wellbeing?
•How can your work enhance community wellbeing?
•What are the key challenges in our work for improving community wellbeing?
•How might wellbeing, a focus on wellbeing, wellbeing data, or effective wellbeing interventions, address these challenges?
•What gaps are there in wellbeing evidence?
There are just 12 tickets left so if you want one, sign up for What Works at:
The group Icebreaker have previously done a tour where they re-interpreted songs by Brian Eno. Brian Eno shot to fame in the early 70s with the band Roxy Music, where he played synthesizer, an instrument which was in its early stage of development. Eno had previously been an art student, inspired by ‘minimalism’, an art form which is about only using the basics. Eno then went on to work with a wide variety of other bands, such as David Bowie, Talking Heads and German ambient pioneers, Cluster. After this tour, they wanted to do something similar. They chose Kraftwerk because like Eno, (in fact much more so) they were highly influential in developing electronic music, from the early 70’s and up until the present day.
On the 23rd of January Icebreaker performed at Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds. Before the main performance, Icebreaker did their version of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’. Terry Riley was, an American minimalist composer. ‘In c’ is considered by many to be a masterpiece. The composition went through many different shades, from mellow to noisy, from joyous to dark, from hypnotic to intense. It gradually built up from a luxuriant clarinet to a climax of sound. There was a part that for some reason made me think of a giant worm coming out of the earth!
Each Kraftwerk song was performed as an avant-garde instrumental, apart from a little snippet of processed German vocals, which I believe was sampled from Kraftwerk. Each song segued into the next. The performance was for about an hour. The songs combined many eclectic sounds and influences. After a while a booming bass appeared. The drums were more for percussive effect, such as crashing symbols, rather than rhythm. They were combined with electronic drums for extra volume and bass.
Above the musicians were three large screens. The screens began showing abstract shapes and rotating wire mesh which flashed to the pulsating bass and crashing symbols. There were shots of what would normally be mundane – doors, windows, pieces of metal. Grainy black and white images of Kraftwerk’s home city of Dusseldorf, desolate streets and factories with no people. Weeds blowing in the wind, industrial chimneys blowing out thick smoke. These images could have been filmed anywhere in the Western world. Scenes that would usually have been empty and inhuman evoked emotion. The film, created by Sophie Clements and Toby Cornish, is intended to create insight into Kraftwerk’s ideas of technology and how technology affects urban and natural space. For the song ‘Autobahn’, first we were shown a car driving down a motorway, from the viewpoint of a passenger. Then, the screen showed the white lines of the road, which you would expect to be dull but was in fact rather intriguing! The bleak images contrasted with the powerful music. It would be interesting to know what Kraftwerk would think about this! I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. Much thanks goes to Howard Assembly Rooms
Members of Icebreaker: James Poke – flute, pan-pipes, WX11 wind synthesizer, bass drum, Rowland Sutherland – flute, pan-pipes, Bradley Grant – saxophone, clarinet, Dominic Saunders – keyboards, Ian Watson – accordion, Audrey Riley – electric cello, Dan Gresson – percussion, James Woodrow – guitar, bass guitar, Pete Wilson – bass guitar with J.Peter Schwalm on electronics and processing.
Age UK organise the above event annually, they are inviting you take part. Of this year’s event they say,
“This is the 29th year the Dash has taken place and it has grown to have 12,000 runners taking part this year and is the last event in the Run Britain Grand Prix Series.
The Abbey Dash is number 9 in Men’s Running’s top 10k races, and is now considered ‘one of the best events in the UK!’ The course is flat and fast, creating a great atmosphere for both beginners and advanced participants.
Money raised from the event will help to support older people in both the Leeds area and nationwide!”
The saying “when the student is ready the teacher will appear”, is often incorrectly attributed to Buddha. Regardless of who first coined the phrase, I find it a wise saying, and applicable to myself as a student of body learning.
Recently over a period of days it’s wisdom floated up into my consciousness. A aha moment as I was practicing the Zen art of washing up!. I’m not making fun of such philosophies. I do believe there is much to be gained spiritually from doing seemingly mundane chores, especially if whilst doing them we remain mindful of body use. I don’t always feel so reverential towards my dirty crockery, this particular episode of enlightenment came soon after a ‘top up’ Alexander Technique Lesson.
I was first introduced to the Alexander Technique many years ago after recurrent attacks of debilitating and painful back spasm. At that time my focus was primarily on relieving pain, I did not complete the recommended course of 12 weekly sessions. The student was not ready. In more recent years I did take the full, one-to-one course. I now see my current teacher, Grant Ragsdale, just a few times a year. and often when I am ill at ease with self or external events. I saw Grant this week for a ‘top-up’, on this occasion ……the student was ready.
I don’t consider myself a particularly good pupil, or example of effective body use. I easily slip back into poor use, hunching shoulders or slumping my spine, thereby compressing my chest. and constricting my breathing. Maintaining poise is an ideal but I look forward to being ‘topped up’, applying the principles more fully, and with gratitude well in to later life. Having a lesson always frees me up, although immediately after I might feel disoriented, as if I’m in a different body and head space. A lifetime of poor use is hard to undo.
Habitual misuse can be the result of defending ourselves from perceived, or actual physical and emotional threats. In addition circumstance might mean we constantly act out of harmony with our feelings, by so doing we risk cutting our thought off from feeling, I do, and that’s why reminders are necessary. I find the Alexander Technique lessons serves as a reminder.
That the physical and emotional influences, we experience during childhood impact on our health and well-being can hardly be disputed. If our physiological inheritance is sound, and we are lucky to observe from “significant others”, effective use of emotions and body, our general resilience can be enhanced. We therefore have a better chance of withstanding the many ordinary, and extraordinary life events we humans face. If our role models in childhood did not allow us to mirror a useful sense of self, it makes inroads on our later resilience, it’s then that our emotional balance figures large in bodily tension. It is easy to see how when under stress this can be the tipping point for mental distress. Should this happen and our distress becomes pathologised, medicalised, the body’s signals along with our voice may get quietened.
The modern Western lifestyle itself can place an additional strain on useful functioning of the body. Within our relationships ‘mirroring ‘ occurs and it ‘s common to imitate dominant physical and emotional traits. Gang culture demonstrates this well, when a particular body stance or swagger signifies membership. Climate too has an influence on the way we use our body. In cultures and climates where less restrictive clothing, and all year round outdoor activitities, allow for freer posture, good use is evident. Inhabitants of developing countries where material disadvantage, and where the oppression of civil unrest is common, nonetheless manage to maintain erect posture well in to old age. We in the West seem less fortunate, our bodies telling the tale of our mind/body split when under stress.
Often times a mental or physical breakdown, though very traumatic, can also be a chance to see what’s up,** through it we may become more aware of our misuse and untenable lifestyle. Awareness is a step toward undoing poor use.The Alexander Technique is a means whereby we can have a go at undoing poor habits. Remaining mindful of the Alexander Tachnique principles is not a cure all. The Alexander Technique as Grant tells us in the following video is about psycho-physical unity. Like most things if you don’t take heed of your body’s signals there will be times faulty body/mind connections might trouble you.
As Grant has explained the ideal way to learn the lesson is in a one-to-one session, and this incurs a fee (concessions may be available).Group lessons are a viable alternative and a cheaper introduction. Grant Ragsdale and his colleague Maureen White offer both methods of learning at the Swarthmore Education Centre. New group sessions commence on Monday 29th September at 3.30p.m.to 5p.m. and on Tuesday 30th September at 6p.m.-7.30p.m., and continue for eight weeks. Swarthmore group sessions are subsidised for some income groups, therefore concessions are available.
Affording lessons can be an issue, at the time I first took a course of lessons, when as currently my income wasn’t huge I still made lessons a priority. I’ve paid for lessons by a combination of forgoing other priorities, or when a L.E.T.S, (Local Exchange and Trading scheme) was active in Leeds, paid in beads!…doing childcare, ironing, cleaning ovens, bookkeeping to accrue beads in the ‘bank’. There are stirrings of similar schemes starting again locally, (if you know of more please share the information).
Learning the Alexander principles has not cast a rosy glow over everything in my life, knowing them did not prevent me from having breakdown. My Alexander teacher at that time was accepting of my seemingly bizarre, unfolding story, having her alongside me accepting of my truth when at my worst, was in itself a stabilising, and calming influence. I am still often presented with troublesome and disquieting times, but I believe the Alexander Technique principles enable me to be more ‘present’, more able to identify thoughts and feelings, and thus to reflect …why do I have this headache, feel tense, have ‘butterflies’,feel elated, high? …..it’s rarely just physical.
* ‘Body Learning’ by Michael Gelb.
An inspiring book about learning and applying the Alexander Technique
** “Inward Bound” by Sam Keen.This book has helped me on many occasions of self doubt.
The Love Arts Festival is nearly upon us again. The festival launches on 15th October, so be prepared for exhibitions, poetry, plays and more special events, all with a mental health, creativity and arts theme.
There’s something new this year: the Love Arts Conversation is a festival-flavoured conference which will take place on 21st & 22nd October 2014 in Leeds City Centre. Continue reading →
Hope you make time to see the Reality of Small Differences exhibition, of which Gill Crawshaw is a champion! follow on Twitter @Championwonder. Gill comments that the
“exhibition is also part of the current Arts Trail in Chapel Allerton (until Sunday 31st August) and is an exhibition of textile art by disabled artists (including people with mental health problems)”,
it is currently on display at
Inkwell and Union 105.
“This exhibition came about as a response to the fact that Grayson Perry’s popular tapestry series* is being shown in Leeds in a venue that’s inaccessible to many disabled people.”
You can see the Reality of Small Differences exhibition between
10-4 Tuesday – Saturday until Saturday 4th Oct. at Inkwell
then by appointment the following week until Weds 3rd Sept.
* the Grayson Perry exhibition is currently here in Leeds until the 7th December. Five of Grayson’s six tapestries on display are only accessible by stair or stair climber but here are Temple Newsam’s details about accessibility.