Mental Health Awareness week 2016

MHAW16 logo 300x300

This week is Mental Health Awareness week. For anyone who is often emotionally/mentally less than well, it’s a useful time to reflect on how the annual event might help.

Well acquainted since childhood of the shaky mental health of people close to me, and then subsequently my own brush with ‘breakdown’, I might as a result, claim to be ‘aware’. I try to remain mindful however ,that there is much to learn from the experience of others.

Disclosing aspects of my episodes of emotional/mental ill-at-easness feel like a risk ,but one I usually take. It’s also an opportunity to reaffirm that it’s just one aspect of my life experience, and one of which I’m not ashamed.

Frequently, and especially this awareness week, I find myself still reflecting on the ‘language’ the ‘powers that be’ would label the experience of emotional/mental ill-ease, and I assert that emotional response is an appropriate one in a ‘world gone wrong’, and therefore not necessarily a treatable behaviour. It’s useful to remain aware!

The theme of this years awareness raising is relationships. The organisation Mental Health Foundation have a lovely set of free downloadable logos which highlight the different aspects of the value of our relationships, see here

May is also National Walking Month …..strolling with friends new or old is an ideal way to build on any existing relationships , or make new ones. Here is a site for some walking suggestions. Often times people with a common interest just meet up informally , and within our group we’ve been privileged to do that. You can read here about one such occasion.

I lead a sedentary life for most of the winter months but usually get motivated to restart some brisk walking in April. Spring was late this year so getting out seemed harder but May blossom was my wake up call to ‘move it’, as was my good neighbour’s invites to join with her for an occasional walk after work……a welcome gesture.

In an age when relationships appear to be increasingly carried out in cyberspace, and many irrespective of age report feeling isolated, I find the physical proximity of relationships ever more important. Perhaps this week is a good time to think over ways our relationships might be mutually rewarding.

Cheers, Sue

 

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What Works

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:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leeds-what-works-wellbeing-stakeholder-engagement-workshop-tickets-17933870690

Poetry slam

Winter nights sees me pretty much grounded for their duration, and with each year that passes the need to get active after them, becomes ever more apparent. Getting out and about keeps me physically and emotionally better, and attending the Headingley Literature Festival each March is often one of my first Spring evening jaunts.

LS6 always seems to buzz but the festival gives it that extra vibe. The programme of events is always extensive and varied, many events are free, of those that aren’t, they’re reasonably priced. This year’s theme was ‘Something Else’, and concludes on April 2nd  with, ‘Own Your Words’ …advertised as a poetry slam, see details here.

So far I’ve only managed to attend one of this year’s events, this too was also billed as a poetry slam, and named, ’One City – Many Voices’. For an entrance fee of £4 we were entertained by the internationally renowned poet, Lemn Sissay.Lemn Sissay

I’m not sure when the slang use of the word ‘cool’ became so commonplace. I don’t recall it being used in ‘my day’, and don’t feel comfortable saying it, BUT writing it occasionally seems expressive?,,,,Lemn and his performance were….. cool!

The word slam in ‘poetry slam’ is also slang, but this too I find expressive. It was used initially to describe a competitive poetry event, and was coined by Bob Holman. ‘a poetry activist and…slammaster’ who called the movement “the democratization of verse”…..he also said

The spoken word revolution is led a lot by women and by poets of color. It gives a depth to the nation’s dialogue that you don’t hear on the floor of Congress

The ‘One City – Many Voices’ poetry slam wasn’t competitive, but those who performed alongside Lemn were a group of talented wordsmiths from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They were pupils of Leeds City Academy and Ralph Thoresby High School.  The flair and conviction of their words was astoundingly good. The young people had been coached by local writer and poet Michelle Scally Clarke.

Michelle told us how when younger, she’d struggled academically because of her troubled life, but she liked writing poetry and after sending some to Lemn, he’d encouraged her to continue. Ms Scally Clarkes’s performance, and presence were impressive. The Academy’s, Head of English, was an equally animated and motivational speaker, he spoke of the personal hurdles he’d overcome to be so. The teacher told us of his difficulties with a speech impairment and shyness when young, and then when older in a southern University, he’d faced ‘teasing’ for his Northern accent. I’m sure his and Michelle’s commitment and mentoring skills were a huge factor in the pupils finding their words and voice.

Most of the young performers displayed a confidence, beyond their years, they recited forthrightly, the young compere was dynamic and as an introduction demonstrated his moonwalking. The focus of the students poetry topics revealed many difficulties in their personal lives, they were angry at injustices they’d faced, but this seemed to spark the passion to expose it.

Though I like performance poetry, my preferred way of ‘hearing’ poetry is to read it silently to myself. Poets performing their own work however are most likely best able to add the nuance, or inflection which conveys their intended message. Lemn is a charismatic performer and he described writing poetry as ‘playing with the spirits’, that point alone inspired me to write about the poetry slam. Hopefully we who only listen to or read it, get to commune with them too.

Of the poems Lemn read, the following one stayed with me, as it spoke of the rejection he’d suffered. The poem also illustrates how when we’re a child, what it’s like to live in the land of ‘giants’ who sometimes get perplexingly angry. It was clear Lemn wrote the poem from experience but it wasn’t until after the event I found out just how difficult his childhood was. I also discovered that he’s an MBE, and whereas I claim letters before or after someone’s name mean little to me, I might have felt a little shyer inviting him to a World Poetry event elsewhere, or about his fee! Lemn, as the cliche goes, appeared to have ‘no edge’ and graciously, whilst not exactly accepting the invite, managed to appear not to rule it out.

Though childhood rejection wasn’t an obvious contributory factor in my angsty youth, it’s something many experience at some time, either as children or adults. Making it easy perhaps to identify with the boy in the poem who was misunderstood, and imputed with wrong motives.  It is only as an adult, and lately, that I’ve come to recognise the insidious ways certain groups are marginalised. If we find ourselves amongst them, choosing to re-frame the experience, see it as an advantageous place from which to act, gives the freedom to draw up inspiration from ‘that wellspring of creativity’.¹

Suitcases and Muddy Parks by Lemn Sissay

You say I am a lying child I say I’m not you say there you go again

You say I am a rebellious child I say no I’m not you say there you go again

Quite frankly mum I’ve never seen a rebellious child before and when my mates said jump in that puddle and race you through the park (y’know, the muddy one) I didn’t think about the mud.

When you said why you are dirty! I could feel the anger in your voice I still don’t know why. I said I raced my mates through the park. You said it was deliberate. I said I didn’t I mean I did but it wasn’t. You said I was lying, I said no I am not. You said there you go again.

Later in the dawn of adolescence it was time for my leave

I with my suitcase, social worker,

you with your husband, walked our sliced ways.

Sometimes I run back to you like a child through a muddy park, adult achievements tucked under each arm, I explain them with a child-like twinkle, thinking any mother would be proud…

Your eyes, desperately trying hard to be wise and unrevealing, reveal all.

Still you fall back into the heart of the same rocking chair saying

There you go again.

And I did.

And I have.

,Sue Margaret

1. Bob Dylan in interview.

Quercus at the Howard Assembly Rooms, Feb 7th

Quercus

The Howard Rooms are a great place to hear live music. The hall is big enough for a sizeable crowd, but small enough to feel like you’re in a friendly pub, and the wood everywhere, including the amazing wooden ceiling, gives the place a warmth, even in a cool February. Quercus (meaning ‘oak’) are singer June Tabor, Iain Ballamy (playing saxophone) and Huw Warren (piano), and on Saturday they played a repertoire that ranged from traditional folk to experimental jazz, from extraordinarily gentle to wildly exuberant. June Tabor’s voice has a huge range of emotion and colour, and it worked well with the saxophone as a second voice – the human tones and the sax’s metallic hoarseness weaving together, backed by some really versatile piano playing that could be hauntingly delicate or sometimes cacophonous as it created the effect of a whole band behind the voice and solo instrument.

Some of the highlights for me were a Robbie Burns love song (you can hear the studio version of this at http://player.ecmrecords.com/quercus ), a moving lament for first world war fallen from Coope, Boyes and Simpson, and a great, sad, slow version of Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – a song that was so popular and well played in folk clubs of the 70s that it seemed to became a cliché and almost disappeared for many years. This version brought out the ache behind the deceptively simple chords and made you remember why it became so popular in the first place.

I first became aware of June Tabor through the album Silly Sisters that she recorded with Steeleye Span singer Maddy Prior in 1976, and then through albums like Anthology (1999), which has much the same jazz/folk span as Quercus. I’ve always loved the uniqueness of her voice and her defiance of being held within any one tradition. On Saturday I did impromptu interviews with members of the audience to test their reaction to the music:

“She still has a wonderful singing voice and a really easy comfortable rapport with the audience.” (Franz, harpist)

 

“I particularly like the pianist.” (Jean, jazz aficionado)

 

“Put it this way, I shan’t be asking for my money back”, (Pete, art critic)

 

“I just loved them. They’re so good at drawing you in, and although that can be quite intense they’ve got an openness you can really relax into. There’s something sea-shorey about the sound. She’s the rock at the centre that frees the other two ” (Gail, crime writer)

 

There’s  a lot going at the Howard Rooms over the next couple of months, from classical film like Metropolis (2nd April) to more musical feasts like the Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell (17th Feb) and the saxophone playing son of John Coltrane, Ravi Coltraine (11th March), as well as Opera North’s ‘Little Voices’ Saturday morning programme for under 4’s and a lot of other stuff worth checking out at http://www.operanorth.co.uk/whats-on

 

Terry

 

 

 

New Year goals for AIM Education, Leeds

Goals and aims for New Year.

The Aim Education Organisation’s mission statement is

“Creating opportunities to overcome inequalities and enrich local communities.”

In furthering their objectives the  Aim Education Organisation had already by November 2014 set their goals for this New Year, one of them being a 24 hour continuous!….yes continuous!…..five-a-side football match.

They had already in November set and completed the organisations first challenge, and what a challenge it was, an overnight trek around the 80 mile boundary of Leeds. One participant Jonny Wooton described it as “agony and ecstasy”, here is his account of the event.

Leeds Trek 2014

“The inaugural event of Leeds Trek in November 2014, was an 80 mile overnight trek of agony and ecstasy! The aim of the event was to raise funds, which would be used to help re-engage children in Leeds who have become disengaged from school.

AT 7.00AM on Saturday November 24, 20 brave individuals embarked on a historic walk around Leeds. The grueling 80 miles challenge started in the centre of Leeds, and reached as far as the Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor. The trek was the first (hopefully of many) Aim Education Organisation’s, Leeds Trek.intend to arrange.

As the walkers hiked between Leeds centre towards Roundhay Park, it was our four-legged friend Alan, a border terrier that flew out of the traps to set the pace until checkpoint one. As the walkers fast-approached the second checkpoint at Thorner, Alan retired for the day,  but  the tight-knit group of trekkers kept up their spirits as they battled their way through the mist. Once they reached the lovely village of Thorner, they received a warm welcome of  excellent coffee and croissants at The Beehive. At this point some walkers had developed blisters and were having plasters and tape applied.to them. Despite the discomfort trekkers experienced the overall goal of raising funds for Aim Education remained a powerful incentive to carry them onward.

Harewood House(Some of the Trekkers outside Harewood House)

Harewood House was the next checkpoint and our trekkers adrenaline was now flowing. En-route to their next stage at Otley Chevin they soldiered on through a light shower of rain . Along the way new friendships were being made, the oldest competitor John, 73, was building a rapport with Sean, just 17.

The event was the brainchild pf Aim Education’s Head of Program, Carl Harrison. Carl had positioned himself in the centre of the group of trekkers, and from there was able to encourage each competitor.  Carl’s message about the aim and importance of the event was loud and clear …..we had to finish! Our success would help to re-engage children who had become disengaged from West Leeds schools, allowing them the opportunity to get back on track via Aim Education’s program.

The Cow and Calf was reached at 10pm, at this point the whole group could now see that completing the ultra-marathon challenge was becoming a real possibility.
Despite the darkness, our spirits remained high, as we passed through Guiseley, Horsforth and Headingly hunger pangs started to kick in. Meanwhile in the early hours, AIM’s administrator Babs was preparing a splendid Chicken Casserole dish, this was for the teams later arrival at AIM’s HQ, St Thomas’ Community Centre in Stanningley.

Morley(Morley with Jenny May and mum at 5.00am)
Our 5a.m. food stop was in Morley, where Jenny and her kind-hearted mum were on hand with hot drinks and some scrumptious snacks, which loaded trekkers full of the necessary carbohydrates to help see them through until the final checkpoint.
The final stop was at the Brown Cow in Temple Newsam, where the walking weary were given by way of a final ‘push,’ some words of encouragement from Pauline Grahame,  Councillor for Cross Gates and Whinmoor.
The last leg of the trek was undoubtedly the hardest but contestants ploughed on to complete the 80 miles Leeds Trek to Leeds Sports Centre, and were greeted by rapturous applause!
AIM Education would like to thank all the pubs, centres and kind individuals that helped them along the way. Planning is already underway for the 2015 event.  Word on the street is that it may be a 24hr continuous five-a-side football match. If you are interested in getting involved and want to help raise funds to make Leeds a better place both now and in the future please contact Carl Harrison on 07581883160 or email him at carlharrison@aimeducation.co.uk

For information about AIM Education please contact our centre at St Thomas’ Church Hall, Stanningley, Leeds, LS28 6NG or call 01132554342

LEEDS TREK 2014

Leeds Trek 2014 Flyer UpdatedAIM EDUCATION

AIM Education is a not for profit organisation which has been set up to create opportunities to overcome inequalities and enrich the local Leeds community. This weekend and extending over both Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd November they have organised Trek 2014, you can follow the groups activities on Facebook here. The route encircles the entire boundary of Leeds.

You can cheer them along on their trek or follow their Twitter updates along the way @LeedsTrek2014 they start at 7.00am at Leeds Sport Centre on Saturday morning returning there by 2.30pm on Sunday via Roundhay Park,Thorner, Harewood House, Otley, Burley in Wharfdale, Ilkley. Guiseley, Horsforth, Headingley, Kirstall, Rodley,Pudsey,Farnley, Morley,Belle Isle, Barwick in Elmet and Temple Newsam….phew! BEST OF LUCK TO EVERYONE! Sponsorship and donations are welcome.

AIM Education have promised to take photos of the event and share them with us in the near future.