A little bit of culture does you good

Leeds Grand

What does the word ‘culture’ mean to you?  Art galleries? Museums? To me, it has always sounded a bit posh, and something that I’m not part of.

At last year’s Love Arts Festival, I was involved in some research with the University of Leeds which aimed to look at culture and what it means to us.  It got me thinking.

Maybe culture wasn’t something high-brow and elitist.  Maybe it was something I was involved in already.  At the time I was taking art classes, joining in with the Central Library’s creative writing group annual collection of short stories, in a choir, and making beaded jewellery.  That’s all culture, right?  And I’d be going to the cinema, had a museum visit with the writers’ group, an art gallery visit with my painting class, as well as all the visits and events with Love Arts.
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If you haven’t already seen Highlights, the “dazzling annual showcase of artwork by members of Arts & Minds”, you now only have until Sunday, and you’ll really miss something if you don’t see it. The quote in the previous sentence is from the blurb in the Love Arts programme, but it’s really not an exaggeration. This is an extraordinary collection – very varied, in terms of the type of image on display, with photography, straight and manipulated; pencil drawings; paintings abstract and realistic, ranging from the fantastical to simple images of domestic pets and other animals; scenes of gritty urban life and idyllic scenes of nature – but all generally of a really high standard, at least as far as I could tell, as a lay person who likes to look at such things.

One of the artists, local poet Liz Helliwell, has already blogged about the opening last Wednesday – see  http://www.lizhelliwell.co.uk/2014/10/light-fantastic/ for her take.

I’ve put a few examples below to whet your appetitie, but they are really rather random – I liked so much of this collection that I’d have had to photograph most of it to give a true reflection. The Light is open from 6 a.m. to 12.30 a,m, daily, and the exhibition is staffed during the day. It’s free and the brochure says:. “Just turn up”. I would.


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The images above are Royal Park School, by Jill Setterington; A Daydream by the Water’s Edge, by Ian Gill; Villification by Liz Helliwell; Veiled Garden by Amanda Burton; and Divine Mystery by Patrick Hanratty.

Love Arts – The Big Conversation

Love Arts Conversation

Love Arts Conversation

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

Sharing Stories – The Rosie Project – 15th July 6pm

Sharing Stories is a collaborative project between Arts and Minds and Leeds Book Club. The aim of the project is not only pleasurable, but an opportunity to raise awareness of issues surrounding ‘mental health; learning difficulties and autism through the use of fiction’.

This is the second year that Sharing Stories has taken place. A selection of books appropriate to the topic, are discussed throughout the year. For July the choice is The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simison, The Independent newspaper describes it as ‘pure, wonderful escapism’, just the thing for a summer read.

If you have never been to a book discussion group before, this event in the cozy Crowd of Favours bar, in central Leeds, could be a good introduction..It takes place between 6-8pm on Tuesday the 15th,…… still time to read it!

If you have never eaten lobster, and you are not a vegetarian or vegan, Tuesday might be an opportune time to cook it! …..This is Dan’s, the narrator, evening meal… every Tuesday, it forms part of his ongoing Standardised Meal Plan. Dan has a similar practical and scientific approach to everything, including finding.the ideal partner, …The Wife Project…..until he meets Rosie.

Rosie does not tick any of the right boxes on his perfect partner questionnaire, which he devised to facilitate this.. Dan values punctuality and precision ….Rosie has her own Rosie Time Zone.

Dan’s way of coping with the world is indicative of people who receive the diagnose of, Aspergers, Simison describes well the frustrations and humour involved in Dan’s endeavour to become more accommodating of other people’ s way of doing things.

Regardless whether we have a similar diagnosis or not, The Rosie Project might help readers of it understand those that do. They might also reflect that even if they don’t encounter such problems,  the need to be better understood, or understand others is common to all.


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Light out of Darkness

Alternative decorations at ArtlinkOn 11th December the Arts and Minds Network celebrated the idea that creativity can be a light in the darkness.  It was a winter (not Christmas) celebration with a twist.  Yes, there were mince pies, but we also had the chance to turn our hand to creative writing, with the expert guidance of Linda Lewis. Continue reading

Love Arts 2013 launched!

Love Arts poster

You could hardly move for survivor artists, wandering poets, volunteers, photographers, cake makers, community reporters and the great and the good of the local mental health scene. Love Arts, the three week long festival that seeks to get people thinking and talking about mental health is back in town, after two successful years in previous Autumns. Yesterday saw the festival launch, with an art exhibition, ‘Highlights’, from the Leeds Arts & Minds Network, which will be showing at the Light until Sunday 13 October.  Even more than in previous years I was struck by the enormous variety of artwork on display, and how good some of it is – certainly worth a special trip out of your way to see.

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Time to Change Leeds has been spearheading the assault on stigma and discrimination in our wicked city, and they were busy waylaying passers by and getting pledges.

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You had to accept cookies in order to fully participate, and some  were decorated with wild abandon, throwing caution and calorie counting to the wind and laughing in the face of healthy eating programmes.


There are literally dozens of things going on in the city over the next three weeks – you can see the full programme at the Love Arts Festival website. Some of the stand out things for me are:

The Love Music Leeds album launch on Friday 11 October at All Hallows Church, Regent Terrace, Leeds 6, 7.45 – 11 p.m. costing £7.50. This features local musicians exploring the connections between music and mental wellbeing through songs nominated because they’ve been found helpful, inspiring or comforting.

The Word Emporium at Trinity Church on Boar Lane on Wednesday 16 October, 6.30 – 9.15, will be a night of spoken word and music where you can earn the prestigious title of Love Arts Festival Word Champion for performing a couple of pieces in the open mic – or just come along and watch for £2/£3.

Unheard Voices is a free exhibition about the people who lived, visited and worked at High Royds Hospital, the old Victorian asylum. This launches on Monday 7 October , 5 – 7 p.m. in Leeds Central Library, and will be open during normal library opening hours after that.


Whatever your taste in arts there’s probably something at the festival you can enjoy. A lot of the things are free or cheap, and they run during the day-time as well as in the evenings. Check it out.


The Present, a short film about a woman’s emotional journey to work.

Last year I took part in a film making project with the community group ‘Arts and Minds of Leeds.  A few of us, who were new to film-making were involved in this creative project which culminated in our short films being shown as part of last years Love Arts festival and The Leeds Film Festival – Film to Change event.

My film had a theme of emotional well-being and is about a woman who is struggling to manage stress and unhelpful patterns of thinking – which is causing her to be unhappy. However she manages to find some respite from this,   watch and you shall find out….


The Present she unwraps is actually a gift which allows her to become more aware of  The Present moment.  We can worry about the future, ruminate about the past and dwell upon problems to the extent that it interferes with our quality of life and decreases our sense of well-being. This kind of thinking can be all-consuming and leave little space for anything else,  which may leave us feeling depleted and stressed. Research has shown that purposefully paying attention to the present moment is a technique which can help to manage this. Once the woman in the film has opened the present – she is then able to appreciate the beautiful roses on her desk that she previously hadn’t noticed.

It’s not always easy to change the way we think or to manage difficult emotions but there are techniques which can help. I had recently attended a Mindfulness Meditation Course which was the inspiration behind the film.

Sophie MacWhannell is the actress who played the woman in the film.  She is Leeds-based, very talented, passionate and extremely supportive.  I am going to plug Sophie because she was so fantastic !  Not only has she acted in various plays and short films but she also performs as part of a comedy improvisation group called Monkeyheads AND is part of *Urban Sprawl.  She recently performed with Urban Sprawl in the play;  ‘Wrecked’ which was also part of the Love Arts Leeds festival. So if you need a talented and dedicated actress – look Sophie up!

Thanks also to Carl Allport, who was the course tutor and teaches at Leeds Metropolitan University, to Arts and Minds and also to Inkwell.   Also thanks to everyone else who took part whose names are in the credits, it was very collaborative and nice to work in a great team.

Hope you enjoyed it, would love any feedback, thanks Vicky 🙂

Also If you are interested in taking part in the making of a film contact Arts and Minds.

*Urban Sprawl is Yorkshire’s only homeless theatre company. Formed in August 2004, we are committed towards using theatre as an arts engagement tool to help people affected by homelessness and related issues.Urban Sprawl meet every Monday at Multiple Choice 5-8 pm.If your interested in finding out more email us at urb@urbansprawl.org.uk


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 🙂

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

Love Arts Festival, Tuesday 2nd Oct – Monday 29th Oct.

The award-winning ‘Love Arts Festival’ is back for a second year and starts TODAY until Monday 29th October.

The official launch starts this afternoon at the Light Shopping Centre from 4pm – 6pm. Everybody is welcome and can expect to be entertained with poetry, singing and with films amongst other things. It’s an ideal opportunity to get involved, so come along and grab your free programme and sign a pledge for Time to Change!

The festival is run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT) and the Arts and Minds Network. The festival has a very worthy aim which is to use ‘The Arts’ to explore key issues within mental health such as Identity, Stigma and Social Justice.

There will be a range of events across the city during October. Love Arts includes art exhibitions, comedy shows, music performances and interesting and informative led walks and more!  If you don’t manage to pick up a paper programme at the launch party – I would really encourage you to read the Love Arts Festival Programme online.

Many people have been working with Arts and Minds in various formats in the run up to the festival. I was lucky enough to join a film club and have had an amazing experience making a film. The film will be shown tonight in the old Benetton shop in the Light Shopping Centre and will culminate on Light Night this Friday.

We’ll write more on the festival and highlight events throughout October.

Hope you enjoy the festival and  maybe see you at the launch tonight !

Vicky )