Building partnerships with external organisations is absolutely vital if you want to get those downloads and stats to impress your paymasters. The beauty of a project as diverse as ours is that we have so much content it’s a case of finding the time to build those meaningful links.
Mental health has become quite a regular topic for some of our chosen literary figures. In our Slavomir Rawicz chapter John ‘Brick’ Clark made the case that Ushakova, the wife of a Gulag commander, exhibited symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome in her kindness towards the imprisoned Polish officer. The validity of Rawicz’s story told in The Long Walk has been questioned by various critics, issues explored by Brick in his chapter. But whether Rawicz was telling a personal story or assimilating the countless number of stories of Gulag prisoners into a kind of collective conscience is irrelevant. Those who have not experienced war really have no place to judge how survivors deal with it. If he is guilty of fabrication, surely this is a consequence of war and therefore a mental health issue. Brick himself has suffered from mental health problems over the years, in particular wrestling with depression, ideas he articulated in the wonderful Depresso.
In our third chapter Adrian Reynolds explored the very nature of reality in our Gotham Fool chapter and made the point that reality is simply how we perceive the world and mental health is just one of many labels that people try to affix to our identity. In the video below he exposes the duplicity of such labelling, taking us on a journey that encompasses everything from eugenics to psychiatry. Adrian has been sectioned twice and his honest insight into his life is truly inspiring.
Our forthcoming chapter is about the Duke of Portland, an eccentric toff who spent most of his life underground on the Welbeck Estate. There are also suggestions that he may have lived a dual identity, but this has never been conclusively proved. To celebrate the launch of this chapter we have partnered up with Everybody’s Reading in Leicester and sent Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Poet off to run workshops at Embrace Arts.
This was also an opportunity for us to uncover Leicester’s hidden literary heritage and so attendees will be producing stories and artwork that will be exhibited throughout the festival at the 15th annual open exhibition The Writing’s on the Wall. The work is produced by mental health service users from Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, some of which was produced at story cafes at The Bradgate Mental Health Unit on the Glenfield Hospital site.
Working alongside MulletProof Poet was artist and print maker Nick Burchall. At the Embrace Arts ‘story cafes’ Alison Dunne facilitated writing workshops and artist and fanzine maker, Steve Larder worked with the ArtSpace group, delivering illustration workshops inspired by this writing. This was Steve’s first public workshop (he is our artist for the Geoffrey Trease chapter) and so another example of how our project has helped broaden the portfolio of our artists and writers. This was a personal goal of mine and worthy of a post in itself at some point.
Lydia Towsey has been organizing the Leicester events on our behalf and is someone I would highly recommend for any project. She said: “Dawn of the Unread is a project using zombies as a metaphor and tool to campaign for books, libraries and reading. Here, the participating artists and writers have been inspired by films, fantasy and importantly, Leicester’s lost literary heroes and have generated their own unique responses to a range of authors, characters, places and stories.”
The workshops have also led to the production of a companion anthology and fanzine, the latter of which will be launched on October 1st, as part of the exhibition’s official preview. The anthology is due for release in November. For many this will be their first writing credit and hopefully will build confidence as well as offering a new means through which to express themselves. Writing is the ultimate form of therapy.
This exhibition, running from Wednesday 1 October – Saturday 11 October is being delivered by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust in partnership with: Brightsparks Arts in Mental Health Group, Embrace Arts, ourselves and the Everybody’s Reading festival. Funding support has come from Everybody’s Reading and the Charity of Carlton Hayes Hospital.
World Mental Health Day is October 10 2014.
- Good Prognosis (secretagentartist.wordpress.com)
- Attention Poets (mulletproofpoet.co.uk)
- Talking about mental health through poetry (time-to-change.org.uk)
- How poetry helped me recover from depression (changingmindschanginglives.com)
- Everybody’s Reading (jaynestantonpoetry.wordpress.com)
- On Being a Zombie (dharmaflyer.blogspot.co.uk)
- Alison Dunne’s website (ivoryfishbone.wordpress.com)