One Last Spin is taking place at Platform in Easterhouse on Tuesday 17 October, as a part of the festival. The event centres around the devastating effects of gambling addictions and features a short film and panel discussion.
The event will also feature a live performance from Amanda Lehmann who wrote and recorded an original song for the film. Hazel Mclean spoke with Amanda to talk about the inspiration behind her song, the importance of shedding light on gambling addiction, and what this event means to her.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your song ‘One Last Spin’, and what made you want to be part of this project?
Before I wrote the song, I hadn’t known much about gambling addiction. I was aware of it but not familiar with it. When I released my solo album, Innocence and Illusion, a couple years back I learnt about the whole issue of gambling addiction after I had an interview with a radio presenter called Sylvia Fountain. She informed me about the documentary One Last Spin as she’d been really involved with raising awareness about the issue herself.
She’d interviewed John Myres, who is also in the documentary, and he shared with her the massive impact of this issue on his son Ryan, who tragically ended his life whilst battling this addiction. It was really shocking and talking to Sylvia about this and other things, really opened my eyes to the whole thing.
During this conversation I suggested to Sylvia the idea of writing a song for this to complement the documentary and she thought that would be a great idea and so it sort of rolled on from there. I wrote the song, recorded it, and released it with a music video with the help of COPE Scotland, and I’ve played it live so it’s all kind of led to this event really. It’s been quite a journey.
Music can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about important issues and opening the door for conversation. What role do you think music plays in helping to de-stigmatise and help focus people’s attention on issues like gambling addictions?
Music and the arts generally have a huge part to play in helping with all sorts of psychological issues and in de-stigmatising things because I think they speak directly on an emotional level. I can be quite clumsy with the spoken word but if I put that into a lyrical format and create music around it or vice versa, it’s like a language of its own and I think that people receive it on that level.
When I play it live, I chat about it a little bit first as well which is an opportunity to bring the whole issue of gambling harms out into the open and bring attention to it. I see gambling adverts on TV, online, through sports, and there are millions of people suffering with it. It’s a really big thing with youngsters now because it’s all online and it’s so accessible. You can’t get away from it because it’s everywhere you go.
The song and music video both start off alluring and quite innocent, but quickly change to convey something more sinister and out of control. What was the process like for creating a song with such heavy and important themes as this?
I did a lot of research on it because I wanted to understand what I was going to write about and avoid making any assumptions. I think that the music itself does start quite innocent to reflect the syndrome, because it does start quite light and it’s easy to fall into. But even when it seems innocent, there’s still something about it that’s a bit unreal.
The round and round idea of the fairground mirrors the cycle of addiction, as well as the allure of the pretty lights drawing you in. It gets to that more sinister area of the song and I wanted to take it down into that dark lonely place that’s so horrendous to be trapped in.
The thing I tried to get across is that even when you hit that low, you keep going because there’s always a persistent hope that the next spin will be the last one, the winner, the one that will make it all okay. It’s a very difficult thing to deal with, so the song kind of just leaves it on that question mark.
The aim of this song and documentary is to help raise awareness of the harms caused by gambling, the isolation and despair people can experience, and the hope that reaching out for support can change things. How can people get involved in supporting this cause?
I think in various ways and what I try to remember is that even just small things help, whether that’s talking about it or posting on social media, writing to your MP or supporting charities. There are sports clubs that are actively discouraging gambling sponsorships, so there’s a lot around once you start looking out for it. I think it’s good if people can get involved in those, or in events like the one that were putting together with SMHAF.
Another thing is listening without judgement to people who have been affected either themselves or with someone they know. If you’ve got more awareness of gambling harms, you’re going to be able to help people more. I think people judge harshly or don’t understand it, and that can be very isolating, so the more kind and empathic you can be of people and just supporting them makes a really big difference.
Are there any specific moments in the song or music video that you believe are particularly powerful in conveying the overall message of the project?
I think that even the title itself is very powerful. The middle section as well because of that deep emotion that it reaches, and at the end of the music video there’s the guy with his head in his hands and as he looks up you can see that dark desperation. I think that’s very powerful. I’m really pleased with that video as it really helps to accentuate those moments in the song, and the anticipation and the chaos, the darkness and the light of this whole syndrome.
At the end, there’s the link to Gamblers Anonymous saying there is help out there. The fact there is specific help for gambling addiction is very important to know about because it sends the message to people who feel isolated with this that they aren’t the only one struggling. I think that’s why I tried to make my lyrics not too specific because I like people to make their own stories from it and relate to it in their own way. All of that is part of the journey.
What do you hope people will learn or understand about gambling addiction that they might not have known before experiencing your performance or viewing the film?
I hope that people will learn how serious it is, and that it’s as hard as any other addiction. With gambling, you don’t see it from the outside so much and it’s very easy to hide it for a long time as it’s not one of the most obvious ones. I think raising awareness for that and understanding that it can hit anyone at any time, any gender, any age, you don’t have a predisposition towards gambling, you’re not born with it. It has a big catchment area.
Seeing how unregulated it is its quite frightening. You get rumblings of change every now and again and I think there is more said about it now. You see things like ‘gamble responsibly’ and it’s such a contradiction in itself. It puts a portion of the blame on the people struggling, it’s giving them something dangerous and saying it’s your fault if it goes wrong.
I hope they’ll learn more understanding of the whole issue and certainly more empathy and less judgement. Something like this event can go a long way towards helping that happen.
What message do you hope your audience will take away from your performance at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival?
I think learning understanding is a really important thing for people that don’t know much about this issue. There will be people that are stuck in the syndrome at the moment or have been before and are recovering from it. I hope that it really helps them hearing genuine reflections in the song and performance, and the documentary.
The feelings of being alone and isolated are terrible, and I hope that sharing the artistic interpretations will give people some kind of comfort or understanding, and if it does then my song has done its job.
Hazel Mclean is a Talking Heads volunteer living in Glasgow. She studies music at university and is interested in the history of music in the context of culture and politics. She is passionate about mental health activism and hopes to one day have a professional career as a music journalist.