The usual entrance was the same to me as it has been since I was small. And many years before that, I am sure. Solid and sandstone. The ornate doors with the large handles. I think that the space is huge. I thought that all the world seemed to be interwoven in the art within.
All the different times and situations seemed to come at once. There were a few stalls around in the main part of the building with faces I didn't know. The Mental Health Network. Scottish Recovery Consortium. Future Pathways. Vox Scotland. See Me. And, of course, the Mental Health Foundation.
I had been in the building for a while. Having a cup of tea, having a sausage roll. Looking out at the people who had gathered and those who were passing through. I read a little while I waited. I went on a guided tour and found out a little of what I didn't know already. There is always room for a guided tour, no matter what you think you know.
Greeted well as the great composers looked on, as the clone heads looked on. A different style of consideration was on me. The roof seemed miles away from where I was stood. Different staircases led to the floors both up and down. Plenty of room to get lost.
There was a choir from Maryhill Integration Network. And a catwalk of women in international dress right in the middle of the space. People sang, and the clothes were announced to the lookers on. Traditional eastern and western dress. Bright colours and people flowed. Bright ideas, I am sure, conveyed in the medium of dance.
Food break. Then another round of music from the organ. I had been on a tour. I went with the tour leader to her favourite places in the gallery. Some fine art and space age looking toys. I thought the carved granite was something to be seen. And the music from the Joyous Choir indented the carvings onto my memory.
The definition of sounds seemed to enhance the experience in the dull lit room. A place for autistic children to come and see the media on offer. Away from the plaster of Paris child. The motherless child looked onto the concourse. As did the child unconstructed, held in the arms of his father, maybe. As the Victorian statue sat overlooking the first floor. Still, the songs from the ground level interrupted the sadness of the sculpture.
Then the tour ended. Then the world seemed a little bit different. A little less large. A little less formidable. The songs carried on with a great sound check. The two girls, Mandulu and Hephzibah, sang in the afternoon. As the chatter was heard from the melee of people. Tourists. Locals. Sightseers. And the staff. All had a purpose, all had a way through the day.
I have experienced the night in the museum once. Some time ago. It seemed to come alive this time. As it had when I was growing up.
by Stuart Low
Talking Heads reporter Michael McEwan interviews Darren McGarvey, aka Loki, the Scottish rapper, about his new book Poverty Safari and what it has to say about social inequality and mental health.
Loki was speaking after a special spoken word and music event based on the book at Paisley Central Library, held as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2018.
Michael McEwan has a learning disability and is a freelance journalist and motivational speaker who talks about challenge, stigma and his own experiences finding employment. He previously worked for the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities (SCLD), presenting to organisations including the Scottish Government and the National Autistic Society. Find out more on his website.
Podcast series Talking It Over with Support in Mind Scotland is back for this year's festival. Hosts Nicole Bell and Iain Mitchell present more fun and fascinating conversations inspired by the festival programme and issues relating to mental health.
In the first episode, they speak to the Mental Health Foundation's Arts Lead Andrew Eaton-Lewis about the theatre programme, before having a discussion about Mental and how it creates an engaging and moving piece of theatre about bipolar disorder, using music, anecdotes and medical notes.
Nicole Bell is the Capacity Building Officer for Support in Mind Scotland. Splitting her time between Fife and Edinburgh, she is frequently spotted catching up with friends while exploring the gastronomic delights at either end of the Forth Road Bridge. Find her on Twitter at @nicolebellcurve.
Iain Mitchell is Community Partnership Fundraising Officer for the mental health charity Support in Mind Scotland. A lover of cinema, Popmaster on Radio 2, animal odd-couples, Iron Maiden and checked shirts. Find him on Twitter @toast2toast9.
The Box by Scottish choreographer Julia James-Griffiths had its world premiere at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2018. A contemporary dance theatre piece that explores the impact depression can have on an individual and how society responds to it, it aims to be innovative, creative, yet accessible.
After the performance, which took place at Assembly Roxy, the audience were invited by its creator and her mentor, Christine Devaney, to share their thoughts on the piece. Talking Heads reporter Stella Hervey Birrell has captured their reflections and shared them in this piece:
‘I was in tears…moved, and startled…you nailed it.’
‘I was blown away by the dancers.’
‘It’s rare to see mental health portrayed in such a true and honest way.’
‘I recognised the experience of being on the receiving end of well-meaning advice, the sheer volume of what should work.’
‘It was a great example of representation…people like to see, in art, that which reflects our own lives and experiences. Mental health is one of the last taboos, one of the great unexplained, especially for those who haven’t experienced it. Even in the less direct scenes, the tension and the struggle was apparent.’
‘It raised the important issue of the use of medication and over-medication.’
‘There’s something validating about seeing the pain of mental illness on stage. If it’s relatable, it’s validating. Thank you.’
‘It didn’t depict the awfulness and the hopelessness as much as it could have.’
‘It showed what it’s like to be alone: alone in a group, alone in a relationship. Fighting to stay balanced. There were scenes when all of the dancers were onstage together, but still looked isolated.’
‘I loved the humour.’
‘I don’t know anything about dance, and at the beginning I was thinking: “Oh I don’t understand this at all,” and then later, I came to completely understand what you were aiming to communicate.’
‘The best thing about the piece was the fact that it didn’t tell a rational, linear story: depression is not rational or linear either.’
‘I started to feel, watching a particular scene, that it was going on too long … then I realised that depression is like that.’
‘I was concerned that it reinforced the stigma of medication.’
‘It highlighted the value of relationships.’
‘It showed how key it is to have human contact.’
‘At the end, you referenced the statistic of 1 in 4 people who will suffer from poor mental health. But within that scene, there was a suggestion of the concept of 4 out of 4. That this is just what it’s like to be alive.’
by Stella Hervey Birrell
Stella’s first novel, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? explores mental health recovery and was published by Crooked Cat Books in 2016. Shorter works have appeared in various places including The Guardian, and The Dangerous Woman Project. She blogs at #atinylife140, tweets at @atinylife140, Instagrams as Stella_hb and can be found on Facebook.
5 Ways to Begin is the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival's scratch night, led by Associate Artist Emma Jayne Park. This year, it took place at Flourish House, Glasgow and Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh. Talking Heads reporter Stuart Low reflects on the event at Flourish House, which featured Ellie Silver, Lewis Sherlock, Jen Athan, Bibi June and Jassy Earl & Chloe Smith.
Right, so I will write this really quickly. Someone had an experience with the medication. Then someone else got a cup of tea. Then the balloons never touched the ceiling. Then a girl was crying. Then a woman talked about her family. Then there was a plastic fight.
First there was a girl lighting candles. Then a guy’s life was all over the screen. Vibrations talking to her. Then a tightrope with the question of where was the rope suspended. Then she read to us. Then she walked form the side of the floor to the other. Then emotions ran high.
Then there was tea. Then there were bubbles being burst. Then there was applause. Then there was more reading about the side effects of medication. Then there was another joke told by someone who didn't want you to read his Facebook page.
I saw someone who was good at what they do. I saw people talk and laugh with the performers. I saw someone who wanted to listen to what people say. I had seen people trying to get their point across no matter what. I saw people clap their hands. I had seen people sip juice. I had seen people sip water.
The lights were bright. The lights went dark. The participation of the audience was written on ruled paper. I had seen the outcome of more than an afternoon of rehearsals. I had seen a conversation built up from scratch. A performance talking about what people feel inside when they think no one is listening.
Coming from the stage were performers trying to not be alone. I had seen people on seats. I had seen people come from the door. I listened to the different styles of conversation. I saw the audience react. I saw the paper stretched. I saw instructions from the user manual of life.
Made a wee bit up then, but that’s what it was. Different people stating what they had to say. Political maybe. Spiritual again maybe. Lesson in life, definitely. Expression. Hypertension. Medication. Emotion. Comparison. Repatriation. Conversation. Applause.
Going back over the whole night, I enjoyed it. I wanted the people around me to enjoy it. I assume that the people around me also enjoyed it. A definition from the perspective of 5 Ways to Begin. A pleasurable statistic might be the one that is never given. A way to assume that everything in the world is connected.
Many photographs were taken. Many more needed to be taken. Everything suggested that connections were made. Meeting new people and being invited into their world, if only for a brief moment. Only for the space of a few minutes each time.
Realisations made to figure out what the rest of the world might think had they seen this work. These works of art. An unassuming detriment to the world of good. You had to be there to see it. You have to see it. The extension of their lives. A point in their world. Suggested to you. A brief encounter with... Add your words here.
by Stuart Low