In this Talking Heads podcast, reporter Michael McEwan interviews some of the people involved in Making Our Mark, an inclusive event showcasing work from community arts projects in Renfrewshire, including Limelight Music and Dirty Feet Dance Company.
Michael McEwan has a learning disability and is a 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.
‘Are you ready for something provocative, powerful and challenging?’ our host, Jenny Lindsay asks. This is Reclaim this Script, Flint & Pitch’s contribution to SMHAF, and in this review, I don’t want to write about a couple of the performers and pass over the others – the careful curation that went into this line up deserves more.
Evocative, lush, live soundscape production was provided by Maud the Moth at the top and tail of the night. Vocals were unapologetic in their intensity (including a great piece of self-harmony via looper pedal) and rhythmic complexities, were handled with confidence and flair by their fantastic drummer and percussionist.
Vonny Leclerc read an unflinching personal history of puerperal psychosis, contrasting real experiences of mental ill-health, with those who comment on her work using words such as ‘mad’ or ‘hysterical’. The heart-breaking detail of Leclerc’s description of contemplating suicide on a railway station platform, and observations of the NHS mental health ‘beige’ and ‘pastel’ experiences, all culminated in a spine-tingling reclaim of the terms, backed by silenced women of hundreds of years.
Jenny Lindsay performed two of her own poems, as well as co-hosting the evening, and presiding over the funniest raffle draw I’ve ever seen. Her reclaim of menstruation into the plot of an action film was on point: witty, well-executed phrases like ‘misogyny mud pie and mint flavour’ zinged off in all directions. She also gave a flawless delivery of her univocal poem, ‘This Script.’
More music closed the first third of the evening, with Marc Rooney (of the band Pronto Mama). With just an acoustic guitar and his voice he made a big noise, and the audience were hanging onto his every word.
There was a collective inhale as Janice Galloway took to the stage to read from The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Her languid pacing was perfect. It would not be an exaggeration to call her slot a master class in how to perform prose, although perhaps I should call it a mistress class. Her live creation of character matched the rich descriptions of the book, no less relevant now as when it was published 21 years ago. The silence in the room was almost as potent as her reading.
Sian Bevan was honest about her anxiety in following Janice Galloway in the line-up, but her story –about a character’s unease in attending a social event, personified in a gremlin-type character biting her skin until she stopped breathing in – was vivid, funny and engaging. Her thoughts on power: ‘I roll the power around in my mouth thinking “I wish this tasted delicious”’ were relatable, shedding new light on the mesh of feelings that can be experienced around socialising in particular circles.
Even our hosts did not pretend that the New Voices slot for the evening was a ‘new voice’ per se. It would have been impossible to believe that Ross McFarlane was anything but a seasoned performer. His use of music (assisted by Josephine Sillars) in the opening piece, and assured, passionate, vulnerable performances throughout showcased a bewildering amount of internal and external rhyme and assonance, as well as a kaleidoscope of rhythms and tempos.
The enthusiastic crowd gathered in the Bongo Club was ready for anything – and it was just as well. Flint & Pitch provided an intense set of experiences in music and spoken word, and was both a thought-provoking and entertaining evening.
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.
Image by Chris Scott
Pottery can be described as a therapeutic and relaxing form of art. While you are spinning clay, your mind and body are in natural synergy, thinking about creative ambitions and goals, and your piece of art. At the same time, you are letting the stresses and worries of the day melt away, by opening up your mind and achieving inner peace.
Attending a class alone can seem initially overwhelming, but going to a supportive and regular class allows for learning a new skill and making something useful or creative, and at the same time having fun. There are both physical and mental benefits you can get from expressing yourself by creating something. Art offers an outlet and a release from everything, and with pottery you can produce something and express yourself in some way.
Pottery enables for improvements in flow and spontaneity, provides an outlet for grief, and helps you with self-identification and self-expression, bolstering confidence and self-esteem, and it can make you more optimistic. Myself and others attending Clay Design felt that more free classes like this are needed locally.
Pottery allows you to escape the worries of life and shift your focus toward your creation. During the process, outside influences don’t affect your work so you dedicate your time to your creation and that is great for mental health and wellbeing. Being able to fully focus something helps the mind relax and expand, which in turn can help a person to then focus in other areas of life.
Pottery helps you to express your creativity, which is essentially to expand who we are and how we connect to ourselves and the environment. It’s a good way for people of all ages to explore the things they can do. You may be more creative than you think and there’s no right or wrong way in pottery. Our hands are an outlet for creativity, the sense of touch is of high importance. A lot of focus is required while you’re making pottery, therefore outside distractions are reduced and no longer stress you out.
The movement of making pottery is gentle yet strengthening to the hands, wrists, and arms. Pottery, is an activity that stimulates mental activity as much as physical, it is the perfect hobby for those who like to expend their energy internally. While partaking in group pottery, however, one can socialise confidently with other potters while still allowing for silence. This year’s theme of Reclaim, shows that learning a new skill trying something out of your comfort zone can be helpful in mental health support. The group setting and calm atmosphere helps relax any socially anxieties. It allows for conversation, and to be quiet your choice in a very supportive environment.
I found that attending this class, building coils and having the fun experience of using the potter’s wheel allowed for personal time to let go of daily stress. It also allows for being in a supportive social setting whilst enjoying the arts. Also in attendance in the class was LAMH coordinator Carolyn Martin, who was available to ask questions and let people know about vital mental health services in the area, which I thought was extremely helpful.
Since pottery is a hobby known for reducing stress and boosting self-esteem, pain caused by stress and mental health problems may be alleviated while taking part in pottery. This class can capture memories, such as making a plate, then in future it can then be used for meals for special occasions and handed down to other family members or friends in the future. Making something from scratch and seeing the creation in its final form will serve as a reminder of your accomplishments.
Art is an important hobby for self-expression. It is a good way to connect with yourself by expanding your body and mind, embarking on new creations, learning new techniques and finishing your creations can contribute to a lifetime commitment of learning and maintaining a productive hobby and mental wellbeing. Making something from start to finish creates a great sense of achievement and it is a daily reminder to reclaiming wellbeing and that learning new skills and trying new things in life are so important for mental health and wellbeing.
I would definitely recommend pottery as a hobby. It is fun and a great way to reclaim peace of mind in the time you are focusing on what you are making. For mental health, wellbeing and happiness, pottery is great skill to master at any age. I look forward to attending more classes in the future.
by Shirley Hellyar
Shirley is a writer, actor and model, currently writing her first screenplay, and acting as full-time carer for her disabled dad. She has dyslexia, anxiety and depression. She wants to show that with the right help and support anything is possible, and being honest about mental health difficulties is so important in reclaiming who you are.
Reserve your place now for the final Clay Design workshop at SMHAF 2017, which takes place on Tue 24 Oct at 1.30pm at Hamilton Town House.
The Coolidge Effect is here and it’s going to ask some awkward questions. Current parlance overuses the word awkward but this one man show really is. Pulling no punches on the topic of pornography and how it can affect mental health, it is willing to try and make sense of a messy subject, through a mixture of light-heartedness and darker material.
What is pornography good for? Does it satisfy our need for sexual fulfilment? Or is society’s laissez-faire attitude to the porn industry loading us with dangerous imagery that we don't know what to do with?
Over the course of the play, we hear the arguments of psychologists, neo-liberal porn advocates, boys in the playground, academics and a nagging internal voice called ‘Retrospect’. But mainly we hear the supposed normality of a character called Gary.
Single father Gary uses porn frequently and as a result his mind is interrupted with thoughts of desire and lust at inopportune moments. At one point a dance is acted out on stage, a metaphor for what Gary really desires. Intimacy, passion and love shine through in this moment of clarity. It’s sad to think that Gary is so far away from getting there. Complicating things further is Gary's relationship with his young son. Moments of intrusive thinking are skilfully acted as the audience are asked once more to put themselves in Gary's shoes.
The Coolidge Effect is communicating that it need not be this way. The everyday nature of porn is clearly harmful for some. Despite the awkwardness, this brave play is likely to remain long in the memory.
by David Lamond
Having recovered, to a certain extent, from years of ill health, David is now studying at Fife College. David hopes to reclaim more of his identity by attending the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and writing down his experiences.
It wasn't as cold outside as you would expect it would be in October. The doors opened on time and there was a small queue outside waiting. Faces I recognised and others I didn’t. The photographic paper on the walls was well framed and lit to complement the room.
I had already seen the artists milling around showing me their pictures and I said I liked them more than once. I had wandered round for a little while just taking in the artwork.
Around the room were approximately 20 pictures made from photographic paper, all shapes with all sizes of shadows on them. Images made with a camera-less method of photography used by 18th century botanists.
I had a chance to talk to a few of the artists involved and got to know the process a little bit more. I asked one of them, Celine McIllmun, the arts tutor in Project Ability’s Reconnect programme: ‘How long did it take to do it?’ Her reply was: ‘4 or 5 workshops.’ She went on to tell me: ‘I came across the process by chance, as I’d had this photographic paper for a while and I didn't know what to do with it. It’s actually really good to see some of these bigger pictures.’
After we had a little talk more about the show, I caught up with another one of the artist Esme McLeod. I asked her: ‘How did you come up with the idea?’. She said: ‘I didn't have any ideas at all when I started. I just kind of made it up. I had really limited equipment, some foil letters that Celine brought in. It was kind of straight forward and I like how forgiving it is. You don’t have to be quite so accurate. It was good.’
As I moved round the room, I talked to Jonny Kirkwood, another of the participating artists. This is what he had to say on the process: ‘These are wee plants, a thistle and a daisy that I picked up on a trip to Rothesay. Adding more: ‘We were playing about with times. You need to find these out in using certain exposures. It was trial and error. It looked purple at first…and then when you put it in the fix, it just went black.’
‘If you shine light through it onto the paper the picture of the acetate would transfer onto the photographic paper. It was just a case of going around the tables at Project Ability and using pens tracing marks on the tables and making marks also with paint and acrylic. It was just playing around. It’s where the practice comes in.’
These pictures are a few of the 20 or more on show in Project Ability. The artists showing works in the exhibition are: Simon McAuley, Lea Cummings, Esme McLeod, Rainoir Clark, Jonny Kirkwood and Celine McIllmunn.
It’s not hard to find either. It’s the first floor up from the foyer of Trongate 103, Argyle Street. I would recommend you see this exhibition, even if only to bask at the process and see the different styles used. It’s a must for any botanist to acknowledge the utilisation of the theory – and, in this case, its practice.
by Stuart Low
Lumen Essence is exhibiting in Gallery I at Project Ability until 11 Nov. Another exhibition Some Pictures is on display in Gallery II. Entry is free and the galleries are open Tue-Sat 10am-5pm.