Category Archives: Art Therapy

Spaghetti & The Yeti at FreeSpace Gallery.

Ever fancied hand-publishing the story of YOU in a multi-fold, one tear only, no staple, no glue book, to the many-layered tunes of potatoes, onions and garden-found Action Men, sweetly strummed, plinked and plonked by the nation’s favourite poet-ato, Mr John Hegley?

Too late. We’ve already gone and done it. But hey, you can read about it here and see what excitements we’ve got coming up next (psst, it’ll be a three-week residency at Studio 3 Arts, Barking).

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week 2015, in support of our favoured charity, the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Spaghetti teamed up with John Hegley and Free Space Gallery at the glorious Kentish Town Health Centre to bring a mixed full-house of a combined 30 mental health service users, people with lived experience of mental health difficulty, and other interested parties, a creative writing and drawing workshop.

Using an old zine technique of a one page fold, to make a six page zine with front and back cover, John guided our participants through a sometimes-sing-a-long creative process of word association, self-expression, poetry and musings on memory, in an alphabet of A-G. Oh, and we also demanded a drawn dromedary AND camel.

Here are some examples of the zines we created:

“Words that rhyme with camel, and… dromedary”

“Now draw the ear of the person next to you, and…flight”

The most rewarding part of the workshop, aside from people making friends and exploring their creative tendencies, was the shared experience of some participants having never set foot in a creative environment before, seeing how their own previously undiscovered capabilities enabled them to draw, read their private thoughts aloud, and even sing a little solo in front of a 30 strong group.

The day was absolutely gorgeous, weather wise, so we took ourselves outside to the Wellbeeing (yes, a bee pun!) Garden to have a paper aeroplane competition. This may seem like a tangent, but it was book related, you see, falling in on the 5th page, F for Flight, as our book was guided by an A-G alphabet, was a paper aeroplane constructed from rather special brown butchers paper.

John manned the target, a bucket, no hole, Liza, and I announced the countdown. Flight was flying with a brown paper aeroplane, and although there were no physical prizes to be had, the jaunt out to fly our planes and see the birds and bees, and have a chat with the resident Wellbeeing Botanist, was gift enough.

Back indoors in our industrious workshop space, we pondered the back cover of our book, an ode to G, and the timely word ‘Goodbye’, the last task of the workshop. If you were wondering what on earth I was on about earlier, potatoes and onions and Action Men, here’s where this comes in. Goodbyes are said, books are shared.

We almost think that might be it. But, no, as with all things Hegley, a goodbye song is to be sung. We don’t know who or what about. We’re making that bit up. ‘Things you find in the garden’ – another G. John strums, asking participants for their things found in the garden. Catterpillar’s, other people’s socks, mouldy apples, bicycle locks. And Action Men. Of course dug up toy Action Men, lost many years ago.

With that, we bade John farewell, but not before one of our participants got him to sign a book they’d loaned out from the Quaker Library in Islington. Hope they were pleased when the book was returned!

Some hearty thank you’s to Flapjacks Café for the delicious sandwiches and cakes, Mel, Director of Free Space Gallery for being absolutely magic, John Hegley for keeping what he was doing a surprise yet delivering exactly what I had in mind, and also to ThinkArts! and the The Richmond Fellowship for bringing their service users in for the day.

Our next event is a three week residency at Studio 3 Arts in Barking. We’ll be exhibiting works from Jan Arden and Marie-Louise Plum, amongst others, and also running workshops in drawing, print and sculpture. Stay tuned for details in our next update.


The profound value of arts in homelessness

Guest article by Francesca Baker.
Image credit: SkidRobot Source: Huffington Post

It’s a narrow-minded assumption that the only thing that is needed to alleviate homelessness is homes.

Becoming homeless is a complex experience and is rarely just financial, with relationship breakdown, substance abuse, mental health issues and trauma often within the mix. As a result, it requires a composite and multi-faceted approach to solving. Support for those on the streets is not just about providing food and shelter, the alleviation of immediate physical problems, but improving the quality of life in the long term. The form this takes varies, but one area which has been shown to have significant positive effects is art. Be it acting, music, performance, painting, singing, film, writing or other forms, engaging in creative projects is beneficial in the path of rebuilding lives.

Homeless Link recently published a study exploring the place of creative arts in homeless communities, called Get Creative: Arts For All, and reported that ‘participation can be beneficial from a therapeutic and recreational perspective, as well as helping people to overcome wider issues and develop specific skills.’ It is this holistic and all-encompassing structure that makes working in the arts such a valuable pursuit for those on the streets. Katee Woods, Communications Manager at Create, a creative arts charity, says that ‘From the outside, food or shelter may seem like more important priorities but addressing social issues like isolation, self-esteem, and confidence play a key role in helping to break cycles of homelessness.’

Successful and long-term change is as much an emotional, social and psychological matter as a practical one.

The therapeutic benefits of art are well-documented, and with around seventy percent of homeless people experiencing some kind of mental health problem, arts offer a valuable tool. A space for inspiration and exploration is important for anyone, and can take on particular resonance for people who feel marginalised by society. Sarah Halsey, Learning Programme Co-ordinator at Providence Row tells me taking part in a creative activity provides people with the ‘opportunity to express themselves, their ideas and their experiences in a safe and welcoming environment.’

Being listened to and afforded the opportunity to tell your story is crucial to building self-esteem. Before Jack started attending Create he had lost all his confidence and was struggling with alcoholism. He said, ‘The workshops helped me get the difficulties of my life in perspective. They showed me that I am a valid person and that I’m allowed to have a point of view, and that even though I’ve had difficulties, the work that I was doing was excellent.’ Jack started running his own music workshops at the centre and is now training to be a counsellor.

Christoph from Open Cinema describe how arts help ‘create motivation, and inspiration’ and they see individuals ‘(re)connecting with a sense of purpose or vocation.’ This stimulation and sense of encouragement reinforces feelings of having a contribution to society, boosting confidence and having a profound effect on someone marginalised from society in so many ways. As well as providing an opportunity for participants to meet new people, spend time in a positive environment, develop interests, and distract themselves from immediate problems, and produce something new, there is a practical benefit to the capabilities being developed through participation.

All projects aim to help individuals to make and sustain positive changes in their lives, fostering skills that can be applied in the transition into a more stable lifestyle. Eventually most people on the streets want to be off them, and in work. Employment requires skills such as social interaction, communication, team work, presentation, project management and discipline, and many of the creative projects available aim to facilitate the development of such abilities. Providence Row integrate art to their Learning Programme, as part of the Recovery and Progression service which supports clients to increase their employability skills, improve their health and wellbeing, and reduce isolation and social exclusion. The organisers of the Homeless Film Festival measure achievement and success ‘if during a project we have managed to support the integration of marginalised and homeless affected people into a more long term secure lifestyle.’ It’s about life skills, developing confidence and resilience in the face of adversity.

Life can start to imitate art. ‘Taking on a new activity can be part of facing and meeting small challenges; small steps that result in facing bigger challenges in people’s lives.’ says Ellie Raymont, Marketing Manager at Streetwise Opera. ‘Coming to a session, singing, tackling opera, and singing a solo are all small challenges that can ultimately result in showing people what they are really capable of.’ There’s a pride which comes with producing something from start to finish, as well as a reassurance from the regularity and consistency of engagement from a group of people dedicated to working together. There’s a level of talent being exhibited, and some of Streetwise Opera’s productions have been critically lauded by The Times and other newspapers and shows ‘that whatever life throws at you, you can achieve great things.’

Whatever the creative pursuit and the artistic output it is this which is the real advantage of participation in the arts: the self belief and realisation of achievement. Pride in work and a sense of purpose are hugely important in envisaging a successful future and working towards that future.
– Francesca Baker

“Francesca Baker is curious about the world, eager to explore and experience it, and wholeheartedly believes that creativity helps the mind, soul and body.”
Click to read more articles on her website, and find her on Twitter here.

Image credit: SkidRobot Source: Huffington Post

“All Divided Selves” – Luke Fowler’s film about RD Laing

Art of Psychiatry event: film screening of “All Divided Selves” followed by Q&A with director Luke Fowler, Prof Antony David and Dr Vaughan Bell
Date: Thursday 16 October
Time: 6-8:15pm (screening approx 6-7.30pm)
Venue: Wolfson lecture theatre Institute of Psychiatry

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Luke Fowler, in discussion with Professor Tony David and Dr Vaughan Bell from the Institute of Psychiatry.

All Divided Selves explores the life and legacy of the controversial Scottish psychiatrist, R D Laing (1927-1989). Laing famously argued that normality entailed adjusting to an alienating and depersonalizing world. Thus, those society labels as ‘mentally ill’ are in fact ‘hyper-sane’ travellers. The film concentrates on Laing and his colleagues as they tried to acknowledge the importance of social environment and disturbed interactions within institutions in the aetiology of human distress and suffering. Using a collage of archival material the film portrays the vacillating responses to Laing’s radical views and the less forgiving responses to his latter career shift; from eminent psychiatrist to enterprising celebrity.

This is an open meeting – all are welcome (including psychiatry trainees, service users, IoP staff, and members of public).
Wine and snacks provided. Look forward to seeing you there!
About Luke Fowler and RD Laing:
Luke Fowler:
RD Laing:
All Divided Selves:

Further information:

The Inner Self: Drawings from the Subconscious at CGP London

Nick Blinko

‘The Inner Self: Drawings from the Subconscious’ is a group show of the work of seven Outside In artists all living within Greater London and working on the theme of the subconscious. Predominantly black and white in colour and using drawing as the primary medium, the works were selected from 154 submissions to Outside In’s open call out earlier in the year.

The selectors included CGP London Director Ron Henocq; Vivienne Roberts, Curator at the Julian Hartnoll Gallery; Outsider Artist Nick Blinko; and Outside In Manager Jennifer Gilbert. From these seven artists, one will be selected by Vivienne Roberts to receive a solo show at the Julian Hartnoll Gallery in Central London in November 2014. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events, talks and workshops organised by Outside In and its London partner organisations.

Work by the Outside In artists will sit alongside Outsider Artist Nick Blinko’s minutely detailed monochrome pieces. Macabre and intense; Nick’s images depict microscopically detailed interconnecting worlds and figures such as skulls, broken dolls, imps, foetuses and precisely handwritten notes. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events, talks and workshops organised by Outside In’s partners.

The artists exhibiting are:
Jan Arden
Wrestling with the Bull
From an early age, Jan liked to copy cartoons and comic book characters before moving on to still life and portraits in secondary school. For many years he studied mime, dance, singing and drama before coming back to drawing and painting in 2009. Jan likes to combine Celtic knot-work with African faces and South American Shamanistic Aztec priests, people, animals, symbols and shapes. He creates what he sees on the paper after moving the biro in dance like movements, eyes closed and reaching into the subconscious for inspiration and guidance.

Imma Maddox
Imma is predominantly a textile artist, as well as being a survivor of mental illness. Alongside her drawings such as ‘Foot’, Imma creates icons, which she has been painting for about fifteen years. For these, she uses traditional methods dating back to Roman times.

Nigel Kingsbury
Nigel’s fine, delicate portraits depict women as mystical goddesses attired in glamorous ball gowns, decadent outfits and floating dresses. Each picture is unique, sometimes drawn from memory, sometimes of those in close proximity, but always of women he likes and is inspired by. This fascination with the female form inspires Nigel to create drawings with a frequently mysterious and eerie quality, although his idolisation of the figure in such a rare and carefully observed manner is far removed from contemporary issues of gender stereotyping.

Hannah Swain
Hannah was diagnosed with Bipolar at the age of 50 after the death of her mother. She began creating her works during her time in hospital, producing images of angels that embodied her mother, keeping her memories alive.

Billy Weston
Billy Nut
At the age of 14, Billy had a brain haemorrhage which resulted in the loss of his drawing right hand. He never regained the use of his right side, but relearned his natural artistic talent through his left hand. Since then, Billy has carried notebooks with him, drawing and painting life as it goes through his head.

Pat Mear
Feeling Water
Pat has specialised in fine art painting as a result of attending Croydon College of Art in the 1960s-70s but has since moved away from original hard-edged brainwork towards more intuitive work. Her other works include fine line Indian ink animal drawings as well as an exploration of imaginary landscapes on cork; an environmentally renewable source.

Terence Wilde
Definitions of Normal
Terence studied printed textiles at Winchester School of Art, graduating in 1986 with a First Class Degree. Creativity is a visual language that helps convey a sense of history and the reality of the past for himself and other adult survivors. It offers respite through escape, and is key in his spiritual journey. He currently works as an art and textiles instructor within the Occupational Therapy department at the Bethlem Royal Hospital.

CGP London – Southwark Park – London – SE16 2UA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7237 1230

Opening times:
Wed – Sun, 11am – 5pm

Transport information:
Southwark Park is approximately 9 minutes walk from Canada Water station on the Jubilee & London Overground lines. Buses 1, 47, 188, 199, 225, 381, 395, P12, C10.

Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health

Mental Spaghetti has been cited as a reference in Roberta McDonnell’s new book, ‘Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health‘.

Roberta says, “Hopefully my new book will add to the voices trying to promote positive mental health recovery and a better deal for service users. A short summary of the findings and recommendations in a free e-book will be available soon and I will be happy to forward to anyone interested. Here’s a link in the meantime to the blurb and contents.”

If you’d like to get a link for the e-book, leave a comment and I will forward your interest to Roberta.

Anxiety Arts Festival 2014

Barbican, South London Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Freud Museum, Wigmore Hall, Dulwich Picture Gallery…
Visual art, music, dance, theatre and film

“Anxiety Arts Festival 2014 is a London-wide festival that explores the way anxiety and art interact.

From the sense of unease created by a Hitchcock film, to new commissions in music by Jocelyn Pook and art by Bonnie Camplin, leading artists explore their own anxieties and chronicle the neurosis of modern life – offering us insights into our own anxieties.

The correlation between creativity and mental illness is well documented, and the rapid social, cultural and political changes of the last century mean that anxiety is one of today’s most prevalent mental disorders. While this central aspect of our contemporary condition is reflected in the arts, this is the first time the link has been explored in detail by bringing artists together with leading mental health professionals and academics. Curated by the Mental Health Foundation, the Anxiety Arts festival questions our definitions of normality and acknowledges the creative power of anxiety through music, film, art, dance and theatre.

The Anxiety film season sees screenings at the Barbican and the Picturehouse cinemas, the National Portrait Gallery and the ICA, ranging from classic tension-builders – such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lodger’ and Andre Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’ – to recent explorations of the psyche. The season gives a brief story of anxiety in cinema, revealing the roles that have given character to our anxieties, such as the hysterical housewife and the melancholy migrant. Throughout, psychologists are brought together with cinema experts and performers to get to grips with what cinema can reveal about anxiety. Rare screenings – such as Peter Robinson’s documentary about RD Laing’s radical Archway community, Asylum – will screen alongside new work looking at modern issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxieties around issues of race and home.

The Visual Arts programme explores the flexible and often contested boundaries between sanity and insanity, as well as the social and cultural anxieties associated with social labels. New commissions exhibitions, performances, residencies and artists’ films, at South London Gallery, Gasworks and BFI reflect on what is considered ‘normal’ and the associated pressure of fitting one’s subjective experiences within this frame.”

The full programme for Anxiety Arts 2014 is launched today, check it out at

Bedford Happy!

A mental health related arts project! In Bedford! Where I’m from! Ticking all the boxes here, press release below, read on folks…

Is Bedford the unhappiest place in Great Britain? The national press may think so, but Bedford Creative Arts think differently.

Bedford Happy is a project commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts. Kent artist Dan Thompson will be looking at the town, and working with local groups to find out where people are happiest – and what it is that gives them a happy buzz. A day-long artwork event will be produced celebrating Bedford’s happiness on Saturday 29th March. There will be a trail of interventions to make people a little bit happier, some special markers of happy memories and a celebration of the shops and cafes that are making people happy. “Bedford is an interesting place, full of quirky stories and interesting places, Bedford Happy is a great opportunity to explore what makes such an interesting town tick,” says Dan.

Dawn Giles, Chief Executive of BCA commented, “We’re delighted to have commissioned ‘placeshaker’ Dan to create art with the people of Bedford. We’ll be creating something special; a day of happiness, a game played across the town centre’s underused spaces that will celebrate the people of our town’s hidden talents and interests.”

Artist/activist Dan Thompson has won an accolade of awards most commonly known for instigating the cleanup of the 2011 Brixton riots. Visit Dan’s website to find out more information.

Follow #bedfordhappy on Twitter, Like the Bedford Happy Facebook page or visit Bedford Creative Arts website at

Bedford Happy
Final Event Day 29th March 2014, Bedford Town Centre

Press Contact:
Jo Hudson-Lett – Mobile: 07974 331029 /