Tag Archives: mental health

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.

GOODBYE!

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

Haiku for Hieronymous


Mental Spaghetti recently visited the Single Homeless Project in Westminster to deliver a short creative writing workshop for its clients, in anticipation of our event with John Hegley on Friday May 15.

As we only had half an hour for the workshop, we wrote haiku relating to sections of heavenly and hellish scenes of the ambitious Hieronymous Bosch masterpiece, the Garden of Earthly delights.

Participants were encouraged to select particular features of the painting that resonated with them; seeking out the complex , detailed vignettes, the scenes within the scenes.

The only rule we stuck to was the syllable rule of 5,7,5 for each haiku.

Have a read through the fruits of our labour below! Big thanks to Caroleen and everyone at SHP Westminster.

Haiku for Hieronymous…

Rabbit man with claw
Who is on the telephone?
It’s your mum she’s dead

Buildings made of bone
Human animal
Artistic puppets

Wings a knife an ear
Bodies laying on the ground
Arrows attacking

Beat your drum blue lizard
Triangle rings up above
Man looks out in fear

Bethlem Gallery presents: Cohedia by Xavier White

Bethlem Gallery is proud to present our first solo exhibition in our widely acclaimed new home recently opened in February 2015 and shared with the Bethlem Museum of the Mind.

Join Artist Xavier White to explore “an outsider’s artistic wanderings on the journey to the mind-expanding cityscape of Cohedia… Cohedia is a mind map, a jewel of an idea, polished with time and thought… Take a mental stroll in its streets buildings and vistas to appreciate the full ambience of the settlement… Thought and effort are put into making an atmosphere that is coherent and conducive to the development of the human spirit, enabling the brain connections that bring about cognition. Wish you were here Xx”

What is Cohedia? A shape, a colour, a solution, an answer?
Where is Cohedia?

The cityscape created by Xavier is a speculative environment simultaneously asking the viewer to imagine what kind of world we would create if we were given a blank canvas, and at the same time shedding light on the physical, cultural, and social structures that exist within our communities that shape our understanding of ourselves and others.

Depicted by a large painting at the heart of the exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery. The imagined landscape encompasses buildings, communities and social structures, explained in the film the artist made in 2006 ‘Fables Exhibition’ – an exhibition for the people – it represents life’s toil and the passage of time while we struggle… The Head Expansion.

School, where children’s progress is supported and their minds are expanded by the stimulation of others to develop into independent learners, and Escar abodes, housing the people of Cohedia, these structures are based on the idea of a snail shell, as the family grows so does the shell.

The exhibition also encompasses an intricate array of maquettes of the buildings made in glass, clay and metal. His artistic practice involves upcycling materials, working with found and scavenged objects “creating new aesthetics with Duchampian gusto”– says Xavier.

At the age of 18 Xavier suffered a near fatal head injury whilst cycling home through Peckham, South London. After a ten day coma at Kings College Hospital, he had to re-learn all his life skills at Maudsley Hospital’s Neurological Unit.

“My work is conceptually robust and perceptually intriguing, while at the same time carrying intensely personal, yet, resonantly universal human experience.” – Xavier White.

The creation of utopias can be seen as a form of human resilience in an imperfect world; a way of rationalizing the place we find ourselves in, imagining brighter futures, and giving the creator a sense of agency. Art history tells us this is a universal habit across cultures and centuries, perhaps, within the context of recovery, this creative comforting force becomes even more pertinent.

“White is a thinker, who has researched deeply into the fields of neurology, neural architecture, learning styles and brain function. And yet, since his accident, after which he had to learn, from scratch, how to even put one foot in front of the other, he unsurprisingly struggles with formal education.”– Writer and Art Critic Anna McNay

Exhibition continues: 16 April – 15 May
Opening times: Wed – Friday, 10am – 5pm
Gallery and museum open the first and last Saturdays of the month 10am – 5pm

Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
Travel: Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon
Contact: Beth Elliott, Gallery Director, 020 3228 4101
Email: thebethlemgallery@gmail.com
Website: http://www.bethlemgallery.com

To find out more about Xavier White’s work, please visit: xavierwhite.weebly.com

Borderline Arts launches ‘Enigma’

Art venture helps “break down significant stigma and shame surrounding an illness that kills 1 in 10 of those diagnosed” says project founder.

Vulnerable residents battling Borderline Personality Disorder have found new hope through an unprecedented art project in Derby, founded by an individual who has been close to losing her life to the illness several times.

Local Charity ‘Borderline Arts’ is excited to launch ‘Enigma’ – an art exhibition aiming to break down stigma surrounding a severe mental health condition called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This exhibition is made up of artwork created by people with BPD. The artists have worked with support artists from the local community to help create images, paintings, sculptural pieces and poetry. The artwork expresses many aspects of living with BPD which the artists felt important to share. There is also a collaborative interactive, installation piece made by several of the artists.

Sarah Eley (who founded Borderline Arts) said ‘Borderline Arts began as a small idea of using the artwork that I’d created to express how it felt to live with BPD to somehow help others understand the condition more. I’d experienced so much stigma because of having a diagnosis of BPD and all that went with it. I was often scared to seek help when (especially medical help), as many of the attitudes I experienced caused me to leave feeling more unwell than before. Many times, this lead to further self harm or attempted suicide. 1 in 10 people with BPD die from suicide and I believe that this number would be considerably less if people felt they were able to access support when they need it, without being judged.’

After exhibiting her own artwork at Artcore’s Gallery in Derby, Sarah felt like she had found a voice and she wanted to give other people with BPD the opportunity to do the same. ‘Enigma’ is a direct result of that. Taking part in this exhibition has been an empowering experience for many of the artists, who can often feel very isolated and misunderstood: ’Being involved in this exhibition gave me the chance to use creativity to understand my condition more. I got to meet others with the same diagnosis, sharing feelings and ideas. Being a part of the Enigma exhibition has enabled me to to become less isolated and to feel part of a team, whilst also giving me a chance to help achieve our common goal of raising awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding BPD’.

Steve Trenchard (Chief Executive of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust) will be opening the launch evening on Monday 20th April from 7-9pm at Quad, Market Place, Derby. Wine and nibbles will be available to purchase from the Bar. The exhibition will remain open until 25th should you be unable to make the opening evening, but still wish to visit the exhibition at another time. The opening hours are: Tuesday 21st to Saturday 25th: 12am – 8pm. More information can be found on our website: www.borderlinearts.org.uk or by emailing us at admin@borderlinearts.org.uk

Excitement building…Spaghetti & The Yeti Workshop – 15/05/15!

Dear MS friends, we are extremely excited to report our findings from our recent visit to Free Space Gallery at the Kentish Town Health Centre.

As you know, our next workshop – a very special one, led by poet and comedian, John Hegley, in support of the Mental Health Foundation during Mental Health Awareness Week – will be held at KTHC, in partnership with Free Space Gallery, and what an event it’s going to be!

I finally met the very lovely Mel, who runs the FSG project. I was shown around KTHC, a vibrant, community space incorporating bright and sunny workshop spaces, a creative outdoor space full of the fruits of creative endeavour (including a mini White Cube gallery – more info to follow in another post!), a well laid out, extensive exhibition space, and all the mod cons you could need to host a workshop, plus refreshments, and – get this – a mini inside/outside shindig after the workshop on the 15th!

The ‘Well-Beeing’ garden and creative outdoor space

Before I go on, let me remind you that although tickets are £10 (plus £0.90 booking fee) each, we do have an allocation of free tickets for mental health service users. So get in touch by emailing mentalspaghetti@gmail.com if you’d like to snap up a free ticket before we run out!

Currently exhibiting at Kentish Town Health Centre is Bernard McGuigan, a sculptor and printmaker, described as “outstanding” by art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Bernard’s show will be on during the workshop so everyone is invited to go up to the gallery spaces and view the work. Also on display is a photography exhibition, as well as other art works dotted around the site, made by clients of KTHC, and a particularly exquisite tapestry featuring local scenes of old Kentish Town.

Bernard McGuigan’s work on display at Free Space Gallery

Regarding the little shindig after the workshop, we hope to have some stalls with local art for sale, as well as wine and snacks, and possibly some food stalls. There will be music – perhaps even some live music – so do expect jollity.

That’s all for now, folks, and I hope to see you all at our workshop and shindig!

Lazz Ozerden

Born in Hungary in 1975, Lazz now lives in north London, and has done so for over 12 years. He is currently studying, whilst working on his paintings, writing poetry and dreaming.

A few words from Lazz himself…

“I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, but it’s just a cheap sticker on my forehead, just like on all of us who carry  a white light and dark smoke around this town.

For me, the canvas is the place to scream into, just like into a night sky, the lover to make love with, the runaway place, the shadow in the dark that brings me light and makes me free. I paint mainly to get rid of my demons or dream about “THE WOMEN”.

My paintings are acrylic on canvas, which I apply with a variety of techniques. ”

Although Lazz does not have a website at the moment, he is contactable through Facebook and is keen to find his paintings a happy home. If you are interested in buying work by Lazz, please do not hesitate to send us an email at Mental Spaghetti, and we can put him in touch with you. Lazz is also keen to show his work in exhibitions.