An Evening of Poetry and Music in Association with
Time to Change York
Wendy Pratt, Steve Nash, Oz Hardwick,
Rose Drew, Matt Nicholson and Cheryl Pearson
with special guest and TTC champion
The Basement, York
7.30pm – 10.30pm
This has been something of a crazy month with a crushing workload and lots of very difficult decisions to be made about the amount of unpaid work I am doing alongside my paid work. I’ve had to drop a big regular unpaid job as it just isn’t tenable with my increasing paid workload. I feel bad about that, but I remind myself that I am human, I have a right to use my free time as time to unwind and enjoy the life I have worked so hard to build for myself, and even though people may be angry or let down by me not being able to do all of the unpaid work I’d like to, that it is, after all, work that I have volunteered to do, not work that I am obliged to do by contract. I’m circling around to a point here, and my point is that I have not mentioned mental health issues/problems/illness/wellness at all, and yet everything I have just talked about is about protecting my mental health and well being.
Often we think of mental health in terms of polarisation: wellness and ill health. And it’s true that although one in four of us will experience poor mental health in our lives, many people use therapies available to ‘recover’ from their mental ill health and go on to live a ‘normal’ life. But many of us live with recurring mental health challenges; we work our life around them in the same way as someone with diabetes works their life around what could very well be a life limiting illness. We look for the signs of deteriorating health, we look for the triggers, we use the tools that we are given via healthcare – medication, therapy, practical techniques – and it is an ongoing situation. For many people working in the arts it becomes a part of our creative story, it becomes a part of our art, our art is informed by it, our practice is informed by it. We live with ongoing mental health challenges, our work is often informed by this but we are not defined by it. We are not our mental health. And that is a crucial thing to differentiate. Often when we think of stigmas around mental health it seems completely obvious that to not employ someone, or to sack someone or to imprison or not treat someone for injury purely because they are struggling with mental health issues is wrong, but actually, the stigmas around mental health can be sly, quiet, unnoticed, not obvious.
There are up sides and down sides to being open about mental health challenges. The upsides are generally meeting so many people who are able to connect to my work and to me, the statistic one in four means that you will experience, or definitely know someone who has experienced mental health issues. The down side is that people often weaponise this, especially in situations, normal human situations in which there is a falling out, or a disagreement, it is easy to reach for the mental health issue as a weapon, to use it target someone, the first thing they will reach for is the monster in the attic, the mental health cliché that says that we are not only valueless in society, but dangerous to society, something to be feared. This is everyday stigmatisation, it is something that happens everywhere – in the work place, in the health care system, within friendships and working relationships.
A few months ago, in the summer, Emma Williams at Time to Change York approached me to see if I would be interested in organising an event for them. Because this is something close to my heart, I said yes and the event Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (a phrase used by Lady Caroline Lamb to describe Lord Byron) is that event. I went in with a clear idea of what I wanted to do and that was to celebrate and acknowledge people in the arts living with, working with and having their practice and art informed by, mental health challenges.
We have an extraordinary line up: Oz Hardwick
Oz Hardwick is a poet, writer, photographer, occasional musician, and academic, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. His chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI/Recent Work, 2018) was the winner in the poetry category of the 2019 Rubery International Book Awards, and his most recent collection The Lithium Codex (Clevedon: Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019) won the Hedgehog Poetry Press Full Fat Collection prize. He has also edited and co-edited several anthologies, including (with Anne Caldwell) The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019). Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University (UK), where he leads the Creative Writing programmes
Steve Nash is a writer, musician, and lecturer born in Yorkshire and raised on army barracks across the UK and Europe. A widely and internationally published poet, in 2014 Steve won the Saboteur Award for ‘Best Spoken Word Performer’ from a shortlist that included Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish. Steve strongly suspects he may be a superhero after escaping a near-fatal car accident in 2013 and a neurological malfunction that resulted in a coma in 2017. It is not clear yet what his special powers might be. Steve’s latest collection ‘Myth Gatherers’ is out now from Calder Valley Poetry, and he teaches at Leeds Beckett University.
Rose Drew, an immigrant from America, realizes love and only love can save the world. Although to clarify she means love for each other, not love of money and things. Rose is an anthropologist, co-hosts monthly open mic York Spoken Word and is editor and events manager for Stairwell Books. She is tall on the inside.
Matt Nicholson is a poet and performer from East Yorkshire. In the last year or so, he has toured the UK with Matt Abbott on his ‘2 Little Ducks tour’ and, as part of ‘Gob Almighty’ (a performance poetry group of Hull and East Yorkshire poets) was shortlisted for ‘Best Spoken Word Show’ at this summer’s Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. In addition to performing and compering a wide range of events and festivals across the North of England, Matt has been widely published in poetry journals and is currently writing his own 3rd poetry collection for release on Yaffle Press in March 2020.
We were due to have the wonderful Cheryl Pearson but unfortunately, due to unforeseen personal stuff, Cheryl can’t be with us. You’ll have to put up with more from me I’m afraid.
We also have the wonderful Amber Graver
Between being a social researcher co-ordinating regional programmes with a suicide prevention and social mobility focus and campaigning for young people’s mental health rights as a steering group member of national campaign ‘Our Minds Our Future,’ Amber enjoys attending, performing at and organising Spoken Word events. As a volunteer crisis counsellor, Time to Change Champion and Mental Health First Aider, Amber is open about her own experiences with mental ill-health and encourages others to reach out wherever possible. Poetry continues to be an excellent outlet for Amber as she processes difficult emotions, past experiences and thoughts and is highly supportive of her peers, and fellow artists who use poetry as a way to break down the key messages around mental health and mental illness.
Alongside Emma Williams, Amber is going to be our TTC talk point for the evening. At any point you can go and have a chat with her about what TTC are trying to achieve, your own experiences etc. You can also buy the books of the readers from her too.
It’s going to be a brilliant night. Steve is going to be doing poetry AND music, like the star he is and it’s going to be fun. So please come along and celebrate and support these brilliant artists who are volunteering their time, and the wonderful social change movement which is Time To Change.
This is a completely FREE event, but please, please book tickets from The Basement
It’s this Friday, there’s a bar at the venue, it’s in the fabulous city of York. Be there or be square.