The sell out Stand up to Stigma project rounded up on Friday 16th January at St Helens Central Library with professional stand-up comic, Sam Avery as well as local comedy newcomers. This event was the finale to a six week comedy course involving people with lived experience of mental health issues. Further details on the Stand up to Stigma project can be found here. A huge thank you to all involved in Stand Up To Stigma and to everyone who came along on the night!
As part of the ‘Adult Learning Week’ Gary, the Cultural Coordinator, organised a cultural event at the Central Library to try and entice more ‘mature’ men into engaging into cultural activities.
When the pit closed in1992 it was the last colliery in St Helens. The choir decided to carry on and to keep ‘Colliery’ as part of its name to keep the memory of the colliery alive.
The concert was an outstanding success and featured music from throughout the decades. The crowds personal favourite was ‘An American Trilogy’ which had the Central Library giving the choir a standing ovation.
Interspersed through the night was poet and ex miner Brian Salkeld who read poems he had written throughout his life including the moving ‘Memories’ which was featured in the Channel 4 series ‘Three Minute Wonder’ read by local celebrity Johnny Vegas.
As the audience left the library with glowing smiles, the choir was approached by 2 gentlemen who wanted to know more about the choir and how could they join.
After two community taster session days, ‘Other Ways of Being’ has commenced! Adrian, Daniel and Liz from Geese Theatre Company delivered sessions in the Addaction Recovery Centre, The Hope Centre and within the iHUB room in St.Helens Central Library.
Geese Theatre Company are specialists in delivering creative projects with people who might have little previous experience of the arts and at providing people with opportunities to explore issues which are directly relevant to their lives.
The taster sessions were aimed at informing people about the project – a series of theatre workshops exploring participant’s experiences of alcohol which will culminate in a creative presentation in December in the Library.
Those people who participated in the taster sessions commented on how fun and thought provoking the sessions were and many of them have already signed up to be part of the longer project.
Does this sound like something you would like to get involved in? Don’t worry if you missed the taster session – either contact Gary Conley on 01744 677449 or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or come along to the first session on Wednesday 9th October, 10am – 12pm @ the iHub room in St.Helens Central library.
Music brought the community together at Central Library, St.Helens on Saturday 13 July.
The Our Big Gig event, facilitated by St Helens Council Arts Service, brought together an eclectic mix of musicians from all walks of life, who entertained visitors to the library over a five hour period.
The acts included singer songwriter guitarists, an accordion player, choirs, a blues band and even a BarberShop Quartet.
The event opened with accordionist Marina Berg who later also gave a demonstration on how to play the instrument. Marina was followed by acoustic guitarist and singer Simon Cousins who then handed over to the Addaction Recovery blues band.
Chris Peacock and Evil Piccolo, both guitarists with differing styles, followed before the SoundCheck BarberShop quartet entertained the crowd giving audience members the chance to try close harmonies.
The Sing Out choir which meets up at the Citadel had a mid-afternoon slot and the event was concluded with a performance by the Red V Voices Choir.
Despite competing with blistering sunshine, the library had a constant promenade of visitors enjoying the free event
Our Big Gig was a community music celebration which took place across the UK and was funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, Arts Council England and the National Lottery.
An artistic performance facilitated by Collective Encounters – a Liverpool-based professional arts organisation – and St Helens Council, has given a group affected by issues surrounding mental health the chance to air those issues via a live production.
Break Free was performed to a full house at Central Library by the group, which goes under the name of Another Way of Telling.
Break Free was a collaborative performance created over three months and funded by the Arts Council. The performance explored issues of mental illness and the strive for well-being and sought to end the stigma of mental health.
In three parts – Break Down, Break Through and Break Out – the performance featured poetry, prose, live music, singing and performance.
Nigel Webster, a St Helens poet who took part in the performance said: “The six months we have spent as a team putting the production together has flown by. I got a great deal from the process: I learned how to work as a team member and how to manage my emotions. I also learnt how to be a better me,” explained Nigel, himself a member of the St Helens Mind group.
Aidan Jolly, director of Collective Encounters explained how the group had never performed before: “This really was a leap of faith. We met twice a week and held workshops which covered artistic movement and performance. We looked at writing collectively as well as producing individual pieces of work all of which came together in the final production.”
The performance had an amazing impact on audience members with some moved to tears.
St.Helens Central Library provided an atmospheric backdrop for the latest in a series of cultural performances aimed at widening the audience for arts in the borough.
The theatre company’s mission is to dismantle the barriers to artistic excellence so that learning disabled and non-disabled artistes can perform alongside each other as equals.
A packed audience – a mix of general public, special interest groups and service users – enjoyed the hour-long performance, created by Mind the Gap performer, Jez Colborne. The production tells the story of one man’s journey through life. Jez is a multi-talented composer, musician and performer with a learning disability
A Review by Pat ‘S’ :
‘Deliberately dropping books in Central Library, along with loud music, singing and dancing, seems inconceivable, but combined with the ‘sound of sirens’ and ‘the hush of silence’ it all made for a most dramatic, and entertaining early evening event on Friday February 15th. ‘Irresistible’ call of the sirens was created by Jez Colborne in collaboration with the award winning touring theatre company Mind the Gap. Jez, who has learning difficulties, is also a multi-talented composer, musician and performer. Mind The Gap is a company of disabled and non-disabled performers with a mission to; ‘dismantle the barriers to artistic excellence, so that learning disabled, and non-disabled artists can perform alongside each other as equals’. If ‘Irresistible’ is an example of their productions, then ‘Mind The Gap’ has surpassed their mission. The story tells of one man’s journey and his fear of sirens. A dark, and threatening atmosphere was created, which was lightened by love later in the performance.
Using minimal props, lighting and sound effects, plus a little magic with the aid of technology, the cast gave of their all, with superb singing, energetic dancing, bold acting and a professional delivery. The audience couldn’t resist when invited to participate in ‘a little dancing in the library’, and they’ll possibly find it irresistible not to attend ‘Mind The Gap’s’ next production. Normality resumed in Central Library as the cast left the floor with a hush, and a “Shush”!
“Get me off this roller coaster
Feel like an astronaut I’m not strapped in
Hanging on by my fingernails
I can see the bad man grin”
What is it about the link between mental illness and creativity? The world seems to divide people into categories in so many ways – children are told in school that they are creative or not creative. Everyone is familiar with the stereotype of the tortured artist genius such as Van Gogh. So very often we make a connection between madness and artistic output – we look at Van Gogh’s tortured skyscapes or read about how Gregor Samsa woke up one morning to find that he had turned into a cockroach (The Metamorphosis, by Kafka). So do we have to be mad to be creative? Does emotional, mental, or spiritual distress somehow give us licence to channel some sort of lightning into a song, poem, or painting?
In our workshops here at Other Ways Of Telling, we’ve been exploring all sorts of techniques that unblock our creativity. We’ve written songs and poems and we’re putting together a performance, which will be on in St Helens Central Library in mid March. The lyrics at the start of this article are from one of our songs, which describes the highs and lows of emotion that people often experience when going through a stressful period. Out of this collective sharing come some themes – we’re looking at how people move from what is sometimes described as a breakdown, to a break through, and then a break out. This break out might be from what’s expected of us by the outside world, or what we expect of ourselves. It might be refusing to accept a verdict that society has passed on us. It also means that we don’t have to be tortured geniuses to be singers, writers, artists or performers – in fact, getting back in touch with our creativity is a healing and integrative process, that for many people rewinds to the moment when we were told as children that we couldn’t draw or couldn’t sing, and undoes the harm that was done at that instant. Creativity is a fundamental human activity, within and available to everyone. To quote another alleged tortured genius, Sergei Rakmaninoff, “What other function can music have [than] to make us whole again?”.