Last Sunday, a wet and miserable April day, about 70 people gathered at St Nicholas' Psychiatric Hospital in Newcastle to bear witness to Devising Psychosis - a newly devised piece of collaboraitive theatre.
Gathered in the Jubilee Theatre - a wonderful example of a Victorian proscenium arch theatre completed in 1899 and a grade II listed building - were academics, artists, medics, therapists, service users, service providers and philosophers to name but a few. We were wanting to start a dialogue and a process of cross-pollination of interest and activity.
For me, it had been a long journey. Last year i took an idead to Alisdair Cameron at Launchpad in Newcastle suggesting we should celebrate 100 years of schizophrenia as a diagnosis. Much dialogue ensued - not least - should we be celebrating it at all? I was of the opinion that we definitely should celebrate it - but perhaps not in the traditional way.
From that moment on it become a group project. It really is the most collaborative and egalitarian project i have ever worked on. For starters there was no leader. We took the responsibility we were best able to take. We learnt as we went along, we skill shared, encouraged, mentored, we stumbled and picked ourselves up. We didn't actually get anything together in time to celebrate the 100 years and thus Psychosis 101 was born. We all liked the multi levels of references within this title.
Eventually there were about a core of 10 of us - this lead to millions of e-mails and loads of meetings. This is the price of working in a manner none of us had worked before - we were in unchartered territory driving at night with no lights. But because we all pulled together in the same direction for the common good, no egos over-riding anyone else's we got there. We sourced the funding, got the early intervention in psychosis team on board, recruited an evaluator, found a venue, drew on a lot of good will and - take a deep breath - finally got to perform.
The devising psychosis artists- myself ( Aidan Moesby), Tess Denman Cleaver and Sean Burn and we worked with the staff and young people who access EIP. The process took 10 weekly workshops where we exchanged skills and showed different approaches to making theatre, writing, oral narratives etc working towards a devised, and improvised, piece of theatre. By the end of the process we were all leading, we were all participants, there was no us and them as is usually the case in 'community' based projects to some degree.
We have much to learn from this process but we believe it can work with similar groups in similar ways. We want the project to have sustainability and have a legacy. We do not subscribe to the parachute in - parachute out model of engagement. We hope to train some of the young people we worked with as peer leaders to pass on the skills again. Critical to the success was also the buy in from the managers and staff of the early intervention in psychosis teams in newcastle. In fact the staff would have liked the process as training for them.
The event can be seen with some photos here http://www.facebook.com/events/319741064751527/
A performance of new work from the Devising Psychosis group will be presented. Comprising of mental health service users and staff from Newcastle and Gateshead Early Intervention In Psychosis teams, the Devising Psychosis Group have been collaborating with artist Aidan Moesby, theatre company Tender Buttons, and playwright Sean Burn over the last 2 months to devise a new piece of theatre. Performed against a backdrop designed and created by artist from Newcastle and Gateshead and North Tyneside Arts Studios, the piece is reflective of individual experiences and those gained together during this unique collaborative process.
Also performing areSean Burn will read from tattooing lorca - a sequence about sectioning and post-sectioning recovery.
A talk given by Dr Mark Cresswell, lecturer in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University.
Family therapists from Newcastle Early Intervention in Psychosis team Kevin Hawkes & Alex Reid will talk about their personal journey as mental health practitioners in working with families and psychosis.
The event will also feature two participatory art installations by Aidan Moesby based around personal and cultural notions of well-being, and visual art from North Tyneside Arts Studio and Newcastle and Gateshead Arts Studio.
After having had a bleak first part of the year - as is well documented here - i now find myself flitting from one thing to another. I am pleased, really pleased. about this - but i know how fragile it all is in this current climate.
I am doing an Engage Everyone residency at DCA in Dundee. It's got a fab print room. I am looking at issues of engagement - why don't people access or engage with contemporary art. - people with disabilities that is. Another artist is looking at physical disabilities. Needless to say I am looking at the mental stuff.
In an attempt to normalise mental health I thought I would do a series of newspaper headlines from my fictional paper 'The Daily Compulsion'. Man puts left shoe on first. Very tame I know but it gives you an idea (if my right shoe goes on first I have to put them both on take them off then put them on properly with the left shoe first.) but I want more stories about significantly impairing, embedded etc.
I am looking for your input in the form of your stories about the things you do. Not just the C's from OCD but the rituals we have around the day to day or special. I will make you anonymous and immortalise you outside the DCA as a newspaper headline to a fictional paper. I am also thinking of making a book of them too. There are the - man checks front door is locked - normal stuff everyone does but which can be a behaviour of something else. If you would like to contribute please send to mailoto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com. It will be greatly appreciated.
It has been quite interesting getting people to look at things from a mental health point of view - i engage with spaces psychologically mostly - and then physically. I have already written on the nature of engagement with a space at http://engageeveryone.tumblr.com/
I return to DCA for another 2 weeks at the beginning of October. Meanwhile I am currently installing my solo show at The Art House, Wakefield which opens tomorrow - 28/9 and is part of the Wakefield art walk.