What World Mental Health Day 2014 means to Making Minds

 

If you’ve got any interest in mental health, World Mental Health Day can be an opportunity to reflect, take stock, seek new opportunities and look forward to what lies ahead.

That is certainly the case for Making Minds.

Many organisations issue annual impact reports to help others see what progress they’re making or what difference they’re making to people’s lives. We’re not at the stage of needing to publish a full-blown report yet, but we thought it would be useful to remember the key things that Making Minds has done and been involved in over the last 12 months.

We also thought it would be useful to remind people of the fact that Making Minds is run solely by a team of volunteers. There’s currently 9 of us working on Making Minds in our spare time, on top of day jobs and other commitments, and direct experience of mental ill health. Some of us are able to do more than others, for all sorts of reasons, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is any less driven or passionate than any other team member – we’re all committed to the ideas, vision and ethos of Making Minds and to develop the organisation to the point where we think it deserves to be. This is an important point for us, when people ask where we’re based or when we can run sessions in their area. We’re building things up gradually – off scant resources – with people and organisations that are willing to work with us, in whatever parts of South Wales we can get to work in. We’re grateful for the opportunities that are coming our way.

So, going back to the last 12 months…

We walked away from last year’s World Mental Health Day events knowing that we’d started to get our name and ideas out there. We were already working with Cardiff Mind and a few local music promoters and duly staged Cardiff Mind Fest – a two day music festival held across 4 venues in Cardiff City Centre, featuring 40 acts. As well as raising money, the event also served to raise awareness of mental health. That’s no mean feat, when you consider that most of the organising was done online!

We were successful in securing funding from Time to Change Wales to run our first project. ‘Creative Challenge’ saw us work with a group of young adults out of New Horizons, in Aberdare. The project saw three different artists run sessions on creative writing and storytelling, digital stories and visual art through the form of mask making and batik. The outcomes included some great artwork, which has since been exhibited at public events, the participants learning new skills and increasing in confidence and self-esteem and Making Minds getting some valuable experience under its belt!

We’ve started work with the Wales Co-operative Centre on developing a mental health arts co-operative, that will aim to make it easier for community arts organisations and smaller, local mental health organisations in South Wales to work together, share resources and expertise on joint projects and funding bids, along with efforts to run relevant public sector contracts. It’s also hoped this approach will strengthen the organisations involved in the co-operative, at a time when funding for cultural activities continues to be cut.

We’ve started to run regular events that will help provide a platform for local talent and raise funds that we can put back into projects. ‘Making Minds, Giving Voices’ has already been staged twice, in different venues in Cardiff. The events see musicians and poets join open mic performers, in an opportunity that’s been provided to us by Fizzi Events. The next event will be at the North Star, Cardiff on November 5th! We would like to see ‘Making Minds, Giving Voices’ events held at other venues in South Wales.

We’re working with The Living Room – a Cardiff-based organisation that supports people with addiction-related problems – on a new project ‘Step by step / Cam wrth gam’, that sees participants involved in a range of workshops, including creative writing, collage making, painting and photography. The work from these sessions will go into a book that will be launched in spring 2015 and sold online.

This week, we opened our first ever exhibition. Based at the Llantrisant Gallery at the Model House, old Llantrisant, the exhibition features work that represents mental health, is a response to experiencing mental illness or is a result of ‘therapeutic escape’. It’s open until the end of the month, so come along and check it out.

Anyone who knows Making Minds will know that we think big…we dream big and it doesn’t get much bigger than starting to work on plans for Wales to have its own mental health arts festival! Wales is the only part of the UK and Ireland not to have an arts festival dedicated to mental health. Such events elsewhere have helped reduce mental health stigma and discrimination, raise awareness of mental health, celebrate the relationship between creativity and mental health, community groups / local organisations and others have had their work highlighted under a bigger, national banner…generally, the role of art and creativity in mental health has received greater recognition, taken more seriously by decision makers and seen as an outlet…a pathway for so many people. It’s becoming a way of life in the mental health sector, the arts sector and elsewhere.

So…with that in mind, we took our idea for a Welsh mental health arts festival into a meeting with Disability Arts Cymru and the Arts Council for Wales. The upshot is that those involved want to see such a festival happen in Wales. We’re co-hosting two open meetings in Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff, in early November, with scope for another meeting in North Wales before the end of the year, for anyone to come along to state their support for making the festival happen. If all goes well, the festival could be held within the next 12-18 months.

We do have other irons in the fire at the moment and we’ll share news with you on those, as and when we have more to tell. For now, we’d like to thank everyone who’s been involved with the ongoing development of Making Minds, those who take an interest in our work and those that we’ve met over the last year. We’re looking for new organisations and groups to work with all the while, to work up ideas for new projects and income generation.

We have our inaugural AGM next month and we’re looking for some new faces to join the team, particularly anyone with a background in fundraising, business / commercial experience and someone with relevant legal experience. This would help to add to the mix of a team that is already rich in other areas of expertise and you’d be guaranteed a warm welcome!

Thanks for reading.

Wishing you a good World Mental Health Day 2014.

Mark

Chair and founder of Making Minds

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