Finding a Voice Exhibition:
Anteros Gallery October 2018
An exhibition showcasing local artists who are or have accessed mental health or statutory services in Norfolk and Suffolk. It is a visual expression of a voice that’s overlooked. Read more about the co-production with Compass and The Benjamin Foundation, accompanying professional development workshops and the drive behind this project > #FAV18 – Finding a Voice
Artists- Katherine Gilmartin, Pamela Coates, Seven, Jan Goldsworthy, Elizabeth Cowell
Artists. we live in all the places. dangerous because we straddle social lines like not many others do. A good friend said this is what I said I would be doing, though I never remember having that conversation. I take some work and display it in a classroom at UEA to teach part of the Domestic Abuse unit for the 3rd Year Clinical Psychology Students. It is my goal to change how family mental health is viewed by professionals before they work with families, by exposing them to their own emotional reactions.
“Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous.”— Queen Victoria”
I was at a highbrow wedding recently, a friend commented on my social butterfly abilities, my reply was I went to 5 different high schools, I learnt to escape the disease at home by exploring the discomfort of meeting strangers. Adapt or perish. I don’t fit in anywhere and I make it work for myself.
Creativity & Co-production Conference
A year ago, September 2017 I spoke on a stage for the first time, without tinsel on my head or a manager in sight. In many ways it was simple and easy, I was talking about my experience with The Compass OutReach, one of the many arms of The Benjamin Foundation
Compass Outreach Service is a partnership between The Benjamin Foundation, Norfolk and Suffolk (NHS) Foundation Trust (NSFT) and Norfolk County Council. It provides therapeutic and intensive family support services to families who have been referred by Children’s Services.
Previously I had practice talking about my experience two very formal strangers in an office in London, as part of a 15 min 3 person presentation on why Compass should get an awards bid, we rocked it but didn’t get the bid that time. I spoke for 5 minutes with my pulse in my ears, using a slideshow of illustrations I had been making to help me focus, the power of the images and my presence, my otherness made a powerful impact.Before our interview, we watched as groups of nervous suits with laptops piled in and out of their interviews. I was made aware of my otherness, baggy jumper, lip ring, worn in DMs, but this is something I’m used to and I just don’t think about, everyone else there was working, I was there because I believed what I was saying. Knowing this I felt confident in speaking at the Kings Centre last september.
I called it a pop up show, it is nowhere near the standard of display that I ordinarily give my work but I get over my arts education wincing and lean into the potency of this work in this setting the room. Prints and power points wouldn’t have the same impact.
Dr Jo Wilson, Essex Partnership University NHS Trust, reports in their peice “Eliminating the false divide” an extract below gives a great over all view of the event and can be read in full at thepsychologist.bps.org.uk
“Organised by the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, this conference showcased practical projects co-produced by psychologists and ‘experts by experience’; a distinction which was soon to be dispensed with by Mark Brown (Mental Health Activist and founder of the e-magazine 1:4). This is the first event of its kind within the East of England Branch of the Division of Clinical Psychology, and it was clear from the onset that any preconceptions regarding those who identified themselves as academics and practitioners, and those with lived experience, were going to be tested.
In his opening speech, Brown set the tone by observing that none of us is immune to mental distress. This event was to be about eliminating the false divide between experts by training and experts by experience and would emphasise the collaborative nature of ‘mental health stuff’. It offered no illusions as to the ‘romantic’ nature of co-production, however: it is hard and messy work, and is by no means a panacea for all ills in a joint health and social care agenda.
Co-production rejects the notion that one party can make all the important decisions on behalf of another. Enlightenment comes with the realisation that whatever your acquired expertise may be, professionally or experientially, you become increasingly aware of how much you don’t know.
Mark Brown cautions, however, against succumbing to the ‘Mills and Boon’ romance of it all and losing sight of the obstacles to co-production, of which there are many. In Nic Yeates and Katherine Gilmartin’s presentation on ‘Finding a voice’, the power differential was handled sensitively and reflectively by Nic, who, faced with an illustration of a disembodied angry-looking washing machine about to impale the head of a distraught depiction of Katherine on screen, declared, ‘I know my wife feels like this when she has to do four loads of washing a day.’ You really did get the impression that he cared about and understood the difference between his position and hers. And co-production is different from the therapist-patient relationship, yet Katherine’s comment that finally getting to exhibit her work made her realise that she was ‘moving from one scary edge to another’ gave one the impression that she might also have been talking about going into therapy.”
Finding a Voice was originally an exhibition I put on in Nunns Yard Gallery Norwich. It was a celebration of no longer being involved with children’s services and a happy goodbye to the Compass Outreach team. I invited Jan Goldsworthy an art psychotherapist from with in NSFT to exhibit her work alongside my own and to run therapeutic workshops for the public in the space too because I believe there is room to experiment with co-production within an arts setting.
So much so I’m doing it again…….#fav18
Finding A Voice 2017-NunnsYard Gallery
It’s been a year since I put together this show. We are at it again with bells on this year. October half term in Anteros Gallery Norwich. There will be arttherapy work shops for mums and babies, and for famlies too, bookings and drop in. I am planning on at least one talk too.
Special thanks to EDP, NSFT and Dr Davey for these images of the show.