A Creative Workshop for Young People Who Hear Voices and See Visions

I have been on a mission to find other people, particularly young people, who see visions and hear voices like I do. It was while googling for voice hearing and the arts that I came across Hearing the Voice. It just happened that in browsing the site I found that they have been running workshops in order to create an art exhibition called “Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration, and the everyday” at Durham University. They are aiming to create two cases for the exhibition- one of young people’s experiences of voice hearing and vision seeing and another of what young people would like others to know about these experiences. All of this will be portrayed through the arts.

So to Leeds I went and (joyously dodging roadworks) I arrived at Artlink. The two co-ordinators were lovely ladies; Mary Robson (a creative facilitator) and Rai Waddington (who has experience of voice hearing and provides training on the subject). There were also two other young participants and, funnily enough, one had travelled all the way from my home city! The other two girls had also been to the workshop previous but were incredibly welcoming. The group started with a discussion on what hearing voices is like and the unhelpful things people have said to us as voice hearers in the past. The notes speak for themselves.

What really stuck out to me during this discussion was how little people understand us. How we are constantly having to explain ourselves or even defend ourselves. Whether it is an underestimation of our ability, a snide comment or an off hand ‘suggestion’- people’s responses can really hurt. To talk to strangers who experience the same as me was amazing and hearing someone else say that they know what it is like for reality to not make sense at all sometimes was extremely validating. To meet complete strangers yet share such personal experiences is a very powerful thing.

I believe arts can change everything for people with mental health problems and I believe it fiercely. This belief grew when I saw the things people had produced when given the materials. Mary provided everything under the sun you could possibly need in a creative flurry- wooden boxes to decorate, tiny blank faced cloth dolls, sharpies and stencils. We were also given a brown scrapbook each. Later Mary said: “These aren’t just books, they are time and space to create and simply be”. How true that is. The fact that this lovely book had been gifted to me by these lovely people, who know and understand that I’m this misfit person that the arts can soothe, was amazing. So for the next two hours we all worked on our books, drawing and writing poetry about our experiences.

The workshop was amazing. I could have stayed there forever and I cried several times at the pure ‘wow’ of it all. There was chance to talk to the lovely Rai 1:1 and her story is living testament to the fact that people who hear voices can still fly high. I’m likely going to meet with Mary again to turn one of the ideas in my book into a physical piece of art. Everyone in the group is planning to go and see our work at the final exhibition at Durham in September. I’m so glad that I found this project, purely by chance, in time to take part. I am however intensely aware that these opportunities are few and far between and for every person who found the workshops there are many more who did not.

We need more places like this. Places where you can be with people who understand you and who share a common interest in creating. The work we did as a group had an impact on us all and I think the session was a real game changer for me. I feel stronger than ever before that having access to the arts can help people with mental health problems. I am certainly going to find a way to fight for this for everyone who needs it.

Also Published: Upside Down Chronicles

 Facilitation at Arts and Humanities Research Council Commons Event

I was over the moon to be asked to take part in the Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘commons’ event as a workshop facilitator. This was both my first paid piece of work in this area and my first workshop as a facilitator working with a group of adults. The opportunity came from my wonderful mentor Cath in conjunction with the International Centre for Arts and Narrative (iCAN). We were tasked with making the wonderful iCAN latte into a tiny espresso shot to share with professionals.

On the 21st of June we were placed in the ‘collaborate’ zone at AHRC Commons. Our set up included many paint colour swatches.

In this workshop we used the story of Dido and Aeneus. We told the tale and asked the group to split into pairs, retell the story and pick one paint swatch which they felt fitted a theme in the story. I asked the participants to write in each box one word, thus creating a six word story on the swatch. They were then asked to develop the six word story into a six line poem.

I really enjoyed being at AHRC commons and hope the professionals enjoyed our facilitation. We got some great poems and six word stories. It’s strange to think that it wasn’t so long ago that I was having fun writing on swatches myself and now it is a workshop!

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Ashraf

A young man called Ashraf Fayadh faces execution by the Saudi Arabian government for ‘apostasy’. Ashraf is a poet and atheist. It is his views on religion that has put his life in danger.

Tonight poets around the world come together to speak on his behalf. To share our poems in solidarity. Here is my contribution.

 

Ashraf

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

Clearly no one told Saudi

How can we be afraid of just words

Words well thought fly like birds

And we just have to keep tweeting

Tumbling

Sharing

Swearing

There’s nothing more validly strong

Nothing that could be less wrong

Than speaking words.

We humans are the storytelling mammals

But here we are acting like anmals

What are we doing?

Ashraf.

Daphne

(Listen to Reading of Daphne Here)

Babe.

As you break in the arms

Of an auntie to be tethered to

With cottonwool thoughts

In no language that can be taught

So rocking that ‘just out of womb’ hair.

Stretching like a cat without claws

Surfacing from hibernation.

Into our world of autumnal flakiness.

Darling

They put the clocks back a whole hour

Just to give us more time

To hold your head and mumbling heart.

Child.

Sleeping in the warm

Your eventual exiting lacking elegancy.

Rocking from abstract to realism

In the blink of an eye.

Girl.

You see in black and white and blur

But in the taking of a breath

Your legs set into hips

Daddy builds a turret to tuck you in,

To keep you safe

At night.

Ball games,

Bus lanes,

Veins.

Adding pages to the map

As skin grows to cover a woman’s frame.

Melting Mummy’s heart every day.

Latched into the world with love.

Lovely little lady.

Daphne.

But Freedom Beat The Fear

Freedom is cold air,

Long nights,

And rain on the clothesline.

It’s swimming in the pool:

Pretending I think I’m cool.

It’s sore throats and a berocca.

Going to the sales,

Even though it’s chocka.

Strange places,

With ex strangers.

And coffee,

And kissing,

And drinking,

And singing,

And chatting,

And thinking.

Becoming bolder.

Shrugging a shoulder.

It’s:

This. Is. Me.

I. Will. Be.

You. Will. See.

I never found my lifeguard.

But tomorrow is my bankcard.

Yesterday was time well killed.

Forever is a notebook to be filled-

Meanwhile I’ll just scoff pick and mix,

And smile at the world…

Which is quite significantly full of dicks…

But:

DONT STOP ME NOW

I sit.

I laugh.

I dance.

Because once upon a chance.

I didn’t think I would get here.

But it looks like freedom beat the fear.

 

Open Mic Performing

Recently I’ve been able to start doing more events. This makes me very happy. This week I went to The Speakers’ Corner in York and performed at their open mic. I was shaking like a leaf but extremely comforted that I couldn’t see the faces looking at me. Blindness does have some benefits! I’ve even made some poetry writing friends and I’ve had some great feedback.


Anyway- this was just a quick post to say hello, I know it’s been a while. I will be posting some new material really soon (including what I read at this open mic) so please do stick around!

Love and Lemonade,

Imi

An Ashtray in Pompeii

You are tentative with your words
As if I am made of butterscotch and bite.
Like you are building
Straw houses in Haiti,
And you aren’t quite sure
If time repeats itself to me.

So I will try not to smile because I know
that my history with the past is recurrent.
I try everyday to sneak and creep,
hoping it won’t spot my silver linings,
But the monster never seems to sleep.

But one day we will try and forget.
Sit and bask in the light.
And play Bach in our bus shelters
And build those houses,
In this heritage site I paid the price for.
And we will see the irony
When we can simply be
As we place an ash tray in Pompeii.
Because we’d buried the past that day.

Those words were my ashtray in Pompeii.