Arts & Minds

27 January 2016
Arts & Minds
While the sweeping term ‘health’ often relates to physical fitness, losing that spare turkey tyre or jumping on the latest way-to-eat-an-avocado hype, we may often neglect the idea of mental health. We often let busy and demanding schedules get in the way of practising mindfulness, or those actively suffering with problems might not always receive the understanding and help they need. We chat to the super lovely Arts and Minds Network about the kinds of projects and organisations set up in Leeds to engage with mental health, through the employment of creativity, whether that be through visual arts, theatre, dance or music.

So what is Arts & Minds?

Funded by the NHS, specifically, the Mental Health Trust in Leeds, the Arts and Minds Network operates as a ‘fingers in lots of pies’ initiative, encouraging conversation, partnership in the field and preventing similar and equally worthwhile causes scrapping over the same funding pot. Tom Bailey, the chap I meet with from Arts and Minds also explains, "We don’t just put on art groups in mental health wards" which is the more traditional route of such organisations, but granted is still part of what they do; ‘‘It’s more of a development role really’’. This ‘development’ largely consists of promoting other organisations that welcome those with mental health issues, and cater for their unique approach, as well as collaborating to put on various arts events.

The organisation currently has around 1200 Members, not all juggled at once of course, but includes people with mental health issues, nurses, doctors and importantly, artists of various kinds with an interest in this topic, whether they are afflicted with issues themselves or not. Arts and Minds provides various services, from hosting regular artist meet-ups to supporting artists and engage them with one another, showcasing their work and ultimately prevent the kind of loneliness being a singular artist can promote.

Their Love Arts festival is one of the main events on the calendar, developed around 5 years ago to meet the scale of what their members were offering. One of the most accessible events in this programme is the exhibition on display in The Light- a place with a lot of natural foot traffic, the art is displayed to invite passers by to look closer, when the tie with mental health becomes apparent, and crucially to start a conversation about the topic.

It’s not just visual arts that Arts & Minds engage with; they run events like the acoustic night put on in collaboration with music charity Cloth Cat at dedicated space Inkwell once a month, a welcoming space encouraging an openness about mental health and interlacing creativity with the tackling of these issues through mediums ranging from ceramics to fine arts and digital methods.

Arts & Minds - Article 1

What is apparent from speaking to Tom, is that the link with the arts and mental health is about normalising, integration and community. Rather than just funding segregated classes where mental health may become stigmatised and ghettoised, mental health is integrated into the agenda of massive events such as Leeds International Film Festival, Thought Bubble and Unfold as well as prominent arts organisations such as Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Leeds Art Gallery, putting mental health into the foreground amongst every day proceedings.

Arts & Minds Shout Outs

Inkwell Arts

With their five core values beinginclusion, collaboration, aspiration respect and excellence the work at Inkwell is about working together to achieve something great, with a focus on recovery interlaced into the programme. Formed in 2009 its services range from fine arts to ceramics to multimedia, courses, workshops and regular events plus its own vegan and vegetarian friendly cafe. Check out their website.

Café Lux/Pudsey Wellbeing Centre at Robin Lane Surgery

Established as an additional wing to Robin Lane - GP surgery in Pudsey, Café Lux at the Pudsey Wellbeing Centre is the in-house arts and wellbeing centre at the surgery, providing an alternative place to receive more holistic, hands on therapy to accompany or provide an alternative to a traditional drugcentric route to therapy. Find more information here.

HeyDays at The West Yorkshire Playhouse

A programme established to improve the mental wellbeing of the older members of the community through theatre, dance, sculpture and creativewriting, all led by professionalcreatives. Established by Nicky Taylor who has since won an award for her work with WYP, the Playhouse also offers regular dementia friendly performances, sensitively readapted throughout to provide an experience that dementia sufferers can appreciate and enjoy. Here's their website.

Art Link West Yorkshire

A similar venture to Arts andMinds, Artlink aims to literally create a link between charitableand social foundations and various art organisations and projects around the City, such as big cultural organisations Leeds Art Gallery and Northern Ballet. Find out more here.

Cloth Cat Music Project

Set up to provide the local community with a richer, better quality life, Cloth Cat is a not-for-profit organisation that offers a variety of free music classes and courses, gigs and open mic nights to try and engage its local population and facilitate those with a passion and interest for music but not necessarily the budget to accommodate this. Check out their website here.

Space 2

Musicals, installations, workshops and much more, Space 2 is another organisation that works with the arts in various ways amongst the community and especially young people. Importantly though, they work with academic research from both the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University to ensure their projects are informed, well researched and constantly given fresh perspective. Find out more on their website.

Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.
Photography provided by Arts & Minds