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  • Arts Health ECRN

LINK Event: An Evening with Ravi Thornton, Manchester (UK)

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

This blog post was written by Dr Kat Taylor, our North West Representative On Wednesday 24th September a LINK event, An Evening with Ravi Thornton, was held in Manchester. Given that Ravi Thornton is an award-winning graphic novelist and playwright, it was fitting that we gathered in central Manchester’s Waterstones book shop. Author Ravi Thornton has produced a profound body of works, The HOAX Project, which focus on the issues raised by the life, work and death of her brother, Rob, who took his own life. These include the stage musical HOAX My Lonely Heart, the graphic novel HOAX Psychosis Blues and the HOAX Our Right to Hope interactive story app. Recognising the impact Rob’s story was having on audiences, on increasing awareness and understanding of mental health difficulties and suicide, a collaboration was formed with the Psychosis Research Unit at the University of Manchester, and an evaluation of the impact of the project work was made possible.

There are many component parts to HOAX, and ways in which the research collaboration employs innovative methods and multi-stakeholder perspectives is a useful model to artists and researchers hoping to work together in authentic partnerships. This team worked to measure the impact of HOAX on stigmatising attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health difficulties and their research will be published next year. Ravi said: “The importance of creating both space and stimulation for the many different voices around mental health, included those impacted by mental health difficulty and those who impact how we treat it, cannot be understated. Building this space at the intersection of arts, health and research is a very supportive, as well as strategic way to achieve this.” Ben Mellor and J Ahmed, both talented writers, educators and performers, also shared poetry on a number of subjects including male suicide. Ben reflected on some key themes in the field of arts and health, such as the importance of considering who benefits from the work, how facilitators, makers and artists can act to protect their own mental health, and the importance and benefits of equal collaboration between partners. In the context of increasing recognition of the roles of arts and culture in Greater Manchester, and in the new Health and Social Care Combined Authority, this latest event brought together an accordant mix of people and with broad skill sets, with several artists and performers as well as clinicians. For example, in attendance was a rheumatology consultant interested in illness narratives and expression, two clinical psychologists and an NHS Quality Improvement Manager. The conversations that the AHECRN encourage, and those which take place at these events, are finding wider audiences, and we are observing that people report growth in their confidence which enables them to have these conversations in health settings. Having heard from all the individuals present since the event, a common theme is the potential for the group to meet regularly, perhaps with a rotating shared activity or performance at each meeting, enabling the building of some fruitful connections. Thanks so much to Kat for taking the time to write this informative blog post. If you have attended an arts and health event that you would like to blog about please get in touch.

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