The Lancaster & Morecambe Mad Hatters are very pleased at the warm reception their week of mental health awareness events received last week in Lancaster & Morecambe.
All the events, which included Tea Parties & Craft Fairs in Lancaster & Morecambe and a screening of controversial Israeli director Ari Folman's 'Waltz with Bashir' were well supported and the finale to the week, The Mad Hatter's Cabaret at the Gregson last Friday, drew a large audience. The warm and very friendly atmosphere encouraged several very talented new performers to take the spotlight and entertain - indeed the evening was so successful that the organisers are planning to make it a regular night.
Andy Baxter, who works part-time as a programmer for an IT company told Virtual-Lancaster he had attended two of the Mad Hatter Week events, the film and the cabaret.
"The film was really interesting; it was about recovered memory and how Foldman, by finding and talking with his old army comrades, who he found also had missing memories - but not the same ones - was able to make and use connections in the present to go back and explore / rediscover his past - and how other peoples' perceptions of past events helped him.
"The Mad Hatter Cabaret was just fun. I made a hat, people did their bits and it was just fun all the way through the evening. It was good to see people who are maybe a bit on the outside of things usually being able to get involved creatively and showing what they could actually do. It was a really good night."
One of the organisers, Maria, told Virtual Lancaster that the idea for the Week was partly inspired by by the National Mental Health Awareness Week, which took place in October. In Lancaster it was marked by an Art Exhibition, 'New Horizons' which ran at the Storey in conjunction with the Storey Artists Show and a number of other local events and supported by The Helm Mental Health Drop In Service, Positive Futures, Ridge Lea Hospital and Help Direct, among others.
As well as these agencies Lancaster & Morecambe has self-organised support groups of people who are experiencing mental health issues. Many of their members felt that mental health issues, and indeed mental illness, are so widespread throughout the population that awareness needed to be developed in the wider community on a more informal basis.
They also wanted to create more informal opportunities for people with mental health problems to socialise and enjoy the benefits of community life, as well as contributing to it. As Maria explained. the SHARP (Self Help Art & Recovery Project) is one of the sub groups of the Gregson Community Association, and like the Association's other sub-groups, SHARP contributes towards community life, offering a resource for community members as the needs arise, and using art, music, theatre and performance writing for self-help and as a means of educating the public, and training mental health workers. You can find out more about SHARP at http://sharplancaster.org.uk/.
Other groups involved in the Mad Hatters project are:
Lancaster District Peer Support - a recovery and well-being club for people with severe and enduring mental health problems. http://www.peersupportlancaster.org.uk/
The Hearing Voices Network - supports anyone with these experiences seeking to understand, learn and grow from them in their own way. http://www.hearing-voices.org/
We look forward to bringing you further news about Mad Hatter events in the coming year.