Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! But day seven marks the end to the festivities! We celebrated with a Music and Dance Taster Session and Boxing for Wellbeing with Empire Fighting Chance.
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I was particularly excited for the boxing taster session at Empire Fighting Chance as I have always wanted to try out boxing but felt like it was a daunting hobby to take up on my own. By the end of the session I was feeling extremely motivated, energised and wanting to take another class (if not ever so slightly sweaty too)!
The session started with Martin and Courtney from Empire Fighting Chance telling us a bit about the history of the organisation, their roles within it and their current day-to-day activities. Their man goal is to fight the impact of deprivation on young people’s lives through non-contact boxing. They provide support- both on and off the gym for young people to realise their unique potential. I found their work and story truly admirable and powerful. They also recognised the benefits of boxing to these children’s mental health as well as behaviour in school.
Well, not till we warmed up first of course!
We started with a set of skipping exercises with minute intervals for rest. During this, Courtney told us how they would train the young people with these warm up exercises by setting themselves motivational goals with the number of skips they could do. This is meant to help them push themselves- preventing them from being discouraged and giving them a sense of achievement.
Last but not least, we got to put the gloves on! They taught us the proper starting position and gave us tips on how we should execute our punches. We put these tips into practice by doing some circuit training with the boxing bags.
It was exhausting but extremely fun and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun way to get fit!
On Friday evening we bid farewell to Freedom of Mind festival for another year, and we decided to go out with a bang-literally!
Our music and dance taster event was an opportunity for our guests to release their inhibitions, shake off the cobwebs and connect through invigorating activities. As we began the evening in a cosy room in Hamilton House, we were treated to an exciting, pumping drum performance by Ilu Axé, an Afro-Brazilian percussion, song and dance group based in Bristol.
We then descended into what Mark Allen aptly described as ‘organised chaos’, with half of the group trying their hand at playing some funky samba rhythms on the drums and the other half blending some beautiful vocal harmonies in ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ with Riff Raff choir. I chose drumming, and while I can’t say I have the sharpest sense of rhythm, I did have a lot of fun whacking the drum and listening to the different layers weaving together. The groups then switched with singers drumming, and drummers dancing- learning a fast paced, energetic samba dance routine with Adele from Sambazinhas.
It was wonderful to be performing alongside everyone, moving as one to the beat. It was a magical way to close the festival, and embodied the essence of Freedom of Mind – community, expression, wellbeing and fun.
And so wraps up Freedom of Mind Festival 2018! Look out for our final wrap up on the whole festival, and keep your eyes peeled for exciting things over the next year or so.
But for now…
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day six – the penultimate day of the festival – featured two events in the evening. We started things with an event run by Glug Bristol – with speakers and discussion tied into World Mental Health Day and Freedom of Mind Festival. Following that was our Homelessness and Mental Health Panel Discussion at Barton Hill Settlement.
Missed the events?
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The discussion led by Lewis from The Big Issue, aimed to answer questions targeted around the current condition of homelessness within Bristol along with the mental health challenges which can be a cause or a result of the situation. It was eye opening to hear from different perspectives from the journey of homelessness and mental health either by personal experience or through line of work.
Many homeless people live by relying on friends, sofa surfing, hostels or abusive, dangerous relationships rather than sleeping on the streets. The stereotype of someone living on the streets begging for money may be the most common image, but is not the always the biggest issue we are trying to deal with being homeless. Often being without a home can negatively impact your mental health which can result in making poor choices. Alcohol and drugs are sometimes coping methods, a bad one at that, but they are very rarely the cause for homelessness.
It’s clear more needs to done to tackle the problems which can lead to homelessness, focusing on the source.
We need to target young people and educate them, informing them of what help is available. We need to speak with families experiencing problems to resolve issues before it’s too late.
Being homeless often holds a stigma that they are there due to personal failings, but truth is, it could happen to any of us. It is so important we speak to our family and friends, to make sure they’re doing okay. To let them know that they have a support network behind them in case things don’t work out.
It’s fantastic to find out there is so much support available in Bristol, but the challenges lie with cuts being made at government level contributing to the housing crisis.
Four years ago, if you were in need of non-urgent supportive housing the process would take two weeks.
Today, it takes four months.
Homelessness and mental health services are understaffed and the demand exceeds the support.
There was an opportunity for a Q&A session at the end and a personal take away for me was what we can do to help.
I loved hearing the different perspectives explored. Giving someone a choice by asking them if you could get them anything could be so powerful to someone who doesn’t have a lot of choice in their life. More importantly though, that engagement of talking to them is often worth more than whatever you end up getting them.
There is help available out there – the Bristol Homelessness Connect website has information on where you can get food, or have a shower – and it’s more long lasting help than a one off gesture.
If you are interested in making a difference there are shelters across Bristol which are always looking for volunteers. Especially as Christmas approaches. Caring in Bristol will be running it’s Caring at Christmas project if you are able to volunteer some time. Challenge misconceptions and talk to friends and family to ensure support networks are in place. Campaign for change, vote and donate to organisations if you can.
The road from homelessness to a better life is linear on paper, but the reality of it is there are often many loops.
After a bit of casual networking, attendees sat down to hear stories of dealing with mental health issues while working in creative roles.
James Routledge, founder of Sanctus kicked off the evening by sharing his story of setting up a start-up, and the pressure he felt to be successful.
This led him to creating an alter-ego which he struggled to live up to. After some time, he began to realise the toll this was having on his mental health, and wrote a blog post about mental health in startups. The blog reached hundreds of people who began to share their similar experiences. This inspired James to start Sanctus, a movement which aims to change the perception of mental health and put the first mental health gym on the high street.
Next up was Ciara Hillyer, who shared her incredible story of living with cystic fibrosis and the mental health issues it has caused.
She spoke passionately about how she believes mental health should be spoken about more, and shared how creativity had been both a solace for her during difficult times. Throughout her entire talk, the room was completely silent – you could have literally heard a pin drop. It was a truly powerful and inspiring 20 minutes.
After a quick break, Whalecake founder Wes Hosie took to the stage to share his story of living with chronic anxiety and panic disorder. Wes is determined to encourage men to become more comfortable to speak about the “taboo” topic, and has just launched a podcast, I’m Not Mental, which will feature him sharing his own experiences and inviting interesting guests. Finally, photographer and Community Manager Jess Siggers, Giggle Studio founder Steve Garrett, Digital Marketing Specialist Charli Tomney and Glug host Keri Hudson sat on a panel and discussed the challenges of working in the creative industry while experiencing mental health issues.
The evening rounded off with many attendees agreeing how refreshing it had been to hear so many people speak candidly about their own mental health journeys.
The general consensus was that many more of these events should be held to help further conversation – which is something Freedom of Mind will continue to strive to do.
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day 5 featured two different events to celebrate World Mental Health Day 2018. We started with an Early Morning Silent Disco on Castle Park! And rounded up the evening with a Panel Discussion on Body Image, Dieting Culture and Mental Health.
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It must be the combination of endorphins from all the dancing, sugar from the fruit smoothies, and the feeling of togetherness from being with such lovely, shiny people on a beautiful sunny morning!
I’d been banging on about running a morning rave since starting as a volunteer 2 years ago, and my wish was finally granted.
When I was starting to plan it I randomly came across Free Silent Disco in Museum Square and got chatting to Naren. He puts them on purely to bring joy to people and I knew immediately that we had to collaborate.
It was a pleasure to see so many people there, some tentative at first, but soon getting into their dancing. Thanks also to Cat from Nudge Yourself who led some short warm up sessions, and everyone that got involved with the smoothie bike.
On the warm evening of World Mental Health Day, we huddled in a cosy Zion Cafe awaiting the start of the Body Image, Food and Mental Health Panel Discussion.
Alice, the chairperson who spreads her positive vibes via Instagram on ‘aliceandpeanutbutter’, introduced the diverse panel. The 5 person panel ranged from Imogen whose ‘the_feeding_of_the_fox’ page promotes ‘radical body politics and non judgemental compassion’ to an inclusive swimwear designer, Antonia.
What caught my attention was that the panelists all had shared a background of fighting mental ill health and all had social media platforms. When they were asked about this conflicting relationship, Cait, who promotes anti diet ideals via a newsletter and soon-to-be blog, said something so prominent it will probably stay with me in all aspects of my life. They said,
and extended their answer explaining that you need to try curate yourself and go to spaces where your mental health is welcomed.
Extending the theme of social media was the question, “What is body positivity?”
Sam Roswell enlightened most of the crowd, myself included, when they spoke of where ‘the now’ Instagram phrase originated. Body positivity, now known mostly for its hashtag on social media was a movement started by marginalised women of colour who wanted to revel in their bodies which were often discriminated against. Sam revealed that there was a difference between the movement and just generally loving oneself and being positive of one’s image.
I cannot thank Dan, a stand up comedian and the only male on the panel having fought anorexia, for always cracking jokes and always pushing for us to praise mental health just as much as we talk about mental ill health.
I’ve learned how to be a concerned friend, how to check the way I think and how to stay uplifted and love myself all in one night.
There was so much exchange even amongst the crowd in the Q&A and so much debate that allowed perspectives to be shifted and people to be heard.
Can’t wait till next time!
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day three featured (fittingly!) three different events across all sorts of genres. We started with an Afternoon Tea Party Against Loneliness, where we worked with Link Age Network and Marmalade Trust to deliver an afternoon of fun and games. We followed that with a film screening and Q&A of “I made this for you”. Finally, we wrapped up the evening with Spoken Word with Raise the Bar.
Missed the events?
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I had no idea who would come along to this event. You never do at these things, but especially so at this one. When we began programming it, we wanted to create an event that would be inclusive for everyone, but particularly welcome some of the older members of our community.
As the event began, Mark was on the doors welcoming people as myself and others fetched tea. Watching the room fill up was exciting – it really was filled with everyone from the under 5s, to the over 70s! At first, there was an air of nervousness around everyone – what to say, how to act.
We moved through the room starting conversations with people we’d never met before, which really set the tone for the whole event. I found myself engaged in discussion with a couple of elderly women about reducing plastic use, but only after playing jenga with some toddlers.
What was particularly engaging was some of the talks from the people at Link Age Network, Marmalade Trust and a couple of the other partners. They talked of supporting others and looking out for the people within our community. You could see people across the room opening up throughout – sharing their experiences of Loneliness and the support they received (or wish they’d received!)
Mark – who was hosting the event – left us with two challenges. These were designed to encourage us to reduce loneliness within our community. And I urge you to take on these challenges too.
Between everyone at the event, I hope that this triggers a knock on effect that makes a real difference. For me – I took the details of someone who runs creative workshops at the event, and I’m going to message a friend that’s been going through a hard time.
All in – we had a great time challenging loneliness as a group.
TW: Discussion of Suicide.
I Made This For You is a beautifully artistic film about a young man who, after attempting suicide, receives a DVD from his friend containing a series of interviews with people from throughout his life. It was really exciting to be able to share this moving and raw film with a wider audience, and the Director Cristian Solimeno joined us for a Q+A after the screening.
The documentary style to the film, and the true stories behind many of the interviews shown, makes this a realistic piece and we discussed the way Cristian moulded the actors sessions in order to achieve this. Confusion from the audience demonstrated how effective this was, and Cristian explained how much he wanted to “break the rules of filmmaking” and create something full of improvisation.
It was moving to hear Cristian speak of his friend Billy, one of the actors in the film, who did take his own life before the film was complete.
He had one of the most profound lines about how when you are contemplating suicide you have pictured how everyone will react at your funeral, how your death will impact their lives. As someone who has been in that dark place, this really resonated with me and highlights how mental illness can affect any of us.
An important and powerful film I Made This For You shows a realistic interpretation of how suicide can influence people’s lives whilst still managing to maintain the positives of the impact of friendship, family and love.
If you would like to speak to someone about suicide or any emotional difficulties, the Samaritans is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can contact them by phone for free on 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit your local branch (in Bristol this is 37 St Nicholas Street, BS1 1TP).
There is something about Spoken Word that aims a gun straight to my heart and shoots words that pierce me to my core. But it feels more like a lesson, a strength in its softness. A therapy of some kind.
As I walked into a row of chairs and a host of fairy lights at Prince Street Social, I knew this was going to be a good one. One by one, audience members grew into a pack of 60+ people, all watching two companies with one common reason; mental health.
You could hear a pin drop as honest accounts of what it is to feel, fell between us. Every year I’m excited about this event, and every year I’m left more inspired.
If I could introduce this artform to someone who doesn’t know it, it would be this; these artists have chewed up an entire dictionary, understood exactly how they work, and eloquently spat out the words in a rhythmic concoction of genius that unlocks something inside you that you didn’t know exists. They make human pain the most beautiful song I’ve heard. They make memories last forever. Some artists stand quietly behind the mic stand, spitting every silent syllable, and some bodies become enraged with their words, the whole performance turning into a visceral dance – their words their song.
For this ‘mental health special’, they spoke of domestic abuse, eating disorders, religion, suicide and love. They twisted their hard times into a live audio book that no one could put down.
They united a group of strangers and made situations you haven’t been through completely understandable.
It was a pleasure to watch every truth unravel, to watch these artists modestly accept their applause and cheers, and to speak to the general public about their mental health. As a mental health campaigner, the most important thing to see is Mental Health as a subject lose its stigma entirely, and come alive in its own right – to find its place in everyday conversation. Freedom of Mind execute this effortlessly at every event.
They are able to voice the times most vulnerable to them, put them on a plate and serve it to you, and make you realise you are most definitely not alone.
To become vulnerable and to allow your softness?
That’s the greatest strength I’ve ever seen a human perform.
And so wraps up day 3! For day 4, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel our Book Signing with Jonny Benjamin as he’s come down with a virus, but join us on World Mental Health Day for an Early Morning Silent Disco and a Body Image Panel Discussion!
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Our second main event was a wellbeing walk at Leigh Woods! And we were hoping some dogs would come along too. Missed the event?
I love dogs. And so when the idea of a dog walk was floated in the team, I was instantly on board! Cut ahead several months to Leigh Woods on the morning the walk. Opening my blinds in the morning revealed a perfect day for it – the sun was out, it was crisp and I was ready.
Making our way through the trees felt peaceful and relaxing. Being around nature makes you feel good, so whether we were talking about mindfulness or just playing with dogs, it helped.
The route was enjoyable. It remained easy throughout and never got too tricky. Making my way through the group of people that had gathered was fun to listen to the different conversations that were being had.
With a huge range of people from all sorts of backgrounds (and a variety of dogs to boot!) it was a great community event with loads of fun.
Yesterday morning a group of intrepid dogs took their two legged friends for an adventure through Leigh Woods for Freedom of Mind’s Wellbeing Walk! Excited barks could be heard echoing through the trees as dogs big and small, scruffy and smooth greeted new friends and strained to get going.
We followed the purple trail winding through the woods, each at our own pace, as dogs bounded and plodded around us, and a young boxer sprinted at full pelt looking for the best stick. Many conversations naturally moved to the importance of being outdoors, among plants and wildlife, and of course the healing power of our waggy tailed companions.
One quote that really struck a chord with me was from a lovely woman with a gentle border terrier:
We both agreed that getting back in touch with nature was part of what made us feel truly alive.
Overall, the event encouraged people to see new faces, get some fresh morning air with their furry friends and remember how good it feels to wander through a green landscape and just BE.
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! We started this week long adventure with, well, exactly that! An afternoon on adventure! We collaborated with the Women’s Adventure Expo to put on the Adventure and Wellbeing event at Watershed. Missed the event?
We kicked off with an afternoon long event discussing wellbeing and adventure. Working again with WAE lots of different organisations and individuals shared the great projects happening across Bristol and the country. From cycling projects like Two’s company with life cycle to adventure expeditions for women escaping domestic violence from My Great Escape we heard about some incredible things.
An interesting talk followed from Dr Nathan Smith about his work with professor Emma Barratt at Manchester University on the links between adventure and wellbeing. A quick overview of their work demonstrated how much adventures (however big or small!) Can have a positive impact on our wellbeing.
Following this was a series of workshops, we joined Mark and Cat in discussing the barriers you might face to have an adventure, and the ways we can overcome these.
And so wraps up day 1! For day 2, we’ve got an exciting photo-walk with Colin Moody through the streets of Stokes Croft and Montpellier.
In January 2018 I signed up to run the Bristol half marathon. I had never run further than 10k before and at just over 5ft, I wouldn’t say I had a natural runner’s physique!
I knew 13.1 miles was going to be a big challenge for me, but with my clear goal of raising money and awareness for mental health behind me, I knew my passion and determination would drive me to complete this.
So my plan was:
Saturday 3rd February 2018 was my first training run. I created a plan to organise my sessions averaging around four sessions a week focusing on interval training for the first four months to build my speed up.
Training was going great, I was really enjoying it, I could feel myself getting fitter and sessions becoming easier. My biggest challenge was the 5:45am alarm and the beast from the east! (Though trust me, I’d take the snow over the scorching highs of this summer any day!)
The morning of the 10k came and I was ready. It was blimmin’ hot but I had done my training and I was excited to give it my all. I got to the start line and with that, I ran.
I hit 6km in under half an hour and I felt like I was going to pass out. But I powered on and reached my goal. Coming in at 50minutes 50seconds I’d hit just over two and a half minutes off last year’s time. I was pleased, but I didn’t enjoy that race one bit – maybe my worst run to date? Over the next two weeks my feet paid the price, I was unable to run due to some very ugly blisters.
Once my feet had recovered my training adapted to suit my next focus, slowing my pace to increase my distance. My weekly mileage increased to around 20 miles a week as my runs started to become longer. But this training was short lived.
(Completely sober I may add) I was walking home from the bus! At the time I was more embarrassed than anything. It bloody hurt and looked unsightly, but I thought little of it until my next run. I would’ve never guessed I would be spending the next six weeks with my knee strapped up having intense physio with five weeks out of my running programme.
I was devastated. How could something so trivial cause so much damage?
The next few weeks were a rollercoaster of emotions. I had to come to terms with losing sight of my goal of a sub-two-hour half and accept my ability was now different. I attended regular physio sessions where I was advised to stop running and rest. This killed me. I had worked so hard and already raised so much money. I felt like I was letting everybody down. There was no way I was not completing the half marathon, even if I had to walk parts of it.
After two weeks of rest I started experimenting with what my knee would allow me to do. I found running and spinning were ‘no-go’s’, but the cross trainer was actually manageable. So off I went, completing my training plan of sessions of up to 11 miles, facing a white wall watching Coronation Street, on a cross-trainer. Using a cross trainer varies quite a bit to running in all weathers on uneven surfaces around Bristol. But still it was something. And it kept me focused.
With five weeks to go until the half, I was back on the treadmill. Slower paced, strapped up and completing distance in intervals; but I was back running.
Over the next few weeks I worked on my fitness and managed to get back up to 11 miles at a sub-two-hour pace. I was over the moon. Although there was progress still to make, this was telling me I could do it.
I was terrified, why on earth had I signed myself up for this? I hadn’t run outside for three months and had only been back running for just over one. The morning came and the conditions were awful. I’d been worrying about a sweltering half, it was freezing cold and pelting with rain. I was dreading it and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
As soon as I got across that start line and I started running I can honestly say that I had the best run I have ever had. In some miraculous way it all came together.
I was about 100m from the finish line, I could hear my family cheering me on along with a sea of unknown spectators. I crossed the finish line and I had done it. I had ran 13.1 miles and it felt fantastic. I came to a halt as I joined a queue of ‘fresh through the finish line’ runners to collect our medals and t-shirts. I started to notice my body was painful, my calves were tight and achy already. I wanted to cry. But in this sea of people I didn’t recognise anyone, so I made my way to find some space.
All that I had been working towards, the reason I was running the half, my uncle, all my hard work, early mornings, injuries, blog posts, had come to a head.
The challenge was complete and I was in a daze. I felt tired and sick but was ecstatic I had run 13.1 miles. I was amazed I had raised so much money and awareness and I was overwhelmed by the support I received.
I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported me in this journey. To those who have put up with my lack of sleep, moaning, tears, injuries, you name it, I’ve had it. Those who were there on the day and at the finish line, who have shared my story and donated to Freedom of Mind.
These past eight months have been very challenging, both mentally and physically. I have had so many fantastic conversations around the topic of mental health which may never have been approached otherwise. I’m super proud to have raised more than double my target £500 and smash my personal goal of a sub two hour half coming in at 1 hour 50 minutes 16 seconds. Making it all worth it.
With her fundraiser closing on Friday, Emily has currently raised a total of £1,129.00 to help destigmatize mental health. There is still time to donate to her. Just follow this link.