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.
Missed the events?
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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.
Missed the events?
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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!
I’ve been lucky enough to see Freedom of Mind develop from very small beginnings, into the reality it is now.