By Mary Weston, The Reader Organisation‘s Mental Health Project Manager
As Lisa mentioned earlier, today is World Mental Health Day and for the third year running, we have teamed up with Mersey Care NHS Trust and the Bluecoat running to bring the Chapter and Verse literature festival to users of local mental health services this week. The three-way partnership began in 2009, when we brought Brian Keenan, who was appearing at the festival, to Ashworth special hospital – one of the most moving events I have experienced in my time with The Reader Organisation. We have hosted poetry workshops, author readings (Brian Patten sharing his memories and poetry with seniors at Waterloo Day Hospital last year was another high point) and even a jazz-poetry jam, with sax and a double bass.
Hard acts to follow, but this year’s line up is looking good. On Thursday 13th October Reader-in-Residence Eleanor McCann and our Events and Publications Manager Maura Kennedy will be bringing John Healy to the Kevin White unit. Healy is the author of The Grass Arena, a story of alcoholism and redemption which is acclaimed in the recovery movement. The Kevin White is Mersey Care’s drug detox inpatient unit, which has hosted one of our longest standing reading groups, so it is an interesting fit.
At the same time, Colin Grant who wrote a biography of Bob Marley, will be talking and playing tracks at Ashworth Special Hospital. A patients’ music group will also be there to play him out. Events at Ashworth always take a lot of organising, and Cath McCafferty, who manages Mersey Care Reads within the Trust, will be behind the scenes dealing with it all. This is the one I’m looking forward to most of all, not only for the music, but because the patients always respond so eagerly to artists who are willing to come into their rather circumscribed world.
On Friday afternoon Sarah Hall will be talking to community reading group members from Southport and Kirby about her new collection of short stories The Beautiful Indifference.
One thing will be different this year: we have recently welcomed Maura Kennedy into our team at the reader as our Events and Publications manager. Equally at home in the sophisticated world of the arts and in the down to earth settings we work in, she’s going to be a big presence in the organisation, and it looks like we may be able to look forward to a many more events like these, right across the country!