Reaching People’s Lives

Touching People in ‘Ordinary’ Life

Martin from the company he founded, The Machine Zone which seeks to raise awareness of gambling harms through the arts, seen here at Dundee Repertory Theatre’s dark comedy about gambling. The play’s co-written by somebody who’s spent 20 years working in the industry. Read about The Bookies here.

Proudly wearing his Big Step hoodie, Martin’s a veteran of the Big Step walks in Scotland, most recently walking between Edinburgh and Glasgow, visiting football grounds along the way.

The Big Step itself is a living art form. Like Ernest Hemingway said of writing, it’s one per cent inspiration and 99% perspiration. And blisters and aching legs! It marches through communities of every kind, raising awareness and making friends along the way.

 

 

Most of us don’t spend our lives attending to public health messages. We’re busy watching TV and films, listening to and making music, reading, enjoying company, maybe going to see a play.

So it’s in these sorts of things we learn and think about life. Heartbreaks, family drama, the many ‘social issues’ of our time, our happiness and sorrow. Everything.

Artists of every type have been dealing with these things for thousands of years. When it comes to something like mental health or addiction you’ll find it all in soaps, novels, paintings, songs, plays, human interest stories in newspapers and so on. When a writer like Jimmy McGovern writes a play about gambling it reaches millions, gets people thinking and talking together. An organisation like Fast Forward uses theatre and film to educate thousands of young people.

More modest in scale, we’ve produced a film One Last Spin. By a great stroke of good fortune the singer-songwriter and musician Amanda Lehmann recorded a song with the same title as the film after watching it. She continues to promote the issue with radio interviews. You can read about how the song came into being here.

The Arts are a PART of It All

Things like harms from gambling and drugs such as alcohol  are very complex issues. There are no ‘silver bullets’  to find soulutions. There are important things happening at ‘higher levels’ in statutory services such as Public Health and the NHS, professional medical associations, academic research, politics, lobbying for much more and better treatment, and lobbying for independent evaluation and design in education. 

There is brilliamt work being done at grassroots level – from a few individuals to those who have formed important organisations.

The Third Sector plays a big part such as Scotland Reducing Gambling Harms which has given us immense support. 

With so much involvement from so many places, we’re not advocating the arts as a ‘cure-all’. Far from it. There are many long-established movements working to integrate the arts and health. Our own work is infinitessimal in comparison.

 

 

A Wish

Sculptors, painters, scriptwriters, poets, musicians, songwriters, novelists…

You are invited to put your souls into exploring gambling. Dostoevsky did it with his novel, The Gambler. You can too!

Two Opposing Narratives: gambling harms

Brass tacks: a reasonable summary of demands to address gambling harms

The above is from Gambling with Lives new website. While they have done so much to raise awareness of the horrible connections between gambling and suicide, their five points are broadly shared across all sectors which campaign to reduce harms.

It is important to see product design at the top of the list. The idea of harmful products. Probably known to many, the classic book by Natasha Dow Schull based on many years of research among the players and businesses of Las Vegas casinos is titled Addiction by Design.

Many other researchers, independent of industry influence, have provided evidence of how digital gambling devices are designed to exploit psychological factors. This crucial element is often downplayed or simply ignored by certain stakeholders, including, of course, industry.

There is a struggle between narratives about gambling harms. There are several such narratives but each reflects two important ones

On one side is the preferred industry narrative which emphasises personal responsibility and ‘educating’ people towards ‘safe gambling’. Industry-funded education is a key method of fulfilling industry’s stated firm desire to minimise gambling harms. Industry does also promote player protection via exclusion schemes, affordanility checks and monitoring, yet the efficacy of these is not agreed by everybody, and there are regular reports of protection failures. Not unlike many industries, advertising – including micromarketing through social media – is seen to provide individuals with choice and alert them to offers and exciting new products. Sponsorship, especially in football, is claimed to support the financial wellbeing of clubs. As a whole, industry points out how many people are employed, the tax yield to the state, and how vital it is to fund animal racing. The industry warns that increased regulation will push people into ‘black markets’. Industry cites figures which purport to show a decrease in the number of what they refer to as ‘problem gamblers’. Industry opposes calls for a 1% statuary levy on profits by claiming that the charities it funds are in the best position to provide treatment, arguing that the NHS has no experience in this area. It celebrates its funding of education for young people, and sees no need for independent academic research to evaluate both the quality of such initiatives and the emphasis upon education as a prime bulwark against gambling harms.

On the other side, while some of this agenda is agreed, there are calls for much tighter work in each area. Product design and incessant marketing are stressed over ‘personal responsibility’. Here, a pubic health approach is advocated similar to that in the area of other ‘commercial determinants of health’ whereby regulation covers the whole population, bypassing any reference to individual behaviours. There is implicit in the debate a foundational difference between an ideology which stresses personal responsibility. ‘freedom’,  and minimal (nanny) state intererference, against the position that sees social, cultural and economic factors as inseparable from an individual’s life. Contributors to calls similar to Gambling with Lives demands are to be found in the establishments of medicine, psychiatry, social work, the judiciary sytem, academia, and the groundswell of organisations led by people with lived experience.

Writing a sponsored piece in Conservative Home, the Chairman (sic) of the Betting and Gaming Council, Brigid Simmons OBE. begins her article arguing against a statutory levy with the words, “Far too often emotion, instead of evidence, drives the debate around betting and gaming in the UK.” This point of view mirrors another senior BGC figure who enjoys using such phrases as ‘Sunday school prohibitionists’. There is something odd about suggesting that some of the finest brains in the UK and the world have mistake emotional outpourings for rigorous evidence. In fact, while it is possible that there are people who want to abolish gambling, calls for reform demand intelligent debate rather than blanket dismissal  of all who have identified realistic, specific recommendations for reform, each one of which is based on evidence rather than  sponsored emotional rhetoric.

 

 

 

One Last Spin. A Song by Amanda Lehmann

We’re very pleased to announce that Amanda Lehmann’s son One Last Spin is released today.

Just click here to listen. It’s a beautiful and poignant song to listen to rather than hear in the background, to enter into for four minutes. So if you can, get the headphones on or play through a music system. You’ll be glad you did. Laptop, tablet and phone speakers have their uses – but for music? Nah!

While the song complements our documentary film wonderfully it’s also very much a stand alone record. You’ll discover more details about the song here and here, including how it came to be written.

 

We won’t be producing many cd’s and covers. Those we do get manufactured will be used with media releases mainly to radio stations along with background materials about gambling harm. The song will be available to listen to online from now onwards, and a dowloadable file of the single will also be available.

 

The Lyrics

One Last Spin

It’s a thrill, chasing the rainbow

Will a fortune fall from the sky?

A tsunami of anticipation

Is gone in the blink of an eye

I can still rescue the day

Make these problems fly away

One last spin

Another throw of the die

I’ll make this right, today is the day, tonight is the night

Just one last spin – around and around

Every road is paved with gold

The TV beckons me on

A winner right here in my hand

The wheel is spinning my song

The clouds are closing in

I’m losing everything

Demons at my door

How do I ignore them

One last spin

Another throw of the die

I’ll make this right, today is the day, tonight is the night

Just one last spin – around and around

One last spin – around and around

Hide in the shadows

Push love away

Numbing the pain, I’m back here again

Drowning in shame

One last spin – around and around

One last spin – around and around

One last spin…

Amanda’s words about a song she wrote to express her feelings witnessing her mothers’ decline into and journey through dementia fit well with One Last Spin. Whatever contribution it makes to raising awareness, its value is for a person suffering. “ Music can be cathartic, and it is my hope that sharing my experiences and emotions in this tune may briefly hold the hands of others in similar situations and give some comfort.”

Thank you again, Amanda. You have not only given your time to creating and producing a beautiful song, you’ve also done so much more behind the scenes.

We hope that many who listen to the song will spread the word to family, friends and colleagues so that it becomes widely known and loved.

Recovery and Raising Awareness with Creativity

Music……….. Theatre……….. Film……… Embroidery……….. Choirs……… Painting………. Poetry……….. Dancing……….Photography………. Singing in the shower……….

 Maybe that phrase ‘the arts’ is a big turn-off for so many. All that arty-farty nonsense isn’t for us. But think on this. If you ever watch a TV soap or film you are enjoying the arts. If you whistle while you work, you are an artist. Or if you find consolation in songs and music you are an art lover.

Maybe you find peace with flower arranging, writing poems nobody else will ever see, taking a photograph of a nature scene that has bowled you over. Perhaps you enjoy whittling a piece of wood found in the park and turning it magically into a paper knife. If you enjoy reading you’re an artist because only you can imagine a book into a world.

Watch children play. They sing and dance and make things up because that’s what nature wants humans to do. We lose so much if we come weighed down with being serioussly ‘adult’ and dismiss our inborn playfulness as mere ‘childishness’. Yet even the most sober and sombre of us find ourselves, when we think about it, enjoying the ‘useless’ stuff.

There’s massive evidence that the arts are essential to our wellbeing and a powerful resource for recovery. Some of this is found in weighty ‘scientific’ research. But mostly it’s confirmed by anyone who’s picked up a guitar or a pen or a paintbrush or pair of knitting needles. Or sung their heart out in the shower.

The world is indeed good, bad and ugly.

Singing about it and making music makes it good.

Watch the video and be boosted!

We (Martin and Adrian) are committed to the truth that ‘the arts’ are of immense value in helping us flourish and helping us heal. We also believe that awareness of important issues is raised through the arts. For instance, television drama series such as Cleaning Up and Broken explored the devastation of gambling harms and reached millions. Soaps frequently have storylines about important mental health issues such as addiction. They can help people see that their problems are not unique, and simply seeing this is a relief. They get people talking, maybe understanding a little more and becoming less judgmental.

We’ve also experience of work in arts based organisations designed to support folk in their recovery. People choose between so many options. Making music and recording it and staging public performances,  writing groups, film making, photography, art, and drama. The latter includes rehearsing and theatrical performance of plays and is a great example of how all the activities involve people working together and developing tbe confidence that leads some way to emerging from isolation. All this and sport, hill walking, residentials – and all done in a wonderful atmosphere of acceptance and friendship.

There are many places throughout Scotland that offer opportunities for creative engagement with others. Those who have been through or are going through the deep pains and isolation of addiction understand totally how hard it may be to become involved. It can be scary to take the first step. It can be dismissed as arty-farty nonsense. But even alone, there are many ways to find fulfilment in creative work. For instance, writing what you may insist is ‘crap’ poetry may help express and structure bad feelings.

Certainly, with great sensitivity, anyone supporting a person going through a bad time should think of all the many ways beyond the doctor’s surgery or user-led support groups, crucial though these may be, such as the arts and including whatever fits the person such as men’s sheds, horticulture, all the variety of outdoor activities. Nobody should ever be ‘told’ to get involved with something but sometimes it’s appropriate to gently encourage.

 

 

 

So, over the past five years, while we, especially Martin, have engaged with some of the great grassroots groups and individuals addressing gambling harm, and while we’ve done a little bit with bigger Third Sector organisations, our hearts have been in creativity. We published a couple of fiction books, wrote a drama piece and recently finished a documentary film.

On her own initiative the singer and musician Amanda Lehmann (right) has gifted a song she wrote and recorded. You can hear it from 22 March. Amanda wrote the song after learning about the seriousness and pervasiveness of gambling harms. She’d learned of this from meeting radio presenter Sylvia Fountain who interviewed her. Earlier, Sylvia had interviewed John Myers (who’s in our film) in which he talks about the tragic loss of his son, Ryan, to gambling. Sylvia herself has become an enthusiastic activist addressing gambling harms.

The song has the same title and repeated lyric as the film, One Last Spin. This is taken from a poem by Stephen Gillett. Like us many of you will know him from Twitter.

It’s great what a small number of committed people can do, and what chance encounters can do.

 

 

 

 

Amanda’s a seasoned performer on the ‘prog rock’ scene and has frequently appeared alongside Steve Hackett. You can see more about her at her website, including details of her recently released solo album, Innocence and Illusion.

Amanda’s song is beautiful but, by its nature, poignant and sad. Often we find some comfort in being able to express our sad feelings or hearing others do so. The whole history of ‘the Blues’ is just that. Soul music is from the soul, the good and the bad, our joys but also our deepest sorrows. When we share, there is comfort in our sharing.

Amanda has another wonderful but sad song, Memory Lane, in which she laments the sorrow of her witnessing her mother’s dementia. She writes of it:

“This song was inspired by my mother’s journey into and through dementia, and I wanted to reach out to anyone who has been affected by this horrible disease. Music can be cathartic, and it is my hope that sharing my experiences and emotions in this tune may briefly hold the hands of others in similar situations and give some comfort.”

 

We hope Amanda’s song One Last Spin will add to all the work so many do to raise awareness about gambling harms.

Most of all though, we think of a single person in sorrow and hope that the song “may briefly hold the hands of others in similar situations and give some comfort.”

One Last Spin: the song

One Last Spin:

the

SONG! 

 

 

 

We’re thrilled to announce the forthcoming release of Amanda Lehmann’s song, One Last Spin.

Amanda wrote and recorded this to go with our film documentary about gambling harms. She’d learned about the extent of the issue following an interview with Sylvia Fountain . Sylvia, a music radio presenter at Puritans Radio,  has become actively involved with raising awareness herself, and she put us in touch with Amanda. Sylvia had interviewed John Myers who is also in our film where he relates the devastating impact of the death by gambling suicide of his son, Ryan. John put us in touch with Sylvia and Amanda’s wonderful record is the result. You will be able to hear it very soon.

 

Image by Dave Abbott

Amanda is a much loved and respected figure in the progressive rock scene. Trained initially as a classical pianist she fell in love with rock early in life.  She’s performed frequently with Steve Hackett’s band in studio work and at live concerts with her trademark red guitar. Last year she released her first solo album to great acclaim, see for example this review. Read more about Amanda at her website.

Like many people Amanda had never thought about gambling harms. She says, “I was not fully aware of the extent of gambling addiction before, and now I find myself noticing stuff all over the place luring people in, it’s very scary.”

Amanda has gifted her time and musical creativity to contribute to raising awareness of gambling harms.

We didn’t plan to get a top musician to write, record and donate a song which raises awareness about gambling harms. John (Myers) spoke to Sylvia (Fountain) who seeded Amanda’s commitment. You can have all the plans in the world but the so often overlooked truth is that good things emerge from just a few good people making connections. It has been about John being John, Sylvia being Sylvia, and Amanda’s being Amanda. So in a way, the story of the song is the same as that of the film. John, Kelly, Tony, Martin inspired a very skilled film director to give, like Amanda, his time for free. To that extent, they are the film makers.

We’ll be pressing cd’s of Amanda’s song, largely at this stage to circulate to radio stations. It will be online here, on Amanda’s channels and  getting plenty of airtime from Sylvia. Music, theatre, film  and other art forms are powerful ways to reach hearts and minds, and to express and share our feelings.

 

THANK YOU!

We’ll have our work cut out in thanking everybody who has made One Last Spin possible.

We’ll express our thanks over the next set of posts, starting today with the people who actually made the film (which included standing in cold fields at midnight!)

Ross Donald

Ross directed and edited the film. He oversaw the many complexities of organisation. To sheer professionalism and expertise he brought great creativity. Knowing him as we do, he probably doesn’t like being singled out and put ‘at the top’. Ross is the epitome of a team player who always plays for the team before everything. Nevertheless, we put him top because as well as everything else he kept in constant touch with us, generally at least weekly, and made us feel very much a part of things.

Anyway, he has to go top because we have a photo of him introducing the film at the Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow where the cinematic premiere too place on 19 February.

Check out his company website at reveriefilms.co.uk. And if you ever need a film making…..

 

Lights, camera, sound. Casting and actors. Hours of arranging details, unexpected problems, location searches and management. Sound mixing, specialist film colouring, music composition. Thank you to everyone who put so much into getting this done. And two fingers to the Pandemic!

 

One Last Spin: the trailer

We are pleased to share the trailer for the film ‘One Last Spin’.

This week we’ll publish some posts about the great cinematic premiere on 19 February in Glasgow, and some invitations to use the film. We’ll also give some suggestions about how the film can be used in many different ways – from in-house training sessions to community venue screenings.

We are working ourselves on some online events which will include the film.

Plus!

Look out for news of a song single specially written by a professional singer. It’s called’One Last Spin’ of course!

Gambling Watch Scotland in 2022

We’ll be operating on a reduced scale in 2022 while we concentrate on our film One Last Spin . This website and the film are part of an ongoing project of The Machine Zone You can read our summary evaluation of the website and how it relates to the film here.

Although Gambling Watch Scotland will be less ambitious in its aims we would love to put at its heart contributions from the voices of lived experience. Stories of personal gambling careers and their damages are crucial. We also very much welcome broader views about the many aspects of reducing gambling harms.