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.”