Waxing Lyrical

Yesterday saw the first in a series of Mental Health forums at the Menier Chocolate Factory, hosted by Ruby Wax, Judith Owens, and the folks from mental health charity SANE (whom I volunteer for).

We weren’t really sure how the afternoon was going to run – we just turned up with promotional materials and rather a lot of cake. After a “set up” (plastering said promotional materials around the theatre’s foyer), Ruby Wax appeared. She is quite full-on (you can gather that from seeing her on TV), but a genuinely friendly person.

The forum itself was preceded by a 30 minute “mingle” in the foyer, which I personally felt we could’ve done without – especially as we weren’t doing tea & cake until after the forum. The foyer before you go in is a little cosy, but with beautiful wooden beams and curios to keep your eyes occupied, you soon forget about any concerns about personal space.I felt like some audience members were just hanging around until the talk started, and maybe felt at a loose end. We’d said the forum would start at 2pm, but we didn’t actually go through to the theatre until 2:30.

The Menier Chocolate Factory is an adorable little theatre – an unusual building, with big wooden doors, it’s not somewhere I’d imagine going to see a performance. However, the theatre itself is an intimate space, allowing performers (or in this case, speakers) to communicate directly to their audience. My only criticism would lie with audience sight lines – something about the lay out of seats makes it very difficult for certain rows to see the stage.

Wax’s intro seemed a little unprepared, but her enthusiasm more than made up for it. The theme of the talk was depression as an ignored illness – the day’s guest speaker, Dr. Mark Collins (Wax’s own psychopharmacologist, or “drug dealer” as she called him), emphasised the fact that many people still deny depression even exists. He gave us a potted history of depression, what might cause it, how there’s no one cause, no one cure… I didn’t agree with everything he said (some stuff about lateralisation of brain function, but we won’t go there), but he was an excellent speaker.

An audience Q&A session followed, where we heard about some people’s own personal experiences of stigma and discrimination. Some was very difficult to hear, but some was actually pretty wonderful (for instance, the gallery owner who was helping one gentleman (suffering from mental illness) to get his artwork exhibited). Audience members also discussed alternative therapies, and the ongoing budget cuts that are crippling people’s lives.

Finally, we filed back out to the foyer for tea and cake, and a chance for people to talk to the SANE representatives about support options. Unfortunately, we didn’t get out to the tea and cake until about 3:35, and we had to be cleared up and gone by 4pm (as the theatre had to set up for that evening’s performance). Hopefully, now we know what the forums will entail, we can re-jig the setup, and make sure that there is plenty of time for refreshments and opportunities to talk to the folks at SANE.

However, if you do want to know more about mental health support in your area (in the UK), please don’t forget that SANE have a wonderful new website, a helpline, an email support service, and an online Support Forum.

There are FOUR more Mental Health Forums coming up over the next four weeks at the Menier Chocolate Factory. They are every Thursday, 2-4pm, and are entirely free to attend. It gives you an opportunity to find out more about mental illness, discuss issues with others, and talk to the guys at SANE, face-to-face. Find out more here.

I didn’t get a chance to go much further than the theatre itself, but the Menier Chocolate Factory also boasts an art gallery and a cute looking restaurant. Maybe next time..

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4 thoughts on “Waxing Lyrical

  1. I’d quite like to come to one of these. Have always wanted to see inside the Menier Choc Factory, and it goes without saying that raising awareness of mental illness is A Good Thing. xxx

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