Event Report: Conference on Creative Arts and Mental Health

Dr Carol Chapman (Counselling Psychologist and BAPAM Clinician)

Conference on Creative Arts and Mental Health
October 1st 2013
Queen Mary, University of London

This interesting and wide-ranging conference brought together academics, researchers, clinicians, Arts Directors from the South Bank, Barbican, Pallant House and CORE Arts together with service users/creative artists to reflect on the ways in which music, theatre, dance and art interface with mental health.

There were discussions of the relationship between Creativity and Mental Health interspersed with historical depictions of the construction of ‘madness’ in drama, from the Bacchae to Caryl Churchill. Questions relating to the social definition of normality/abnormality and the pathologising of certain eccentricities, personalities and practices along with a celebration of Mad Pride and its successors gave us all food for thought and discussion.

Vivid and moving examples of the healing power of Singing, Artwork and Drama, and their transformative power on damaged lives were presented by Bobby Baker, whose 11 year journey through extreme dysfunction to stability was chronicled by her films and artwork, Gary Molloy and Frank Bangay.

Alongside these, it was apparent that the evidence-base for the mental health and social benefits of arts therapies is growing in size and rigour. Stephen Clift’s work on singing, Paul Monk’s work on art and Nasir Warfa’s work on creating healing spaces testified to this.

As we know, using music as a therapy for a musician can be difficult, and has to be undertaken with care, because of the complex emotional and personal investment the performer makes in their playing. However I have come across many musicians who regularly use a form of music-making to let off steam, de-stress or lift their mood and there has been a small amount of research in this area.

I hope that when this conference reconvenes (it was the first to bring together all the arts therapies in this way, we learned),  BAPAM will be there to present some evidence of its own, from its unique vantage point, as a contribution to this fascinating and socially valuable field.

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