Sunday, 19 March 2017

Notes on Anxiety #1

Funny old week, peppered with all that life throws at us. This blogger hopes that the week ahead is positive to all of you who stop by here. I'm exited to be working with the National HIV Nurses Association this week on a new piece of work around our shared understanding of HIV in the 21st century. More on that soon. 

Recoverism and the Arts:
Driving change through collaborative research

If you are interested in Recoverism and the Arts, I've been working with PORe, (Portraits of Recovery) the Arts and Health Research and Substance Abuse and Addictive Behaviours Groups to develop a free collaborative research event on April 25th at The Manchester School of Art. It's primarily aimed at people affected by, or researching the field of substance misuse and recovery, and places are limited, so only book if you're committed to attending and taking an active part in the day. Booking and more information is available by clicking on the Per te Mama film still above, by artist Ali Zaidi or HERE.

A Recoverist Theatre Project
I'm thrilled that Recoverism is being embraced beyond the Recoverist Manifesto, and the flyer below is for a 10 week Recoverist Theatre Project taking place in Liverpool at the wonderful Brink Cafe. It looks an exciting piece of work that is all about developing your creative voice. All the details are on the flyer below and good luck with the workshops - they sounds ace. Let us know how the workshops go.

NAMIH Conference
Monday July 10th, 11am-6pm
We’re delighted to announce the date of our first NAMIH conference on  Monday July 10th, 11am - 6pm (because we know that peak time travel is best avoided if possible)
The conference is co hosted by OPUS Music CIC and The Royal Brompton Hospital in London with support from public funding by Arts Council England. We are keen to celebrate the diversity of practice within our membership and to share ideas about how we keep raising the profile of our work and meet the challenges of our time. We also want to hear what you the Alliance want from the Alliance. Follow the link below for tickets which are just £10.  
Places are limited so don't leave it too late! More info HERE.

House of Commons Creative Practitioner Commission
House of Commons commission for a creative practitioner to run a residency programme commemorating and celebrating race discrimination legislation. The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art seeks to commission a UK-based creative practitioner to undertake a residency to create six new works, through participatory community workshops, relating to the development of race discrimination legislation. These works will be displayed during October/November 2018 within the participating local communities, and early in 2019 in the Houses of Parliament. The residency is to mark the campaign for, and the passing of early race discrimination legislation in 1965, 1968 and 1976, it will reflect and celebrate:
* the growth of an inclusive democracy;
* the people who campaigned and fought for the changes of legislation;
* the experience of the generations who, empowered by the legislation, continued to campaign.
More info HERE.

Notes on Anxiety (a micro-script)
Wednesday 15th March. 
I’m trying to understand how anxiety plays a part in my life, for good and for bad. Today I gave a presentation to a small group of peers, about all the things I know like the back of my hand. Ten minutes quick-fire. A potted history almost, of my own time here in Manchester and the work I’ve been involved with. A cinch. Well, not quite. Anxiety has a positive side - over prepare. Write copious notes, reduce them and just note down key points, a couple of juicy quotes, and bob’s your uncle. 

But my shirt was un-ironed, (I originally had a jumper on, having set out in the dark, early morning - with the beautiful Moon and Venus for company) it also had a button on the left hand cuff that was hanging on by a thread. I didn’t like this. Didn’t like it at all.

Earlier I’d created a small presentation - a film - actually less of a presentation, it was youtube footage of a blue sky, with clouds gently scudding over. Someone had kindly added 3 hours and 25 minutes of Philip Glass and Music in Twelve Parts. Perfect. I only needed ten minutes, divided by eight pieces of work, which I would describe fluently. But then I practiced it, and the film seemed too serene for what I wanted to say, so I changed it and used some raw footage of the 2011 Tottenham riots - perfect. Only now it felt like I was over-egging it. Bugger. A power-point instead, eight slides, no more, no less.

But I stand there in front of a friendly group of around 15 people, and it all feels so wrong. So dull, so worthless. Hot, confused and dry mouthed, looking at irrelevant notes and looking back at the slides (something I never do). Anxiety has a negative side.

So I’ve spoken to huge crowds. Conferences of a hundred are a regular thing, and more recently, something hovering around a thousand didn’t produced those physiological changes - maybe doubt and increased heartbeat - but not inane ramblings and a dry, dry mouth. I can speak for thirty minutes without needing a glass of water, and whilst I’m always hot and bothered, this was thermo nuclear. Maybe worse than that, as my gormless mouth flapped aridly up and down, the words I spoke were boring, mind numbingly tedious, almost a rendition of the work, with all the imagination and passion stripped out of it. 

But my positive thinking, my imagining of the Moon - willing me on - fails. It’s like everything has dried up. Venus has gone. Standing there, (bizarrely) I feel more stupid than stressed, but with a lifetimes pretence of bonhomie, I answer questions. 

Now at home, some hours later, I feel world weary. Of course I know that countless people are going through all manner of personal hell’s as I sit here sedating myself and ruminating. I know this is no big shakes in the great scheme of things, but I need to understand the nature of anxiety, because that’s what it was, pure and simple. I could feel the thing escalate from nowhere, to completely taking over. Overwhelming. Perhaps it’s ‘in my nature’ and just who I am, and it waits for opportune moments to embrace me and render me near speechless. Perhaps that’s why I started creating these small films to accompany me as I speak? It’s almost as though the real me is broken and unable to ‘be’ in these public spaces, and that ‘performing’ provides me with an invisibility cloak, to hide away in plain sight


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