The Arts and Addiction debate : Twelve

20141107_143004_2Welcome to another of my mental health blog posts. Every now and then I attend events regarding mental health, carer awareness, psychology or psychiatry field or just general health events. However although I enjoy attending such lovely events, I really enjoy events, presentations or debates on Art.

I admit that I am not an artist myself although I am creative, I am certainly not an Art critique either, but then when attending art events, I feel my lack of knowledge can be a good thing, because I have so much to gain and much to learn and enjoy.

So on the 9th of July I headed over to the Maudsley Learning Center to hear a debate on Art and Addictions. I was a little worried how the debate would turn out, because I do admit my mind does wander and if discussions become complex then it is easy for me to get lost in the clouds.



So going back to the event, what was it all about?

Well basically although the debate was on how Art can aid in recovery for service users who suffer from addiction. The debate also highlighted the exhibition Twelve which is a multi-channel video installation exploring themes addiction and recovery. This work was compiled by artist Melanie Manchot who collaborated with service users going through recovery.

The event is showing at the Peckham Platform, which is a creative and educational charity based in a gallery on Peckham Square. Peckham Platform gives artists the chance to share and promote their work be it through collaboration and/or connection others within the community.

peckham platform

You can find out more about Peckham Platform via the link below

So now we know about what the debate relates to, but what about the reasons for such pieces of work? how does collaboration bring out the best in communities? Who are the groups and organisations behind these projects and does any theory lend itself to the use of art?

All these questions and more were raised at the debate, but who was on the panel?


Credit given to Emily Druiff for the photo

The debate was chaired by Dr Alison Rooke Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths and founding director she is an evaluator for the project (Twelve) and also Co Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths (CUCR). Dr Alison teaches on a large range of subject within the field of sociology, these being gender and sexuality, ageing, art and govern-mentality, research methods, visual sociology and urban theory.

Also speaking at the event was founding director and Twelve commissioner, Mark Prest from Portraits of Recovery. The Arts and education charity was founded in 2011 by Mark Prest, where the organisation’s work supports people and communities affected by and in recovery.

You can check out “Portraits of Recovery” site at this link

Speaking also at the debate was Dr Luke Mitcheson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Head of Addictions Psychology over in Lambeth and he presented his ideas on how powerful recovery is being used in the Arts.

Last but not least was Paul speaking about the Aurora Project based in Lambeth, which is a Peer Support service based in South London for clients accessing drug and alcohol treatment.

debate panel

Credit given to Emily Druiff for the photo

The presentations

Mark was first to speak and he spoke about how the Art making process can help transformation on new skills and process on disability. Mark also talked about how the project was founded in 2011 and the projects principles.

Mark was interested in how recovery works in communities. He felt that the process and concepts were important regarding the journey of recovery. An interesting point Mark raised was how the use of partnership helps promote recovery collectivity. I began to learn the idea of the term inclusive recovery dialogue.

Mark felt that it is not really possible to have recovery in isolation and that collaboration and connecting was fundamental in the use of creating Art.

Next up to speak at the event was Dr Luke Mitcheson Consultant Clinical Psychologist. He presented on several topics ranging from showing pictures of Art exhibitions. He also talked about the South London and Maudsley Art’s Strategy which is being led by Helen Shearn the SLaM Arts Strategist.


It was interesting to see that many other Arts in Addiction projects were running across South London, these ranging from the Tate Modern – World Mental Health day event, to exhibitions at the Maudsley Long gallery. Dr Luke also mentioned Brixton village project and the Impact Art fair and the work that Inma Otal Coscojuela, the arts coordinator for the Addictions CAG has put into arts and addiction projects.

Dr Luke raised the concept on the value of art within the NHS addiction service and presented on the theory of Identity Transformation and mentioned several authors who delved into the subject. A few I can mention being Mcintosh and Mckeganey (2000) and Etherington (2008). Dr Luke credited Dr Jenny Maslin for providing insight and source material into such theories.

Several therapeutic factors were presented by Dr Luke at the event these being the idea of helping and supporting others, the instillation of hope where encouragement is giving to addicts that recovery is possible. The use of cohesion where people feel that they are belonging to a group that helps mould and shape their identity, plus many more factors.

Next to present was Paul from the Aurora Project in Lambeth. Paul spoke about how the What is the Aurora project was formed. He also wondered how his identity changed since the use of art from 5 years ago. Paul found art to be very therapeutic and he was Interested in how the mind digests the art and then producing the art.

aurora project

Paul noticed that the changing of identity is a huge concept, in a fundamental way, although he wonders what it means to be individuals in regard to collaboration.

The Debate

Dr Alison Rooke Senior sociology Lecturer opened the debate on some of the topics raised by the speakers. One interesting view was on of how damaging the governments view on recovery within the mental health system can be. This being that there should be a time limit for recovery in order for people to be productive in society.

It was not long till we had some questions from the audience. Where one person asked what is the difference between Service User group and the Service user board.

We had Paul speak about how recovery communities have always existed, but they have been invisible due to stigma, the reason for such a stigma is that it is because its addiction is a shameful condition. However the government did have an impact on changing the recovery outcomes, at least the recovery module is on the map. The recovery community identify changed, and Mark was interested in the voices of those using recovery through Art.

Paul did point out that Addicts or Service users need to speak for themselves rather than others speak for them, but recovery communities exist on the micro and macro, even though they are rather different, but there is a connection, plus also sub communities and cultures e.g. BME and LGBT.

Paul answered the audience question on how the Recovery board is a mix of professionals and Service Users.

Dr Luke added his thoughts on how Transformation is interesting, but recovery is important. Identity change is a useful way of thinking about recovery, but its not the mental health field explicit aims.

I actually took the chance to ask a question on how could the panel describe the importance and value of the art produced by those recovering in decades to come. I was interested in the value of the art to the individual and the value of art to the community or the art world in general.

Paul replied that Its the individuals property, but not the exhibitors property. All we do is provide the materials. This is where Dr Luke Agreed with Mark, He stated that we create the space for the art to be created. The Art produced can vary to those who see the work. The art work should be service user led, however it was stated that quality can be important, but it also must bring value to the artists.

Mark Prest raised an interesting point on how do you deal with your addiction as your identity, it should not define you. Mark Self esteem. Mark stated that in the project he works on that there are links to colleges and collaborators, but it is difficult to prove how art can heal, research is lacking in the field of Art recovery.

As the debate continued, I was interested to here Paul’s views on how happier a person he is since going through art as a form of recovery. He enjoys art and also releasing how he enjoys other things in life, but its not really about recreating an identity, but releasing something that was hidden before.

Another interesting point was raised by Dr Luke who stressed that people can choose how much they put in. It is not art itself for being an artist, but a way of producing recovery.

All in all the event was rich in debate and how recovery and influence art and visa versa.  I do admit at some point there were a few things that I struggled with, but then the more I visit such events, the more I learn.

Remember if you are around in South London during summer, please check out the Twelve exhibition at the Peckham Platform.