Tag Archives: community

The importance of community spirit

Welcome back to the first blog post of 2018. It has been a while since I last wrote a post, the last one I made was on the fantastic arts event held over in London borough of Lambeth.


Group of people together holding hands

So it is now 2018 and a beginning of new year, with new opportunities, challenges and awareness projects to raise regarding unpaid carers, mental health events and topics about psychology. Some people wonder why I have created such a blog site and why I cover mental health events and carer forums. I feel these specific issues need a lot of awareness raising. Mental health still struggles to get a decent platform and any help I can contribute to the awareness of unpaid carers and service users should continue.

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Carers Week 2015 – Building carer friendly communities

Matthew Mckenzie (2)This blog post centres on carers week 2015, which runs from 8-14 of June. Carers week occurs each year raising awareness of carers or care givers. Carers week in the UK also has many supporters and collaborators ranging from CarersUK, Carerstrust, Macmillian Cancer support, AgeUK, Sainsbury and so on.

If you ever happen to visit the Carers Week website, feel free to make a pledge on
their pledge wall.

The cost of caring


There are many carers and organisations that have contributed to carers week
2015, I as a mental health carer I feel I should at least add some of my own views.
Interestingly enough I have noticed that the theme of Carers Week 2015 is on building carer friendly communities and of course this is a good thing. There are in the UK around 6.5 million carers. It is a fact that Carers provide help, support and care not only to family members, but also to close friends or neighbours. Without that much needed support from carers in the UK, then the UK’s National Health Service would collapse.

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Lewisham Mental Health Connection Xmas Party 2014


Welcome to another blog by Matthew Mckenzie a carer from the London Borough of Lewisham. Its Xmas as of this blog post and there are many activities and parties going on. I have been to quite a few celebrations myself, but on the 18th of December 2014, I was looking forward to attending the Lewisham Mental Health Connection Xmas party, which was held over at St Mary’s Center over in Lewisham.

However what is the Lewisham Mental Health Connection or LMHC?


Basically the LMHC are a group of people working in the voluntary sector who are committed to improving mental health in Lewisham. This is especially with the voices of those using the services and those who have important roles dealing with mental health.

To list some of the collaboration we have

Quo Vadis Trust, Equinox Lewisham, Healthwatch Lewisham, Bromley & Lewisham Mind, Family Action, Hexagon Housing, Animals for Therapy, Network Arts Lewisham, Voluntary Action Lewisham, Community Connections, This Way Up WellBeing, Volunteer Centre Lewisham, Lewisham Samaritans, Lewisham Parish, Sydenham Garden, Penrose and the Mental Health Providers’ Forum and myself.

So what happened on the day?

Well as I arrived at St Mary’s Hall, I could tell I was at the correct place because I could hear lively music coming from inside the hall. I managed to catch Charlotte Tarrant the Marketing Manager for Equinox, which provides support, care and recovery to people who are challenged by exclusion, marginalisation and a range of needs for special assistance such as mental health problems.


Charlotte was glad to see me and she was also greeting many others who attended the Xmas party.

More from Charlotte later. Eventually after a little chat I entered the hall to see that they were almost ready to start the Xmas party and celebrations.

The Lewisham Mental Health Connection have had such an amazing year in 2014 and coming off their Lewisham Mental Health conference 2014 which had speakers such as

David Robinson OBE, Co-Founder of Community Links
Dr Pamela Martin, GP Mental Health Lead for Lewisham CCG
Tony Holmes & Kirsy Giles from SLAM Recovery College Manager
Dr Jim Sikorsk from Sydenham Gardens

It was great that the LMHC, its supporters and clients took the time for an Xmas celebration.

Going back to the party, the first thing that caught my eye was the lovely Xmas picture up on the wall, which I had to take a picture of. I was reminded by Ingrid (Scheme Manager for a mental health residential project) that someone with lived experience had produced that picture.


Ingrid also introduced me to others at the party and the DJ also popped in to say Hi, but eventually I could not help notice some stalls at the back of the hall. I was intrigued as to what was in those boxes.

A lovely lady hosting the stall came up to me and explained that some animals were in the box and that she worked for “Animals for Therapy”. Here they provide companionship service, respite care, self-esteem for those suffering mental ill health.

The lady took a few animals out of the box to show me and although I was a little nervous at first, my curiosity eventually got the better of me, I began to be more drawn to the different types of animals and began to hover around different boxes to see what else was on display. The staff at the stall were friendly, professional and quite chatty.


Soon I started to see others at the Xmas party come up and stroke or touch some of the animals, which all were very behaved and I could almost see the warmth of affection and connection between the pet and the person touching the animal.


This is when Charlotte stopped by to say hello again and she also picked up one of the snakes to handle it. I was amazed to see how happy Charlotte was in handling the snake when I thought she might flinch from it, but this goes to show how different things are when you try to form a connection. I also took a snake to handle and see how it felt. The snake felt very smooth and light.

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You can find out more about Animals for Therapy off their site being


At the LMHC Xmas party I got listening to some nice lively music from the DJ and eventually noticed quite a few people were dancing happily, almost forgetting their problems or worries and just enjoying the moment. I noticed a few of my friends arrive and I popped over to say hello and also met a fellow mental health trust governor who also does work in helping those with lived experiences seek employment.


Some of my friends went over to experience the amazing connection of animal therapy. This was when John O’Sullivan the CEO of a charity and housing association called Quo Vadis Trust introduced the guests to the activities at the Xmas party.


I then took the opportunity to experience handling a bigger snake, which was a constrictor and this one obviously felt more heavy, but felt smooth and I could feel how slowly the snake moved, I think the pet snake was called “Bea”, I am not sure, but I was so glad to have the experience, I mean I know some animals are not for everyone, but none at the stall were harmful.


Soon I played some games, which were free to play and I began to feel as if I was part of the community, since I was having a great time. I felt wanted and noticed how people came together as a community who have been through tough times amazed me. We all contributed in the spirit of being together and either relaxing or doing activities. I felt my label as a carer was melting away as I really enjoying myself, although it was not always easy.


Next was to check out some more of the stalls and I found out that Bromley and Lewisham Mind had an information stall hosting a large array of useful information about mental health and Peer support group dates for 2015. I spoke to Simta from Bromley and Lewisham Mind about the different group activities for 2015 being walking, reflective writing, mindfulness and creative arts.

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Being that it was Xmas one booklet from the stall took my attention, which was title “How to cope with loneliness”. Now I know I was having a good time at the Xmas party, I know also that others were enjoying the festivities here and elsewhere, but I also know many suffering mental ill health are isolated, many suffer social exclusion, suffer mental stigma and are too afraid or worried to go out. Its important that not only those suffering mental ill health are giving information on how to cope, but also those who do not understand loneliness also have a read.


Xmas can unfortunately be one of the worst times for those left behind, because there is always talk about time with families and friends and this can upset those who are lonely.

We should spare at least some thought for them.

Going back to the LMHC Xmas party, after being served free Xmas dinner and chatting to some others, we had a raffle, but being a carer I felt it was time to head back although I did try and invite them to come along.

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I really enjoyed the event and It was a shame I could not record the other activities there since I did not spend as long as I would have liked. I thank the Lewisham Mental Health Connection team for spending such a massive effort to get the xmas party set up. There will be more projects, discussions and opportunities coming from the LMHC off one of their social media groups which is on meetup.com.

I cant wait to see what the journey is like for 2015.

Check out Lewisham Mental Health Connection online.

Lewisham Mental Health Connection

London, GB
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We are a group of people who are committed to improving mental health in Lewisham. We want to make Lewisham a better place for people with mental ill health, so we are collabo…

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PerPlexUs – MA Applied Imagination Degree Show Review

20141212_171149Welcome to another blog post on mental health and the world of caring from a carer’s perspective. You can check out my other blog posts which sometimes has posts about my thoughts on caring, mental health, reviews, videos and so on.  Now on this post I want to talk about another Art event I visited over at the University of the Arts London.

On friday 12th of December, I went along to the PerPlexUs, MA Applied Imagination’s 2014 degree show, which defies myopic ideology and social infrastructures. There were plenty of art exhibitions to view and I even managed to also stay for the talk by artists describing their projects and the work they have produced across the world via the power of collaboration. This talk was on “How can creative collaboration save the world?“.


Now I don’t know if you managed to view my site post about the Edward Adamson Collection Talk on my blog, but feel free to visit the site for the link below.



Going back to that talk I met a lovely artist by the name of Adele Orcajada at that talk done by Dr David O Flynn.  She told me about her project on the Masters Applied Imagination degree.

Adele told me about her interest which was on Yarn, where Yarn is a soft fabric used for knitting. Adele told me her philosophy on the texture, colour and uses for yarn.

I almost envied her passion for the fabric. So when she told me she was having an exhibition over at the University of the Arts London, I thought to myself it would be great to go over there and check her project out. Adele also reminded me that Dr David O Flynn was doing a talk at the PerPlexUs exhibition, so I felt it would be great to capture that as well, although unfortunately David could not attend that day due to an emergency.

Now going back to the degree show, I felt the main emphasis of that show was how art could heal and help people recover and connect with each other.

Still the PerPlexUs 2014 event also focuses on the students from the degree course raising projects to engage with many vital current issues and concerns from the personal to the global, being either gender issues, youth, well-being and so on.

If you wish to see the video version of my review of this event, please press play on the video below.

So anyway, as I approached Adele’s stand. Her exhibition was very impressive, I wished I had arrived a bit earlier to take things slowly and examine the stall even further. Each part of the stall told a number of stories and projects about the fabric, which is Yarn. Adele’s focus for her project was “Can Yarn achieve recognition as a distinct material that connects us to emotion, culture and identity?


Adele then explained to me a number of her projects, one being story book about different types of Yarn. The other being a journal being turned into a ball of Yarn, plus Yarn rings which I thought were very interesting. I was also amazed at how the project aimed itself on dementia issues, where Adele took her Yarn for patients to use, although some would just touch the Yarn and felt at ease with it so they could sleep.


Another thing that interested me at Adele’s project was the Yarn placed in bubble wrap, I was so tempted to press and pop the wrap, but thought I had better leave it alone.


Adele showed me the types of Yarn at her exhibit section and explained further the properties and texture of Yarn, she also encouraged me to touch each Yarn fabric while she explained how it was nice to pull the string of yarn or make something out of the it.


Unfortunately Adele was very busy that evening setting up much of the exhibition and also the talk on “Creative Collaboration”, so I took it upon myself to check out some more exhibits, I was hoping to hear more from Adele at the lecture theatre soon, before Adele rushed off, she invited me to touch and play with the Yarn some more and make my own thoughts about how the Yarn felt.

I also took the chance to go through her lovely stories about the pots of Yarn on her stall.

The Play Machine section by Ritika Jobanputra

So what was the next exhibit I checked out? Well I came across an attractive set of colours near placed near the wall. This was the “Play Machine” section by Art Student Ritika Jobanputra. Now her project aspect was on “How can the art of self-expression reach a wider audience of children through ‘play’ with sound and colour?


Here is a small explanation from Ritika herself, basically “Play Machine” is a low-tech creative, recreational and educational tool, which combines both sound and colour, giving children the opportunity to freely express themselves.

One of things that struck at the Play Machine Exhibit was the messages on the wall.

Where a quote read out “Through self-expression in play children resolve conflicts, express outwardly what they are experiencing internally” Erikson, 1977

I also took note of how the pattern’s of paint were painted on paper up along the wall as if it was done playfully, but also being rather attractive to watch.


I decided to also take a memento of the exhibit took a card on how I felt play was actually unproductive in a good way.


You are a “pack of cards” exhibit

One of the installations I stopped at before I got to Adele’s exhibit was one done by Mitchell Cutmore. His project was on “How can playing with personality help you play your cards right?” I was wondering why a large number of cards were placed on the wall.


This was rather perplexing, but when I approached to find out more information, the project explained that this was a grounding metaphor to help people know themselves better by playing card games to boost self-awareness. Here people can shuffle, split and personalize their personality and it is suggested the card game “Rummy” to do such a task.

I then turned to check out a large section of exhibits in the middle of the hall and I was drawn to an exhibit nearly laid out.

The “Work as we Play” Exhibit

The next project I saw was called “Work as we play”. Now this exhibit was done by Zerlyna Merilla and this project was on “How can gamification increase millennial employee engagement to the company?

Well this reminds me of Google, since I tend to feel they aim to merge work as if the employee was playing.

Zerlyna emphasis on this section is How that Work as we Play, is an internet-based system wrapped in a ribbon of fun for employers to engage their employees.


I did not spend too long at this exhibit, but being an IT person, I did attempt to create a character off the laptop placed on the stall.

The “Sound Hanger” Exhibit

I moved on to an interesting section that looked to be called “Sound Hanger”, this one was done by Kwan Hee Cho. Her project was on “How can multi-sensory tagging enhance the shopping experience for the visually impaired?“.

Here it is mentioned that when the blind pick out clothes, they know basic information about material and shape of clothes by using the sense of touch. Here this project provides a new shopping experience through hearing, transferring colours of clothes into sound, plus giving experience to sighted shoppers.


The Dialogue & Bridge Exhibit

I quickly then glanced and explored the project to my right and this was done by Dongran Li, which questioned “How can we break down the barriers and generate the new film co-production possibilities between the UK and China

I felt this was a fairly interesting project, which looked at how London is a global centre of production for screen industry, but Dongran noticed it was a good time for the Chinese film market to help develop fresh ideas.


The Contemporary Art Section

Soon I found myself at a phrase I recognised in the art movement, contemporary art. Here the artist Lujia questioned “How can online and physical space combine art environments to promote and develop communication?

Here this interesting project looked at blending the two elements of online and physical environments together, where art does not just exist on the internet. I felt the project was attractive and nicely laid out.

As I looked around the large hall, I kept noticing this sign placed around the place. It looked to be tribal or almost some far eastern symbol. I wished I had asked someone what it was or what it stood for, the symbol was certainly perplexing.


Polymeric Islands exhibit

Eventually I found myself attracted to another symbol and was interested in the word below the symbol called “Join the resistance”. When I stepped closer to examine the stall, I noticed it was completed by art student Jennifer Glein where her project focused on “Can a surrealist approach towards ecological messaging engage people to rethink attitudes and altar their behaviours towards the plastic polluted oceans?

Ok, ok….that was a long project title, but I guess there are quite a few around.

So what does this polymeric islands mean?

Well I read that this project is concerned with individual action and aims to show that action DOES count. In fact, it proposes that this is the only way in which change can come about, where one person changing one small part of their world, again and again……I like that.


The project looks to attack the problem of consumerism and our ecological myopia.

I spent quite a while looking at the Polymeric Landmark placed near the exhibition.


The Kibi Schultz Installation

The next installation was done by Kibi Schultz. I was really impressed by the use of space and colour and the closer I got to the display, the more I saw the message about the exploitation about female children’s bodies, this being on the topic of Female Genital mutilation and the pressure to change their bodies.


The Consumption exhibit

A few steps away was another exhibit,  visitors to the exhibit were asked “What is your inconspicuous Consumption?“.

Going back to the large sheet of paper on the wall, I did not really know what my inconspicuous consumption is or was. So I just noted that I agreed with someone else’s view.


The Self-acknowledgement stall

Out of all the stalls and exhibits that drew my attention, there were 4 of them and although my main interest was in Adele’s stall, this one by was close to my field. Here at this exhibit the project was on “How can self-acknowledgement through the help of a psychologist lessen people’s emotional sufferings?


Here this project asked if people ever considered consulting a psychologist and looked at the stigma and embarrassment of those who were too afraid to admit this. Here this exhibition has a blog to help raise the awareness of mental health and I glad to see an exhibition whose core aim was mental wellbeing, the project also has a blog, which I not managed to get hold of as yet.

Who is the next Ai Weiwei? Section

One of the last exhibits I checked out was compiled by Belinda Shi whose theme was on “Who is the next Ai Weiwei and can western audiences explore Chinese contemporary art beyond the political perspective?

What impressed me at one of the last installations I visited was how engaging Belinda Shi was about her work.


Belinda took the time to explain what her exhibit, which allowed people to tear off or cut off the paper on the wall to reveal cards on Chinese art.

You can find out a bit more on Belinda’s work off her facebook page.


Cutting the sleeves Section

Next to Belinda’s work was Yinghui Cao’s project looking  at “Cutting the sleeve – How can Chinese gay men be encouraged to refuse sham marriages?”.

There was a video of a young Chinese man cutting off some clothes from what I believe is an ancient Chinese story was mesmerising.

The project is a campaign to encourage Chinese gay men to be honest with their sexuality and refuse to get married to straight women in sham marriages. This perhaps might be the situation in China, where pressure is placed on many to marry, but I guess the same can be in the west on some circumstances.

The talk

Well I visited a few more installations and exhibits, obviously I could not visit all of them and I am sorry I could not mention any more artists since there was so many to mention, but all the stalls and exhibits offered something for the viewer, but now I want to move on to the next part of the Perplexus art event at the University of the Arts London

This part was the talk about how creative collaboration can save the world

We had several hosts at the talk, who were so happy to see people coming together and being creative and where there are ways making people think in a new light. The thing is that socialising can be a creative process and bring a community connection.


At the talk we got to hear from 3 students the first being Adele who talked through a cycle of pictures each representing her projects. Unfortunately the pictures cycled fairly fast, so I could not capture all of them, but for Adele her projects were on


1. Using Yarn to make Tangible network
2. An Unmake project where old sweaters are turned into to new sweaters to aid recycling
3. The Awareness champion of a person knitting as he walks to raise awareness of dementia
4. Sharing messages to the world
5. Turning stories into yarn, mainly because people couldn’t read her writing

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We also got to hear from 2 other artists.

1. The use of the Imagination symbol
2. Workshops on recreation of old
3. Creating art on the cups to enhance objects
4. Projects portraying the Art of history
5. Examining the paintings of Mary Dubin’s sea horse

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1. Rehabilitation on child abuse
2. Somewhere over the rainbow.
3. Daughter working with the artist on FGM awareness
4. Raising awareness of the wasting of water
5. Inconspicuous consumption – old clothes to new clothes innovative.

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Next we heard from the 3 artists at the panel who two I have briefly mentioned already.

The first was Regina frank 


Now Regina talked about on one project where she Worked on an art piece for 28 days to emulate the workers on slave wage. E.g. developing country workers.

She talked about how she has travelled around the world while using the internet as digital information and found words that she felt she had some connection to.

Made a kimono out of her favourite text while over in Japan


Went to Atlanta to make an art on a game where no one wins, felt amazing experience of people contributing on poetry.

One project was on a Mushroom dress where mushrooms were grown on a dress and shared with others.

An interest project using sound where she used Cracking out from a mould and also used the sound of cracking the fruit open and painting with it, the sound was an amazing experience for Regina.


Another project was on the Powerful perspective of painting a brush on a dress, how the brush moves and not us. If you want to hear more about Regina’s work then visit her site at http://www.regina-frank.de/

We then heard from Maria Dubin

Who told us of the experience she had when trying to explain to a big company about a piece of art work, but it showed how difficult it is to make an art piece. The problem was on how nobody understood her about how hard art is to make. Something was wrong. Now Maria wants to be part of the world, no more artist language, she felt she spent too long with other artists.


Her mission was not to be so private, but take her art studio out into the world. Into museums.

Her Studio was also taken into a hospice, and although as we know people die there, the project was challenging on how art would be taken to a place like that, but maria was nervous about the interest.

Maria found out she was in dialogue with other people, she noticed art can HEAL.

Maria also painted sea horses near business, which helped a business because people wanted to have their picture taken by the seahorse.


Seahorses painted around the world, seems to be connecting people and she has made film “sea horse symphony.

Feel free to check out Maria Dubin’s site at http://www.mariadubin.com/

The last artist on the panel was Jazz Rasool 

Now he Works with people a lot on transforming their skills. Jazz spoke about his transition model which has 3 processes, where the first is Awaken then collaborate and transform – ACT


Here on this model, it is a Working wheel, where each Spends time in each cycle, but relies on it to build up momentum.

In order to be creative, have intent, cook it, transform it.
Explains a bit on Awakening cycle, connecting better with yourself and the world around you. Half of the cycle is about waking up.

He the moved on to the collaboration cycle, where he explained on the use of committing to collaborate with others, half the cycle is cooperation and building of trust of people. Need commitment, but can lead to bigger things as influence the world as a whole in itself.


Jazz warned on avoiding the competitive cycle, this is where you go in reverse, which is backwards, the thing is we need to contribute.

The last cycle was the Transformation cycle, but half the cycle is planning, but after a while this turns into action, and if this is done well it can lead to impacts and that is done really well it can lead to another spin of the cycle.



I am sure I have missed so much out of Jazz presentation, but you can read up on more of his ideas at http://www.jazzrasool.com/

After the talk, I actually got involved in the event with the students where we participated in several group workshops. One was writing a word or phrase that can relate to the community in which we are drawn to. We then used the words or phrases of other artists to make a story. We then moved on to learning about our abilities and talents and learning about other people’s talents who are opposite from us, but also opens up room for learning from our weakness.

The last section was connecting with each other through A web of Yarn, each with a different colour, texture and length.


Overall I enjoyed the event and to be honest this was the students final projects before they graduated and I wish them well with their future projects on pushing the boundaries of art, using art to make a statement or activism, help raise awareness with art and most importantly experiencing creativity in their lives where art helps them in their journey.