Together News – Henry Hawkins Lecture Series 2023 – An evening of inspiration and hope

We were delighted to welcome a wonderful diversity of guests to Together for Mental Wellbeing’s Henry Hawkins Lecture yesterday evening.

A blog by Together Chief Executive Linda Bryant

The lectures are being held in the name of our founder, the Reverend Henry Hawkins. Over 140 years ago he inspired the local community near to the asylum at which he was the chaplain. He reached out to the local citizens who, in turn, reached out to the women and men in the asylum that wider society had turned its back on – giving them hope for a future that most of us take for granted – a place to live, a meaning and purpose to life, friendship.

Henry was brave and courageous, as were the volunteers who offered to help – in modern day terms, he understood that to experience mental distress was a health and social care issue, not to be stigmatised, attract prejudice and not acts of criminality requiring incarceration.

The event was thought provoking and insightful exploring the topic of art and mental health and the importance and positive impact that art in all its forms has on our mental wellbeing.

Having developed a wonderful partnership with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama https://www.gsmd.ac.uk/, we hosted the event at the Guildhall’s Milton Court Theatre which we were delighted to see was near capacity with attendees. The programme included original spoken word and music curated and performed by alumna and students studying at the Guildhall on the theme of art and its relationship with mental health.

Our first keynote speaker, Dr Simon Hackett, Consultant Art Psychotherapist, reflected on the power of art therapy to heal for people in our institutions. In response to the compassionate values demonstrated by the Reverend Henry Hawkins, Simon told moving stories of hope, recovery, and agency from his unique perspective of having worked alongside people during his 20-year history within the NHS. He spoke of art enabling people to be in silence, to connect and to enable shared experiences and of critical research he is currently undertaking involving a full clinical trial of interpersonal arts psychotherapy, something which he has been developing within his current NHS Trust.

Angela Samata, founding member of the Speakers Collective, member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention, and BAFTA nominated documentary maker, took on us on a journey of hope as our second speaker. She generously shared her personal experiences of bereavement through suicide, and the healing power of art in her life, expanding the theme to challenge us to create places of beauty and art to give hope for people in hospital settings including the work of Hospital Rooms https://hospital-rooms.com/  – artists working closely with patients, staff and NHS Trusts to create unique, world class and site specific artwork.

Artwork from people who use Together services, along with the wonderful print donated by Sir Antony Gormley, were exhibited at the event as a way of showcasing the fantastic talent amongst the people we support, whilst demonstrating the positive impact art has on mental wellbeing.

I left the evening struck by how our history never ceases to amaze – how strongly that history resonates and continues to inspire others. This includes the generous the donation we received from Sir Antony Gormley, the Sculptor, and the White Cube gallery, which was funding the event. The donation came at a time when we needed to feel some hope – when we were all grappling with the early unknowns of Covid, worrying about keeping people safe and well and wondering what the future held. This is why we want to hold events like this that remind us of the importance of the positive impacts that we can all have on each other’s mental wellbeing by acts that inspire others and give hope.

Linda Bryant

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