Bill Ryder-Jones presents prize at “Mental Health & Me” awards

This week kicked off with “World Mental Health Day” on Monday: a day celebrated in more than 100 countries around the globe and supported by the United Nations and World Health Organisation. The Liverpool Mental Health Festival 2016 marked this very special date with a raft of events such as the National Mental Health Football Championships at the Goals Soccer Centre in Netherton, organised by festival partners Everton in the Community.

The day also saw the awards ceremony for the ‘Mental Health and Me – Faces, Places and Spaces‘ competition and the launch of the accompanying anthology of pieces by the shortlisted writers. One of the festival’s centrepiece events, the awards were held at Central Library with festival Patron Bill Ryder-Jones in attendance.

Many of the writers joined an excited audience to read their work from the stage and it was a truly moving and uplifting occasion – uplifting, despite the painful experiences and situations which were explored in the writing. The standard of the shortlisted work was excellent and the empathy, support and encouragement in the room were palpable.

The winning writer was Marian Carey for her piece ‘The Thousand Natural Shocks’ and the trophy was presented to her by festival Patron, Bill Ryder-Jones. Bill, who had arrived early to make time for interviews before the event, took time out for an open, refreshing and uplifting talk on stage with Claire Stevens, Development Manager of festival organisers Liverpool Mental Health Consortium. Whereas Q & A situations can sometimes feel slightly stilted, this one was the opposite: the interviewer and interviewee had an obvious great rapport and Bill came across as an insightful, warm and, above all, “real” person.

He shared his tips for dealing with nerves when performing in public; his own writing and the role it plays in his life – including how it relates to his own depression and dissociative disorder; the relationship of his lyrics (which he says don’t come to him naturally) to his music (which flows through him all the time), and what it was about Italo Calvino’s book ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller’ that moved him to compose an ‘imaginary film score’ for it – the wonderful album ‘If…’, on which he worked with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

The event concluded with an opportunity for the audience to talk to and have their photo taken with Bill. Claire Stevens, Development Manager at Liverpool Mental Health Consortium, said: “Tonight is a festival highlight: we’re delighted to acknowledge the sheer amount of talent among the competition entries with the awards ceremony and the anthology. Our thanks go to all writers, everyone involved in tonight’s event and to our festival Patron Bill for making this such a special night!”

Liverpool Mental Health Consortium, a user-led charity and community of service users, voluntary and statutory sector providers and commissioners, has coordinated this free festival programme and will promote all events and activities.

The full Liverpool Mental Health Festival 2016 programme is available here: http://www.liverpoolmentalhealth.org/festival/