Our big week

13 July 2017
By Sarah Hughes

The first week of July feels like it has passed by in a bit of a blur: the Centre went live at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, and held a storming event at Portcullis House to launch our report Against the Odds. The team worked so hard to pull this together and I am so proud of what was achieved!

We were inspired to sponsor the garden because the story conveyed by designer Fredric Whyte was a compelling account of recovery and offered us a unique opportunity to have mental health conversations with a new, wider group of people. We were kindly supported to do so by Dame Sue Bailey, Lady Elizabeth Vallance and another friend of the Centre, and over the last few months have been working together with the Benton Brothers on the plan. We’ve put together a collection of photos from the event here.

Launch day came round quickly and the buzz around our garden was extraordinary. We were lucky to have had Kelly Brook, Neil Laybourn, Paul Scates, Shona Davies, Hope Virgo, Denise Welch and Clarke Carlisle as our ambassadors and it was an extraordinary experience to work together, celebrating what makes a difference to our wellbeing.

Throughout the day our ambassadors shared with us their own thoughts about mental health and wellbeing and we will be sharing these across our media channels next week. It was amazing fun but things didn’t always go to plan, batteries dying and technological limitations added to the drama, we even did Facebook live which was a first!

We were joined by marvellous volunteers throughout the week, the staff team donned our new Centre t-shirts and spent a gloriously sunny week speaking to visitors about mental health, wellbeing and learning how to pronounce the tricky Latin plant names. Jeana, Geena and Jess also had a very brief shot on BBC2 when our garden was visited by Diamond Hill.

We also didn’t want to miss out on the launch of Thrive London and so we also hosted the first problem solving booth, this was such a great experience and we were delighted to support such a powerful initiative alongside the garden. Thank you for collaborating with us, Charlie from Owls!

It would also be remiss of me to mention that On the Edge also won a Silver Gilt award which is a huge honour especially for Frederic Whyte and Charlie & Adam Benton. I hope by being involved, some of the glamour rubbed off on us at the Centre – it certainly felt that way.

It’s important to thank lots of people, including our staff, trustees, and our amazing volunteers. We were of course not the only sponsors and we’re grateful to all the other organisations and people who made this wonderful experience possible.

Thank you to all those people who spoke to us throughout the week and through social media; we shall soon be offering some insights following the 1,000 conversations campaign. There were some very emotional conversations where people shared their mental health story and some amazing wellbeing declarations. Here is our tree of hope crowded with people’s messages, such an uplifting image.

It’s also hugely important to talk about the launch of Against the Odds, a powerful report documenting the evaluation of the Birmingham Up My Street Projects funded by Mind. The report highlights the stark mental health inequalities faced by young black men, and explores interventions to improve their resilience.

Nathan Dennis from First Class Legacy opened the event by inspiring the audience to think about achieving change through interventions that are psychologically informed and based on the principles of love and acceptance. One of the key elements I took from Nathan’s speech was the power of recognising people’s assets first; it changes the whole dimension of any psychological intervention.

We were then lucky enough to have a performance from the Lightpost company from Birmingham Rep entitled Zulu. It was an astonishingly well written piece that conveyed the complexity of racism through the generations and the impact and wear and tear on relationships and identity. The company are very talented and it was totally appropriate that they had a standing ovation. It was possibly the loudest meeting I’ve ever attended at Portcullis House and I believe we raised the roof with passion and talent!

We then heard from Lorraine Khan about the key findings and our recommendations. It was great to hear from the partners how valuable it had been that Lorraine was so connected and open to the feedback, ensuring a truly coproduced experience. I know that the peer researchers Alex, Trizzy and Kyle have been fundamental to the success of the project and we hope to work together again.

Marcel Vige and Karen Mellanby from Mind also reiterated their commitment to the findings and described the future collaboration with partners to establish the project’s legacy. Lots of questions about the role of faith, local authorities and funding continued once the formal event came to an end. We hope people made connections and felt inspired to take our recommendations forward.

Of course, it was also business as usual for the team and it’s important to say thank you to all the staff who have worked so hard to carry us through such a busy time. It was a marvellous week of conversations and big ideas, and the work carries on…

Thank you to Frederic Whyte, Benton Landscapes, SureSet, London Stone, Deco Cemento, Barcham Trees, DK Taylor Landscaping, Barcham Trees, Kettler, Urban Trees, Infotex and KJB print

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