I formed the self help Group, High Peak Writers, in 2001 in order to relieve those suffering from mental distress through creative writing in a safe and supportive environment. The Group was funded, until recently, by the Primary Care Trust and meets every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month on a Tuesday night from 4pm onwards in the Old Hall Hotel, Buxton, Derbyshire; it will be funded, in future, by the Mental Health Federation. The Group obtained funding through the Awards for All Scheme to write a radio play on a mental health theme in 2003. This Project was completed, with the aid of local playwright, Alan Ogden, in 2004, when the Project was abandoned as the play was not of sufficient length for radio. As I felt the play had potential as a vehicle for educating people about mental distress, I applied for funding from Derbyshire Community Foundation to have it adapted for stage and performed in the Buxton Fringe Festival. Derbyshire Community Foundation gave the Group full funding as they felt that it was such a good Project. The play ties in with the 'time to change' Campaign, which was launched in England, by all the major mental health charities, to challenge the stigma associated with mental distress and raise awareness of mental health issues. The Group had written the play based on their experiences of psychiatric services. I asked Caroline Small, local playwright, storyteller, performer and theatre educator, whom I had met on a play writing course in Buxton some years earlier, to direct the play and adapt it for stage for the the Buxton Fringe Festival in 2010. I obtained the usual funding from the PCT for the Group and obtained further funding from the Mayoralties Charity for the rehearsal room for the play. Caroline and I worked together to recruit local amateur actors for the stage play and we engaged a local professional actress, Fiona Paul, to play the lead role. The play was a huge success as it was performed on both nights, in July 2010, to a packed venue with even some people standing during the performance. This is highly unusual during the Buxton Fringe Festival, especially as the play was not performed in one of the key Fringe venues. The play had 2 very good reviews and, overall, the Group only made a small loss financially. I asked a local film-maker, James Lampard, to film the play on both nights and the dvd is now ready and nearly as powerful as the live performance. In 2009 I also obtained funding through the Open Up Initiatives Scheme to have the play professionally recorded involving as many service users as possible. The recording of the play was completed at the end of June 2010 and broadcast to a small appreciative audience in Buxton Library on 9 October 2010, the day before World Mental Health Day. In order to recoup the cost of providing the buffet and producing the cd for the launch of the radio play adn High Peak Writers' website, I sold some of the cds for £5.00 a copy and so far I have managed to obtain £95.00 in cd sales. The Group also produced a booklet of their work and, at one point, we had screenplay tuition from a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, Charlie Moritz. Some of the Group in the past have performed in the Eagle Hotel in Buxton on the 3rd Thursday of each month, but the venue has recently changed to the Milton's Head Public House in Buxton. I resigned from High Peak Writers as Secretary in 2010 and I am no longer part of the Group.
My poetry has been published approximately 40 times. I won a prize at the Lancaster LitFest in 1999, judged by Jo Shapcott, and one of my poems was recommended for the Forward prize by The Journal. Some of my work has been digitised by the South Bank for their Poetry Library. I have been published twice by Cyphers in Dublin. I produced a CD of my poetry in 2002, Mono, and I have sold over 30 copies. My work was included in an exhibition which toured Derbyshire in 2002. I have run a number of workshops over the years for members of High Peak Writers and I have been on many writing courses. I have been involved with TheFED, a network of writing and community publishers, since 2008. It is now entirely run by volunteers and has its own website, emagazine and 14 member groups, some of which are known as 'survivor' groups. TheFED also has over 50 individual members. I am currently Membership Secretary and Treasurer of TheFED.
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