The Colour of Madness: One Year On
On 1 September 2018, we published The Colour of Madness, an anthology exploring Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) mental health in the UK. The book featured the art, poetry, stories, and essays of over fifty contributors*.
Far from being a one-off publication, The Colour of Madness has taken on a life of its own. We have given talks, spoken on panels, and run workshops at universities, festivals, marketing agencies, council events, and more. Edinburgh University students took our stories from the page to the stage, and our contributors have been making waves across the country. Our book is now in the hands of so many people we admire, from Jackie Kay, to Sharmaine Lovegrove, to Reni Eddo-Lodge. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve all been up to!
We are working with the Institute of Mental Health on their NEON (Narrative Experiences Online) study. The study is running from 2017–2022 and looks at how personal recovery stories may help those with psychosis and improve the way mental health workers support them.
In particular, we are supporting their aim to “focus on stories from people whose voices are seldom heard by mainstream cultures, and gathering them together to form the largest and most diverse online repository of mental health recovery stories in the world.”
We are delighted that some of the stories and experiences featured in The Colour of Madness will be used in the study.
Some of the talks and workshops we’ve given:
We’ve been invited to give plenty of talks about BAME mental health in the UK, including with the staff at Manning Gottlieb, participating on a panel hosted by London Southwark council, and chairing a panel on BAME mental health at Resisting Whiteness, along with the writer of our foreward, Dr Guilaine Kinouani.
We were delighted to hold a miniature book launches at Sheffield Hallam University and Brixton Library, as well as delivering workshops for children and young adults at Black Girl Festival, the Black Girl Festival x Becoming book launch event, and with gal-dem working in partnership with Penguin books to celebrate the launch of Michelle Obama’s autobiography ‘Becoming’.
We have brought our workshops on the power of tears to grassroots festivals such as AWomenFest and Decolonise Festival, as well as to multiple universities and secondary schools across the UK. We also were invited to deliver a workshop at the Nightline annual conference, providing training and facilitating discussion with the Nightline volunteers about cultural competence, and how to provide support to minoritised mental health sufferers over a phone line.
Cassie Addai and the Words of Wellbeing Book Club
Cassie, the author of On Becoming A Psychologist, has been using The Colour of Madness to support the wellbeing of young people. In her placement with the BME Access Service, Cassie had the opportunity to share The Colour of Madness with students at Tower Hamlets Recovery College. She set up a book club, Words of Wellbeing, where she works alongside one of the peer tutors to facilitate discussions on pieces from the anthology each week over six weeks.
In addition to this, since contributing to The Colour of Madness, Cassie submitted her thesis on Young People’s Experience of Undergoing the Refugee Family Reunion in the UK. She passed her viva and will become a qualified clinical psychologist later this year! She is looking forward to moving back to Edinburgh where she will be working in a psychology team in the Scottish Borders.
‘As a contributor to The Colour of Madness, I have a personal connection to the book, which has motivated me to share it with others in my work as a trainee clinical psychologist. I am currently on placement in the Tower Hamlets BME Access Service, which aims to make psychological therapies more accessible and culturally sensitive to the needs of the diverse population of people living in Tower Hamlets. This area of East London is ranked the 16th most ethnically diverse in England, it has the largest Bangladeshi community in the country and two-thirds of its population identify as ethnic minorities.
During this placement, I have been involved in developing a book club called Words of Wellbeing. This project has been co-produced with students and peer tutors from the Tower Hamlets Recovery College. The Recovery College aims to promote mental health recovery and wellbeing through education and learning. It offers a variety of free courses and workshops, which are open to anyone who lives, works or studies in Tower Hamlets.
We are piloting Words of Wellbeing as a six-week book club that meets in the Recovery College library. We chose The Colour of Madness as one of two books to read and discuss together over the six weeks. Unlike ‘traditional’ book clubs, we take things at a slower pace with no pressure to read the whole book; each week we choose a small section of the book, which the facilitators read aloud, whilst the group follow along with their own copy. We have met for three sessions so far and, on average, we have had 12 people attending each week, making it one of the most popular projects run by the Recovery College.
The group who attend Words of Wellbeing is diverse in many ways — including age, ethnicity and experience of mental health. We found Samara Linton’s Editor’s Introduction informative and engaging in setting the scene. Some people vividly related to the experiences of institutional racism it detailed, whilst, for others, this was their first introduction to the uncomfortable relationship between racism and the mental health system. Despite varied experiences, people have been keen to listen, discuss and share respectfully with one another.’
Piece: He Was Red That Day
Since being featured in The Colour of Madness, Andrés has been published by 404 ink (“We Were Always Here: A Queer Words Anthology”) and has published numerous articles on diversity & inclusion, queerness and mental health with The Skinny and Medium. He is an active member of the Scottish BAME Writers Group at the Scottish Poetry Library.
Pieces: Daily Reminder and The History of Yellow
In the last year, Avila received funding from her university to expand her small greeting card business — Avila.Diana. She has grown her collection and is working to have her cards stocked in stores. Avila has used her business to advocate for mental health and create dialogue around the lack of representation in the greeting card industry. She was invited onto BBC Radio to discuss the importance of her work and you can listen to her interview here:
Tim Daykin — Greetings cards for minorities — BBC Sounds
Catch up on your favourite BBC radio show from your favourite DJ right here, whenever you like. Listen without limits…
Louisa Adjoa Parker
Piece: Boiling Kettles
In the last year, Louisa completed her Arts Council-funded literary project, For the Love of Words, where she delivered workshops in prisons, schools and community centres. She has also delivered mental health and creativity workshops at Tate Modern and Tate Britain, as well as creative writing workshops with young people for Face Forward.
Louisa has also written a pamphlet inspired by a dear friend who took her life after a long struggle with mental illness. Her third poetry collection, How to Wear a Skin, will be published by Indigo Dreams this autumn.
She also recently became Custom House’s first-ever writer-in-residence and has partnered with Louise Boston-Mammah to co-direct The Inclusion Agency, a new diversity consultancy for arts and heritage projects.
Louisa explained that she had a couple of particularly bad mental health episodes this year. “Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming, but I am beginning to be more accepting of what is, and becoming kinder to myself.”
Louisa is expecting her third grandchild this year.
Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa
Piece: The Stigma of Suicide
Since contributing to The Colour of Madness, Kal has performed and released several collections of poetry. He describes his work as:
“A rambling love letter of sorts and thoughts to the city of Derby and it’s wonderful folk, which follows the life of a Derby boy. Touching upon identity, community, culture and many other things that define and strengthen the man that he has become.”
Haania Amir Waheed
Piece: Things My Therapist Does Not Know
It has been an eventful year for Haania. After graduating with a BA Hons in Creative Writing and Literature from Warwick University, she completed her Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) at the University of Law and plans on beginning her LPC and LLM degrees in September. She also taught Advanced English to foreign students at the International Summer School of Scotland (ISSOS) at Queen’s College, Cambridge. There. she was able to mentor a brilliant group of young people and inspire them to write and perform their own spoken word in front of an audience of 200.
“I have always been the mentee in these situations and had inspiring teachers,” she explains. “To be able to mentor, inspire and care for my kids from the other side has been an unparalleled experience, and I have learnt so much from my students. It has also inspired me to write more (after almost a year of struggling to write!), and I have started entering writing and poetry competitions once again. So, here’s hoping the writing progresses.”
Thank you to the bookshops who have stocked and supported us, notably including the independent bookshops who have personally made us so welcome: Lighthouse Books, Housmans Radical Bookshop, Peckham’s Review Bookshop, and New Beacon Books.
A special thank you to all our contributors, without whom The Colour of Madness would not exist. In alphabetical order:
A. K. Rogers
Andrés N. Ordorica
Avila Diana Chidume
Diljeet Kaur Bhachu
Dwight Andre Reynolds
Fahmida Liza Khan
Farrah Riley Gray
Gold Maria Akanbi
Haania Amir Waheed
Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa
Louisa Adjoa Parker
Merrie Joy Williams
Niki M. Igbaroola
Olorunfemi Ifepade Fagunwa
Tajah Aleya Hamilton
Tobi Nicole Adebajo
And all contributors who have chosen to remain anonymous.