On Saturday 21st April I attended my first Mad Pride. Mad Pride is an annual event hosted by LMHC (Liverpool Mental Health Consortium), this is its third year in Liverpool. Mad Pride has its roots in Toronto, Canada where it began in 1996 and is now a worldwide movement made up of service users and their allies setting out to raise awareness, erase the stigma surrounding mental health and to celebrate “Mad” culture by reclaiming the negativity surrounding mental health and “owning” it in a magnificent gesture of defiance.
A host of talented and varying acts, including Katumba, Loose Moose and our friends, the Strumbrellas, a ukulele group comprised of service users from the PSS (Person Shaped Support) wellbeing centres were part of the line-up; a graffiti wall where we were encouraged to record our feelings on mental health and wellbeing and how or whether we perceive the arts to help our wellbeing, – these reflections would be written up as a song and performed later; craft making stalls; food and drink stalls; a Fancy Dress Parade and a fabulous finale culminating in a march led by Katumba and including fire dancers and giant lanterns.
I went along to help my friend Marc, of Marc Fraser Media who had been commissioned by LMHC to photograph and film the event. Marc is a very talented photographer and film maker and I dabble in media through my involvement in Well Pool but I’m very much a novice and technophobe. So I was surprised when Marc invited me – it’s rather like Steven Spielberg asking Miranda Hart’s comic persona to help him out. So whilst he was kitted out with all the accoutrements you would expect from a pro, I was equipped with a Samsung tablet, because that’s how we roll at Well Pool! And as the theme was Circus Of The Absurd, we’d been encouraged to come in fancy dress so I was dressed as a ringmaster/lion tamer in a bright red tail coat jacket and mini top hat!
I was nervous on many counts; my inexperience at filming and photography might compromise Marc’s film, my outfit was gaining a lot of attention (I generally like to disappear in the background) and would I have a huge meltdown and panic attack as I coped with the crowds expected that day? Did I mention that I too live with mental health illness – my diagnosis being Anxiety and Depression? This would be my first foray into the world of festivals and events since the last century. I was beginning to wonder why I had agreed to this torture as my worst nightmare seemed about to unfold.
I needn’t have felt so nervous as the crowd (I’m informed there were over 600) was brilliant, well-behaved and friendly. The acts were hugely entertaining and everyone had a fabulous time, myself included. Sarah Butler-Boycott of LMHC made me feel very welcome, ensuring I was fed and watered throughout the day and checking on my welfare at regular intervals which I found very sweet, touching and caring of her. Claire Stevens also of LMHC introduced herself and said she recognised me from Twitter, and yes I’m still basking in that life validation.
So the day was a triumph, the best thus far for Mad Pride, Liverpool and for me too!
I got on with the job in hand, snapping and filming away. Some of my photos are attached below. My results are unremarkable (I’m under no illusion about that) but they’re fabulous, documentary evidence that I was at Mad Pride “owning” my own madness.
I faced my fears, looked them bravely in the eye and worked with them like a true lion tamer. I even got the runner-up prize in the Fancy Dress.
There was no panic attack, just a glorious feeling of triumph and a sense that, if we come together and unite in our madness there will be a better, brighter future.