From our Artistic Director: Powerful Dance for Mental Health Month

The phrase that underlines much of the programme at Bell Square is ‘stories that affect us all’.  It’s well known that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, so it’s clear that almost all of us will have some experience of mental illness, either ourselves or in someone we know.  And we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. 

So Witness This, on 20 October, turns the spotlight on mental health in a moving and emotional portrayal of how loved ones cope when mental health problems take hold of someone close.

Witness This is a powerful and very personal dance piece that tells the story of choreographer Kevin Edward Turner following his journey and struggle with Bipolar. 

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Kevin founded Manchester-based Company Chameleon in 2007 with his friend Antony Missen.  He believes his own mental health problems started when he was a teenager but he did not recognise it as depression.  Five years ago, he had a crisis and was sectioned in hospital in Manchester.  It took almost a year to recover his mental and physical health and return to the company.  Devising Witness This was part of that recovery process. 

Kevin says, ‘I’d hit my rock bottom and I had to put all the pieces back together.  What helped me most is my family and friends.’  The show looks at the impact of mental health on individuals and relationships along with the crucial role of support and understanding on the road to recovery.  He says, ‘The work embodies what I witnessed, both real and imaginary, in my ill-health, and also what my loved ones witnessed whilst I was ill.’

 The dancers in the piece create a sense of the world around him, as he struggles between the real and the imagined.  Their world is also filled with many emotions – the company describe the piece as touching, sad, funny and absurd.  But overwhelmingly, the piece is about the love that those close have for him. 

Witness This introduces ways of talking about how mental health problems like this can affect us all.  Kevin says, ‘In making this work, I want to contribute towards the debate and understanding of mental health problems, and challenge preconceived notions of what is still, in some ways, a taboo subject.  I would also like people who are still struggling out there to realise that things can change, and it is possible to find happiness and health again; that it can be managed.  If I can get better, so can anyone.’ 

He also says, ‘I hope the work encourages people to share, talk and have a better understanding of their mental health.’ 

After the first performance of Witness This on Saturday, 20 October, there will be an informal workshop called Share This.  It is a session about self-expression through writing.  Kevin, the choreographer and one of the dancers, will talk about his own experience of making the show.  There will then be a response to the performance from local poet, Quddous Ahmed of Poetical Word, and some top writing tips from blogger, Eva Koegan. 

Witness This will be performed twice on Saturday 20 October, at 1pm and 3.30pm at Bell Square.  It lasts 30 minutes.  No booking required – it’s free.  Just turn up! 

Share This runs 1.30 – 2.15 pm (at Bell Square). It’s free and you can just turn up, but it would really help us if you could book your place here in advance.

This event is part of ThriveLDN Culture, a festival developed by the Mental Health Foundation and the Mayor of London, to enable Londoners to share their experiences and perspectives on mental health.