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After a successful pilot event last year, The Mother Lode Project announces 14 new workshops for mothers experiencing mental health challenges as a result of motherhood.

Mother lode: a principal vein or zone of gold or silver ore, or colloquially the real/imaginary origin of something valuable or in great abundance.

The aim of this project is to extract the gold from challenging experiences of motherhood by giving opportunities for mothers, who may be experiencing mental health difficulties as a result of motherhood, to work with artist-mothers with lived experience of similar issues. A series of creative writing & photography workshops at the De La Warr Pavilion Studio will be led by writer Antonia Chitty and photographer Vicki Painting for a group of mothers, resulting in a publication of their work & a podcast series. This will raise awareness of the hidden issues surrounding motherhood & mental health focusing on a lifetime of mothering not just pregnancy & birth, exploring expectations versus reality & the resultant impact on their mental health.

Working in partnership with Recovery Partners, who will provide trained peer support within the sessions, each workshop will be held in a safe, confidential space at the DLWP Studio. The project aims to give voice to a diverse group of mothers at all stages of motherhood, whose experiences may not otherwise be heard & connect them with professional women artists exploring motherhood. Women artists are still underrepresented in the art world & those who are mothers face additional barriers to creating work, so we aim to champion their work & increase visibility & confidence.

Childcare bursaries are available for mothers with children aged 0-5 depending on participants’ needs, as well as travel bursaries for low-income mothers. We aim to reach a diverse group of mothers from Rother & Hastings, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+, women of colour, bereaved, adoptive, kinship carers, refugee, migrant, disabled, autistic & mothers of disabled children. Anyone who identifies as a woman with caring responsibilities is welcome.

There will be additional peer support sessions at Egerton Park Children’s Centre in Bexhill and opportunities for mothers to get involved in the podcast series, which will be running throughout the project. The podcasts will consist of conversations, readings & musings about motherhood & mental health by talking to local mothers and those from across the world in collaboration with Spilt Milk Gallery.

The Mother Lode Project was conceived & is coordinated by Xaverine M A Bates, as a means to channelling her experiences as a mother with lived experience of mental health issues, to enable others to express difficult & taboo feelings about motherhood & to help them overcome challenges through the creative process. By enabling mothers who are struggling with mental health issues to tell their stories in ways that have both artistic quality & therapeutic benefit, we hope to raise awareness of the hidden challenges of motherhood, in order to help others understand & empathise with these issues. There is more work to be done in raising awareness of the mental health challenges that many mothers face & we are researching other projects championing artist-mothers including Spilt MilkProcreate ProjectMothers Who Make, An Artist Residency in Motherhood and Mothers Uncovered.

The project is funded by Arts Council England, Mind and Magdalen & Lasher Charity. For more information, see: themotherlodeproject.com.

Overview of workshops

Tuesdays 10am – 12.30pm

PHASE ONE: 12th February: introduction to the project

Vicki Painting, photography: 26th February, 12th March, 26th March, 16th April, 30th April

The main theme of the workshops will be that photography can have a protective function, that by placing a camera between ourselves and the subject as a kind of shield and by photographing something we objectify it, this allows a sense of distance from the subject of the picture to create a safe space to discuss/write about it. The workshops will end with self-portraiture. Themes will include:

  • Making visible the invisible. Through the use of photography in the widest sense:  the pictures that people take themselves or use of archival/found photography to voice what might be difficult to put into words.
  • Discussing a photograph that participants find meaningful & introducing the idea of keeping a photo diary
  • To explore self, identity and memories: as a bridge between our conscious and unconscious, internal and external worlds using still life; a genre which includes a portrayal of all kinds of man-made or natural objects
  • Photography as a distraction, people become photographers and control their activity.
  • Photography as a means of creating order: the use of the camera may be a less spontaneous way of working compared to other creative outlets and provides a more structured means of expressing ideas and emotions.

Vicki Painting is a photographer & writer.

Peer support sessions at Egerton Park: 19th February, 5th March, 19th March, 2nd April (at The Work Shop), 23rd April, 7th May

PHASE TWO: Antonia Chitty, creative writing: 21st May, 4th June, 18th June, 2nd July, 23rd July

Overview: to create a story from medical records. Aspects of a person’s story can be found between the pages of a medical record, yet medical records are about the patient, not the person, for the practitioner, owned by the NHS. People can feel that they are being processed by the UK healthcare system, passed along some conveyor belt and dumped out the other side without any sense of control or resolution. People have a fundamental need for perception of narrative within their own lives, a plot with a beginning, middle and end. The workshop would explore how mothers can create their own ‘creative’ medical record that tells their story and gives them the control and resolution that they need in their health care journey. Techniques explored: free writing, an introduction to each topic, a short exercise, discussion/sharing, a reading of an inspiring piece of work, then a longer piece of writing followed by a final discussion/sharing. Ideas for the topics:

  • The referral letter – writing about yourself in the third person & discussion about people’s experiences of being referred, writing the letter we really want to write to someone involved in our healthcare.
  • The consultation – using dialogue on its own – a chance to take control of a conversation with a medical professional in a way that you may not have done in the past.
  • The setting and the senses – using the five senses to explore how participants feel about their medical encounters.
  • Medical imagery – writing from a range of images as a starting point for writing.
  • Medical tests – talking about the experience of being tested. This could cover tests which aim to evaluate your mental health, and/or physical diagnostic tests, depending on people’s interests and experience.
  • Everyone taking part would be supplied with a folder – their own medical record, which they can customise and keep their work in.

Antonia Chitty is an entrepreneur, author & journalist.

Peer support sessions at Egerton Park: 14th May, 28th May, 11th June, 25th June, 9th July, 16th July

30th July: Final session: overview & evaluation of project

30th September: presentation of project at DLWP Studio for participants and arts & mental health professionals

NB: participants can choose to participate in either the photography or creative writing workshops or both, as well as the peer-support drop-in sessions and podcast series depending on interest & availability. Please ensure you are able to commit to all chosen sessions for continuity.

For inquiries and to book a place, contact Project Coordinator Xaverine Bates:

x.m.a.bates@recovery-partners.co.uk 

07736967764

Image Credits
1st: Vicki Painting
2nd: Xaverine MA Bates
3rd: Xaverine MA Bates
Flyer: by Wordsmith Design

Posted by Caspar Jayasekera on Monday 21 January 2019