Wednesday of this week was World Hearing Voices Day – and possibly the worst day this year weather-wise. It rained and rained, there was a blasting cold wind, and the skies were looming and drear. But all was not lost as it was also the date set for the Many Voices Festival (celebrating WHVD), put on by a wonderful group of people working in the mental health area, and hosted by CHO.
I have rarely been part of a more enjoyable planning group, and the festival itself was such a gorgeous tonic. There was music, theatre, an art show, screen-printed t-shirts, opportunities for folk to have their say, a chill out room, drumming, henna tattoos, meditation sessions, wonderful food, creative activities, a sense of fun, second-hand clothes for sale, two showings of the film Healing Voices, and such a sense of warmth and life and openness. The day ran from 2 – 10 pm, and I mostly attended after work. It was great catch up with those who came along – those who hear voices, those who support them and those who wanted to learn more – and to participate in some of the Festival’s activities.
The evening highlights included a wonderful theatre performance, The Voices of Tali, presented by Melbourne-based performer Tali Brash. It was such a moving and enjoyable show – with appearances from her various ‘voices’ – the wise old woman, the little girl, the Broadway star/hopeful, the tough guy, the shadow side (the bitch), and my favourite, the anxious and fearful Gail. Gail is Tali’s accountant, and she was so endearing and recognisable. One of the strengths of the show was the audience participation that was encouraged in such a relaxed way – and Gail was in the thick of this, with a fabulous interchange with audience member Robert which culminated in other members of the audience producing a paper and pen so that Gail and Rob could exchange phone numbers. The way the performance normalised the idea of hearing voices, and the recognition and affirmation that people attending received from the show was truly moving and uplifting. I had no idea what the show was going to be about, and I was just so thrilled to have had the chance to see it and be there.
Other highlights of the day were the participation of so many people, and the lovely folk who attended. CHO was responsible for providing the food; and many CHO members made and brought food (bless them all!) and Richard’s TAFE class pulled out all the stops too, and sourced donations from a family member’s fruit and veggie shop, from Zack’s pizza place and from Cibo’s, and made and brought food too, so we had just excellent nourishment throughout the day, physically as well as in every other way. Lauren, one of CHO’s current Social Work students did a great job in the creative area, making and assisting with strength flags and getting feedback from participants. The rest of the organising group, Matt, Jess, Sarah, Andrew, Suze, Richard, Stephanie (and I hope I am not forgetting anyone) did so much to create the very special atmosphere, and the community members who attended really had a great time I think. It’s yet another example of what can happen when a group of people get together and work together to make change.
I didn’t take many photos on the day – which is a shame, as it all looked great, but you can watch Matt’s video from the Many Voices Facebook page, and I’ve snaffled a few more snaps from the facebook page also. Bravo to everyone who participated in any way!