Monday, 21 July 2014

boy did we beat the blues!

It began with an idea.

I had realised that, as a contemplative, reflective person who is not one for the rallies and protests, but for the poems, the words, I am often not actively involved in the myriad causes one could support with one's presence. As a person with limited financial resources, I haven't the means to give to these causes in support of the active ones in our community, or not as often as I would like. One, in such circumstances, might give in to guilt or complacency, either response to one's situation not at all helpful.

So I looked at what I have, what I can offer as a contemplative, reflective person - my poems. What resources do I have? My gifts as a storyteller and story hearer. How will I use what I have to more actively participate in my community in response to stories of brokenness into which I might offer words and acts of healing?

I decided that in order to give money, I would need to stop spending it on something else - and shaved my head for lent (click to read more of that story).

Sarah Williamson,
Solidarity & Justice officer for the
Uniting Church in SA designed our promotional
materials & created an interactive space
in which to name our anger & pray for healing
And I decided that as some of the poems in my book give voice to experiences of depression and healing, I would like to share that story more widely, invite others to hear my story, in case it might be encouraging to them. I found a couple of friends who also wanted to invite this sharing of stories for mutual encouragement and healing, and we dreamed up 'Beat the Blues'.

Over the past few months, we have collaborated together and with others to create yesterday afternoon's interactive arts space to beat the blues together. Did we ever!

Kylie Brice and band
Kylie Brice's lyrics and marvellous voice, supported by a band of equally talented musicians, spoke of depression's impact on friends and family, and on life's repercussions for depression's ebbs and flows.

I found the way we had structured Kylie's songs to be interspersed with my poems a gentle, honest, at times confronting but ultimately hopeful invitation into story - ours and the stories of our listeners.

Damien Tann, beyondblue speaker, shared his story, too - the importance of hope for his journey towards health and wellbeing; the importance of community, family, connection; and his need to use language of survival rather than suffering in order to stay positive and well. We all agreed afterwards that the direct story as told by Damien provided a balance for the songs and poems to which Kylie and I gave little or no introduction.
Damien Tann

The Cafe at The Corner Uniting Church provided their usual excellent fare of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milkshakes and cakes - for gathering together is always enhanced by eating together!

People were provided with paper, pencils, clay, with which to respond creatively as they entered the stories, and many took up the invitation. Booklets included space for imagination and creativity, and lyrics from some of our songs and poems.

Sarah (there were two Sarahs on the team) provided an interactive station based on a creative worship space she had seen from Cheryl Lawrie, which invited folk to name the anger and pain we often feel in response to depression, anxiety, and suicide. And folk took up this invitation, too.

We invited those who gathered to write a name, names, or a word of hope, on a leaf to hang on our tree of life - with thanks to Beth. Not all of us pinned a leaf to the tree, and some pinned more than one. It felt hopeful simply seeing the bare tree transformed to life with the green leaves added.

After the formal program, people stayed and mingled, and conversation flowed for at least half an hour more. I heard that in this space folk had been both confronted and encouraged. One was inspired to return to her own poetry writing, and another expressed gratitude for the invitation to create. Many told of the way they had been moved by the honesty and artistry they had experienced. And many expressed a desire for another space like this in the future.

We raised $130 for beyondblue - not much, perhaps, in the scheme of things. But more importantly, people had the chance to gather together, to give voice to the difficult stories and discover they are not alone, to imagine together healing and hope. beyondblue is all about hope and resilience, mutual support and encouragement. Please call or go to their website to access help and resources if you or someone you love experiences depression or anxiety.

It began with an idea. It began with my story, and reached out to connect to so many more, and together, we beat the blues on a wintry Sunday afternoon in Adelaide. Thank you to all who played their part.

beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 |

lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide: It's No Secret :

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