• Dials Team

Mental Health, Dials Festival and why sharing is important

Dials festival started as a response to long-time fixture of the Portsmouth music scene Southsea Fest taking a year out. A gang of us who worked on Southsea Fest thought we should keep the space in the annual diary and make sure we kept the new music going in the city. Southsea Fest has since left us but other great festivals have joined the Portsmouth musical calendar, notably Icebreaker in January, Psych Fest in May and of course the biggest event of the year, Victorious in August.

However, we wanted to evolve our baby festival and make it’s purpose multi-pronged. The reality is there is little money to be made in live music (only by the very lucky few- there’s a whole other blog in that, but listen to Steve Lamacq’s excellent interviews on the BBC6 music podcasts if you’re interested in that kind of thing) so we wanted to switch our M.O. We were keen to keep our ethos of ensuring we were entirely inclusive in our booking policy, in particular checking our gender balance, but it became about more than that. When it was suggested we become entirely in aid of a charity it was incredibly easy to choose our charity partner, Solent Mind.

I have had depression for years and in the last few years also developed a stonking side dose of anxiety to go with it. It’s not something that is going to go away for me but is largely manageable. I go through large periods of time when I lose interest in everything, including all the things that normally give me joy. I can’t watch films, I don’t interact with people and I certainly don’t write a blog. Hell, even eating or washing is a monumental chore. Don’t even talk to me about sleep.

I have been keeping my head above water (largely) for the last year, but it really has taken some effort, a lot of time on Wysa and Headspace and some (gasp) actual therapy. In the last couple of weeks some (real-work) colleagues have been on mental health first-aider training and two of them have approached me asking if I’m OK. The truthful answer is not always, but I am getting there. I just have to be aware that there are days when I’m not and look after myself when they arise.

It’s not really a surprise that I have struggled maintaining good mental health as this is definitely something that runs in my family. My brother has depression, anxiety, PTSD, body dysmorphia, social anxiety and a range of other wonderfully debilitating issues which mean he struggles with daily tasks. He has lived with me for years now and hasn’t had a full-time job in a long time (there is again a whole other blog that could be written on the battle we have had with the DWP, two tribunals and ongoing issues with access to psychological therapies).

My grandmother attempted suicide in her 80’s. I say ‘attempted’ but in reality the big overdose of pills she took was (almost definitely) responsible for her death a few months later. She had clearly had undiagnosed mental health problems for most of her life as she also rarely left the house and struggled with relationships. Her death left my Mum struggling with a bout of reactive depression. More recently my Dad was diagnosed with dementia and his mental health has deteriorated very rapidly, so it really has become a family affair.

Music has always been hugely important to me throughout everything. In retrospect I think I was probably also depressed as a teenager, but music and art had always been an outlet for me. Indeed for a while I was playing guitar, singing and getting out gigging with friends. Fellow musicians were also using music as an outlet and it was seemingly an unwritten rule that you had to be battling some demon to be a musician (or in true cliched fashion thought it might get you boys/girls). Some of those friends lost the battle with their demons along the way.

Mental health and music are intertwined. Listening to music can make you feel uplifted, connected and can be a truly cathartic release. One of my biggest pleasures is singing loudly while I’m driving- it’s not quite writing the next great song, but it makes me feel better. Recognising you might need support is also important in that link.

Dials partnering with Solent Mind was an entirely logical step for the team. They offer a range of services from advocacy and talking therapies to peer support and sign-posting. So many of the musicians we work with have an immediate connection to the charity and have been really vocal in their support, some even waiving their fees to play for the festival. Some of our team and some of the musicians involved will be sharing their stories over on our website over the coming weeks, which we hope will help encourage other people to come forward and share their feelings too.

The festival website is here https://www.dialsfestival.com/ 

If you are struggling and are in need of urgent help there is tons of useful information here: https://www.solentmind.org.uk/our-services/urgent-help/ 

Fellow Dials team member Robin shares some thoughts here 

For now I’m doing OK, but do get in touch if you’d like to talk.

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