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The Arts and Sciences converge to explore mental health issues

A unique arts science performance partnering Cambridge Neuroscience with the local Charity Squeaky Gate brought together scientific researchers, individuals affected by mental ill-health and those working in a mental health setting.

Collectively the group captivated public audiences and gained a slot on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme.

Inside an Unquiet Mind II, a Squeaky Gate production in partnership with Cambridge Neuroscience was hosted at Pembroke College, Cambridge on the 18th and 19th March, 2011 as part of the Cambridge University Science Festival. In total, the show was performed four times, with a packed and enthralled audience at each show.

Squeaky Gate is a Cambridge based charity aimed at empowering people through the arts. Cambridge Neuroscience is a designated research strategic initiative at the University of Cambridge, bringing together over 650 neuroscientists affiliated with the University of Cambridge. The Cambridge Science Festival is one of the largest free public festivals celebrating the sciences and engaging the public with current scientific issues.

A collaborative combining of forces produced an ecclectic public event: Inside an Unquiet Mind II was set in a day room of a psychiatric hospital with the audience participating in a powerful piece of musical theatre. Creatively choreographed musical performances expressed some of the experiences of living with mental ill-health. The issues covered were those raised by the members of the group themselves. Performances included all three groups participating in the project, including Cambridge Neuroscientists: Emmy Goodby, Helen Dolling and Helene Gautier.

The event also featured episodes of ‘Neuroscience Today’ presented by Hannah Critchlow with special guests Jesus Perez, Graham Murray and Belinda Lennox providing an overview of mental health through the ages, and discussing their current research aimed at improving diagnosis and treatments for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The world premieres of A Kettle of Fish, The Peoples Project and Drown the Clown were screened at the event - providing a video insight into living with mental ill-health.

Audience feedback indicated that 85 % of people had learnt something new about current scientific research into the brain and mind with 77 % of people stating Inside an Unquiet Mind changed their perception of people with Mental Health issues.

 Examples of Audience Feedback:


"It was powerful drama because it had authenticity. Good to see professionals and users working together as equals. Very creative. Insightful answers to some of the questions at the end."

"Extraordinary insights. When is the next production? Have spread the word through networks."

"A totally brilliant evening. Congratulations to EVERYONE!"

"Excellent event. I brought my teenage children (14 & 16) who have little experince of the science or the experience of mental health and they found it very interesting and talked about it for some time afterwards. It especially challenged their preconceptions about mental health."

"Althogether an excellent production and I would fully encourage / welcome more creative projects like this, to be kept informed and to be involved in a minor way."

"We totally enjoyed  it!  The cocktails were delish - and funny.  The performance was both terribly thought provoking and interesting and fun. The scientist's input was very easy to grasp, and interesting. The music was amazing and the singing brilliant!"

"'Unquiet Mind' was fantastic - very memorable and unique format! Felt very lucky to get one of the posh seats in the middle of the action!"

Participating Neuroscientists:

"Mind-blowing ***** (5 stars)"

"I have to admit that the experience taught me a lot about my own prejudices (which I am ashamed to admit) and sensitivities to public opinion, helping to understand some of the difficulties involved in living with these debilitating conditions.  Perhaps part of our fear stems from unfamiliarity, combined with a fear of losing oneself? I hope to figure this one out one day".

"The experience was rewarding in many ways. Artistically of course but as, if not, most important were the interactions and the exchanges with the group. I enjoyed it so much that I want to continue being involved with Squeaky Gate!"

"I really like the project of combining the inputs of different group of people for a common cause. As a scientist even if my main research topic is not closely related to the topics dealed in "Inside an unquiet mind" (I'm doing fundamental research related to multiple scleroris), it give an idea about the reality to live with mental health illness. An opportunity to see behind the scientific terms and realise that there is human beings suffering. It give also some extra motivation for my personal research. May one day what I'm discovering now will be helpful for patients."

"Firstly I found it a very inclusive and friendly experience that was easy to get involved with.  I learned a lot from the people I met, and hope to see them again soon.  Second, everyone involved was very creative and threw themselves right into the project, which made rehearsing so much fun: after a stressful day I found coming to Squeaky Gate was the best kind of therapy, I left on a high every time.  Last but not least, the commitment of Simon, Beth, Nicola and all the volunteers really shone through the whole project as it came together: they were awesome."

Participating Cambridge Neuroscientists in this project included:

Dr. Belinda Lennox, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough National Health Services Foundation Trust

Ms. Emmy Goodby, Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Graham Murray, Behavioural and Clinical Neurosciences Institute, Department of Psychiatry,  Cambridgeshire and Peterborough National Health Services Foundation Trust

Dr. Hannah Critchlow, Cambridge Neuroscience Strategic Manager

Ms. Helen Dolling, Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Dr. Helene Gautier, Department of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Jesus Peruz, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough National Health Services Foundation Trust

To listen to the Today Programme feature, by Science Correspondant Tom Fielden, click here

This event arose from a collaboration between the local charity Squeaky Gate and all of it's participants, including the Artistic Director Simon Gunton, and Dr. Hannah Critchlow on behalf of Cambridge Neuroscience. Thanks go to Alex Buxton from the University Press Office for her enthusiasm for the project and in attracting BBC Radio Four press attention. With additional thanks to Drs. Petra Vertes and Naaman Tammuz at the Brain Mapping Unit for the use of their scientific images to accompany ‘Neuroscience Today’ and to Pembroke College for generously hosting this event.

If you would like to get involved in future Cambridge Neuroscience / Squeaky Gate collaborations please contact:

coordinatorATneuroscience.cam.ac.uk and infoATsqueakygate.org.uk.

Posted on 29/03/2011

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