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Creative Writing Workshop 20.10.17

By Jane Warwick

Perhaps the weirdest thing about attending the Creative Writing Workshop is that it didn’t feel weird at all! There we were, a group of academic researchers and our young advisors, sharing emotional stories in order to jointly write a poem (yes…a poem!), as though it was the most normal thing in the world. Perhaps it should be? Perhaps, if we opened up and shared our innermost feelings more often, we’d see that the barriers we often perceive to be between us, aren’t actually there at all?

The workshop started with the facilitator instructing us to imagine a time when we felt very low and to write a few short sentences on how it felt. As prompts, we had to describe ourselves, in that moment, as an animal, a colour and so on. We were everything from roaring lions to wriggling worms, from middle aged academics to youth mental health service users, from grim grey to no colour at all, and yet our answers were remarkably consistent; it didn’t seem to matter what journey had led each of us to the place of despair that we described - the impact on “self“ was almost exactly the same.

I left the meeting totally in awe of Joelle Taylor (the incredibly talented author who facilitated this workshop) and of the young advisors who shared their personal stories during the day. I was also filled with hope, we CAN do this you know…this TED talk. We’re going to shock, challenge, guide… ruffle feathers, upset the status quo, speak truth to power…but maybe… just maybe…ultimately…we will actually change the world!

Creative Writing Workshop Eve 19.10.17

By Jane Warwick

So the great day is almost upon us....the “creative writing workshop”...and I still can’t fathom what on earth use I’m going to be. It’s the young people’s voices that we want to hear after all (not mine...a vintage number cruncher!) Ah well, at least it will be something colourful to add to my CV, a human anecdote to contrast my usual cold calculating science. (But hey, that’s allowing myself to slip into lazy cliché…contrary to common belief, scientists are not actually unfeeling robots!!)

So anyway, on the eve of the workshop I’m wondering whether we even know what is it that we want to convey when we deliver this TED talk. How it is to have to change your mental health therapist simply because of your age maybe? I guess it must be like falling off a cliff....and hoping that someone or something will break your fall. But maybe that’s too simple...and heroic. Perhaps the reality is a whole lot darker...

I shudder, sensing that being a pawn in such a process must be rather frightening, reinforcing feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness, making young people believe they are no more than a box to be ticked, or a problem to be moved on.

If all goes to plan by the end of tomorrow I will know the answer...I will have heard our young advisors’ stories…I will know how bad it feels. Yet still a part of me wishes to retain the defence of ignorance. Isn’t there enough misery in this world, my world, for me to sit out of this particular problem? Something in my conscience says “no. Our young advisors and study participants are sharing their hearts and their hurts in the hope that by doing so something good will come of it. The very least we researchers should do is stand with them.

It shouldn't happen to a university research team… part 1

By Jane Warwick

I have to be honest and admit that when I got an email inviting me to a public engagement and dissemination meeting re one of our clinical trials my heart sank. Why on earth would I be needed at something like that? And how on earth might I contribute?

Feeling distinctly like a spare part, a distant cousin invited to the wedding out of completeness, I made moves to wriggle out of it…but the senior researcher was having none of it. My presence was required and it was left to me to imagine how my magical aura, my alleged gravitas, was going to positively influence things (and yes, I am being sarcastic here!).

And so, I arrived at the meeting, relieved to find tea, coffee and biscuits (if nothing else, at least it’s a tea break!). I sat at the end of the desk furthest away from where I expected the action to be, expecting to be a placid bystander.

Our colleagues from External Affairs ran through the options. There was a definite age divide in our knowledge and habits…with the young ones enthusing about TED talks (which I’d never even heard of) and highly dismissive of newspapers (which explains why circulation figures are still falling). It was surprisingly easy, however, to narrow down the options to essentially a TED talk and a play. (Yes, you did read that right…this bunch of academics and their young advisors are going to write a play!!! I mean, we write for journals all the time so this is the obvious next step…just a little stretch…not a leap of faith into the darkness armed only with a sprinkling of self-belief and a modicum of talent.)

This is one of the reasons I so enjoy working with this team. It is young, vibrant, unschooled, open to new ideas and free of shackles. There is no clinging to old ways because there are none…we are frontier pioneers setting out on our next adventure. The MILESTONE team are going to script a TED talk and write a play.