Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Music therapy - Olivia & Finding Frank

Olivia Bradbury is a musician and performer, who uses music as a therapeutic tool, who recently moved to Powys from London. She has considerable experience of working with people in mental distress. She tells us more about her past work, her play 'Finding Frank' which will be staged in Hay-on-Wye in June 2015, and her hopes for the future.

Olivia leading an orchestra
About me

I am a musician and creative facilitator working for the past few years mainly in mental health settings. This is where I am most interested in working and where I feel music is badly needed. Music workshops provide a way to connect with people who, for whatever reason, struggle with communicating their feelings. I have found that if patients and service users can find ways to speak through making music, they generally feel happier and consequently feel more motivated to take a positive, proactive approach to improving their mental health.

Olivia conducting the Crisis Choir
My workshops

My workshops provide environments in which participants feel supported to express what they want to express through the more abstract route of music/poetry/rhythm which may feel safer and more satisfying than communicating verbally. I provide starting points for participants’ ideas and frameworks in which their ideas can grow. This helps people not 
to  feel overwhelmed by the freedom of creativity. This careful balance of structure versus freedom is something that is tricky to get right and I have spent years trying to achieve this!

Too much freedom = overwhelmed, too much structure = stifled. I feel this is what is special about what I can offer and what is central to the nature of my workshops.

Olivia in 'Finding Frank'
My play

One of the places I have led workshops in London is Bethlem Royal Hospital. Here I met an elderly man who was suffering from severe anxiety and depression which was having a devastating effect on his communication skills, his memory, his relationships and his senses.

Over six months I saw him improve. It was the most rewarding experience of my career so far. I was so moved by what I saw in this man that I wrote a play about it -  'Finding Frank'. I had questioned whether making music did anything significant in the past, but this confirmed my belief that it most certainly did. This man was transformed! He used to get lost walking from the music room back to his ward, but not after the music work. He began communicating with his wife again and he was remembering how to play chord progressions on his guitar having initially described it to me like holding a foreign object - like an aubergine! He was cracking jokes, looking at me in the eye... I won’t say what else he achieved as I don’t want to ruin the story if you come to see the play.

When the funding cuts hit, I lost my work at Bethlem. Many who work in the arts have lost work over the last few years and it is only depriving thousands of people from a way of healing which is natural, sustainable and life enhancing. The play draws attention to this issue and my touring the piece is my way of building up awareness of the importance of music in treating mental health. 

Whilst making Finding Frank, I carried out many interviews of other people. I ran workshops with people who lived with mental health issues. I wanted to hear as many people's stories as possible - of their experiences of their minds and of their interactions with music. I learnt a great deal and felt very lucky to be able to gain this insight. I used audio clips of some of these interviews in the play (with their permission) and those that were featured came to see it and told me they were "proud to be part of a genuine piece" that talks "fearlessly and respectfully" about mental health. I felt very relieved that they approved! It was music that brought me close to all of these people. Music which is a bonding and unifying experience for any that get involved in it.

And now?

I have just moved to Powys after 11 years in London working in this field. I would love to continue my work here but need to find opportunities to do so. I know that organisations have an allowance for workshops but I know that funding is tight across the board. If you work for a hospital that would benefit from some musical activities and/or know of how I could source some funding to carry on with my work, I would love to hear from you!

For more information about what I have been up to and for contact details do have a look at my website.

Finding Frank is on at The Globe Theatre in Hay-on-Wye for three nights - 18, 19 and 20 June. Watch this YouTube video made for the production in London:

No comments:

Post a Comment