love hastingswhite logo                                By Pete Donohue

The Hastings & St. Leonards community has a history of all-inclusiveness and speaking its mind that stretches back over many years. Through 2017 we continue that tradition and in these times of politically motivated national divisiveness coming from central government and prejudiced media, many of us remain determined to baulk such negative trends. This seaside town celebrates difference and its people are not afraid to ‘speak their mind’.

Mental illness is an aspect of modern life that affects one in four of us in any given year. As society moves away from past ignorance and stigmatism around this inevitable adjunct to the human condition, it is surely time for us all to join in the conversation. Here is your chance to do just that, and at the same time, partake of the best party in town to open the Hastings 2017 festival season. And it’s all free!

Thursday 2nd February is Time to Talk Day a nation-wide push to get people talking more openly about mental health for one day. Organised by Time to Change, the campaign to change how we all think and act about mental health problems, led by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, this celebration has been embraced by our own mental health awareness campaign ‘Love Hastings Love Yourself’.

It’s all happening locally at The Palace on White Rock with an exciting all-day marathon of open mic music and poetry performances on the main stage, with simultaneous workshops going on in the back room. This event starts at 11am and continues right through until midnight with a grand finale at the end. All are welcome and The Palace has full disabled access and a loo equipped for disabled use. The day is designed to be all-inclusive and family friendly and The Palace has a restaurant licence which allows children and those under 18 to attend up until 9pm.

Time to Talk Day aims to get as many people as possible across England talking about mental health. Since its launch in 2014 it has sparked millions of conversations in schools, homes, workplaces, in the media and online. It has attracted support from celebrities such as Freddie Flintoff, Stephen Fry and Frankie Bridge. Time to Talk Day 2017 aims to get the nation talking about mental health for at least those 24 hours of the 2nd February. Hopefully those conversations will continue as our society accelerates its cultural shift away from past ignorance and judgmentalism towards a new era of openness and acceptance around this issue.

Sharon Rhodes, Local Time to Change Champion Coordinator told HIP: “Hastings is taking part in Time to Talk Day because mental health is a topic that we should all feel able to talk about. Having these all-important conversations can make a big difference to so many people. The more we talk the more lives we can change.”

Su Barnicoat of Hastings Voluntary Action (HVA) is the inspiration behind the ‘Love Hastings Love Yourself’ campaign. She told HIP: “Our campaign will join hundreds of other groups, organisations, schools and members of the public, who will all be having conversations about mental health on Time to Talk Day. We will have an interactive nationwide Time to Change map on the wall of the back room at The Palace counting how many conversations Hastings has had that day and we really want to get Hastings high on that map. If people can’t make the event and still want to help banish the discrimination and stigma attached to mental health, they can log their conversations on the day at: www.time-tochange.org.uk.

The free workshops start at 11am with an hour of mindfulness meditation followed by a 1 hour workshop with Recovery Partners Peer Support. From 1.30pm – 3.30pm well-known Hastings singer-songwriter Anita Jardine will be leading a songwriting workshop for all abilities, from absolute beginners through dabblers, to those who simply wish to hone their skills or get involved with other like-minded creatives. Songwriters taking part will have a chance to perform with Anita on the main stage at 4.30pm with all contributions equally valued. There will also be a Pinhorn Theatre Drama Workshop. The full itinerary will be available in publicity material nearer the day and on: www.timetotalkdayhastings.weebly.com

The entertainment itinerary, hosted by our own inimitable Ukulele Dave, kicks off with acoustic music from Anna Page at 11.30am and rolls on as follows: Moderate Fantasy Violence (music), Clifford Bevan (poetry), Seaview Choir, Lily Kim (music), Elizabeth Francis (poetry and song), David Francis (poetry), Songwriting Workshop Production, Mark Sheppard (song), Anita Jardine (music), Hannah Chalmers (music), Tune Up Tuesday Choir, Ed Mayhew (music), Oresome Sounds Choir, Eleanor Lynn Angela Greg Mulhern (music), and Joe & Dave (music). That takes it up to 8pm.

Two and a half hours of music follow with The Seatones, Katie-Louise Wren, Andrew Voyce and Jamie, Kat Lee Ryan, and Andrew Harston. At 10.30pm expect some hard-hitting performance poetry from this HIP writer including a poem written especially for the event. Ukulele Dave will then get the audience swinging before performance poet Ross Andrews-Clifford takes the stage. And at 11.30pm the grand finale will be led by Dave Wilson and friends.

It’s going to be an amazing day and, as Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, reminded HIP: “Mental health problems are common and can affect any one of us, yet too often people are afraid to talk openly about mental health for fear of being judged. Time to Talk Day is a chance for everyone to open up about mental health – to talk, to listen and to change lives. We want to get the nation talking around the clock, whatever the time, whatever the place, wherever you are – it’s easy to take part and make a change.