A three-part interview with Hastings-based Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists 2018 winner. By Caf Fean

Hastings-based artist Becky Beasley enjoys digging into all aspects of the human experience to inform her creative practice. She expresses these discoveries through sculpture, installation and photography. Becky is committed to drawing our attention to the importance of supporting well being. Mental health, the success of the Observer Building with Jess Steele at the helm and securing the future of Coastal Currents through community action are topics we covered over coffee at her cosy home in St Leonards.

Part 1: Mental health and survival through creativity

“The award came at a huge crossroads moment for me and allows me to freely take the fork I most wanted for my work and life. I believe the award came now because of my inability to give up or compromise against the odds, particularly since the birth of my son four years ago. My mental health difficulties have been my greatest adversary and my greatest strength. The award is utterly empowering at this newly mid-career moment.” Becky Beasley, Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists statement

Becky has been living with mental health difficulties for 27 years. “Multiple times, I might not have survived. It is a big and poorly understood issue for many, which is why I mention it in my Paul Hamlyn Award statement.”

Unafraid and happy to share her experiences with friends and colleagues, Becky takes a truly inspiring approach, transforming her darkest experiences into a call to action. “Any moment you feel isolated by society or your community means that you are now being distinguished by an experience that offers you an opportunity to do something really extraordinary. I’m 43 – I’m proud of what I’ve done in my career despite all my individual difficulties.”

With mental health, every little thing that happens to you informs your own personal skillset – it offers great opportunity to give something to the world – a voice – if you can find it. I want to raise awareness in order to improve outcomes for people suffering mental health issue and enable them to thrive. Discussion, awareness and understanding is vital in supporting vulnerable people. Communities of support are essential as others people’s reactions play a huge part in ongoing illness, but equally in the possibility of being well. The best advice I would give to those unsure how to react to someone struggling would simply be to only respond, “Are you ok?”, and “Can I help?”. Generally people are unsure or reluctant offer help in one way or another which compounds the suffering. I said terrible things to my boyfriend in the course of peri-natal depression and he learnt to simply give me a hug and tell me he loved me. None of it made sense to him, but his unconditional compassion was the key.  Misunderstanding around how simple it is to help those struggling with mental health within society is isolating so many people of all ages. Being kinder towards each other is also a huge part of how I see a future for all the younger people who have suffered terribly this unprotective early period of a digital world.”

• Read part 2 here
• Read part 3 here

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