Creative writing and photography workshops designed for motherhood and mental health

By Xaverine Ma Bates

I conceived and coordinated The Mother Lode Project as a means to channelling my experiences as a mother with lived experience of mental health issues. We want to enable others to express difficult and taboo feelings about motherhood whilst overcoming challenges through the creative process. By enabling mothers who are struggling with mental health issues to tell their stories in ways that have both artistic quality and therapeutic benefit, we hope to raise awareness in order to help others understand and empathise with these issues. 

Mother lode: a principal vein or zone of gold or silver ore, or colloquially the real/imaginary origin of something valuable or in great abundance. [Wikipedia] 

The aim of this project is to extract the gold from challenging experiences of motherhood by giving opportunities for mothers who may be experiencing mental health difficulties as a result of motherhood to work with artist-mothers with lived experience of similar issues. A series of creative writing and photography workshops at the De La Warr Pavilion Studio will run from 12 February to 30 July, led by writer Antonia Chitty and photographer Vicki Painting. 

The end result, a publication of their work and a podcast series, will raise awareness of the hidden issues surrounding motherhood and mental health focusing on a lifetime of mothering not just pregnancy and birth. It will explore expectations versus reality and the resultant impact on these mothers’ mental health. 

Working in partnership with Recovery Partners, who will provide trained peer support within the sessions, each workshop will be held in a safe, confidential space at the DLWP Studio, giving voice to mothers at all stages of motherhood whose experiences may not otherwise be heard and connecting them with professional women artists exploring motherhood. 

Childcare bursaries are available for mothers with children aged 0-5, as well as travel bursaries for low-income mothers. We aim to reach a diverse group of mothers from East Sussex, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+, women of colour, bereaved, adoptive, kinship carers, refugee, migrant, disabled, autistic and mothers of disabled children. Anyone who identifies as a woman with caring responsibilities is welcome. 

There will be additional peer support sessions at Egerton Park Children’s Centre in Bexhill and opportunities for mothers to get involved in the podcast series, which will be running throughout the project, consisting of conversations, readings and musings about motherhood and mental health from mothers across the world in collaboration with Spilt Milk Gallery.

NB: participants can choose to participate in photography or creative writing workshops or both, as well as the peer-support drop-in sessions and podcast series depending on interest and availability. Please ensure you are able to commit to all chosen sessions for continuity. 

• For enquiries and to book a place, contact project coordinator Xaverine MA Bates: [email protected] or telephone 07736 967764

The project is funded by Arts Council England, Mind, East Sussex Arts Partnership and Magdalen and Lasher charity. For more information, see: themotherlodeproject.com


BOSS MOTHER
By AR WORDSMITH
Mother lover, the other mum 
Do shit and get shit done 
Am I any less of a mum 
Because I have a fag break
In between playing ladders n snakes
Wake up early and stay up late
Raising a child can be really bloody great
But it can also be hard
Teddy bear picnics over dinner up the Shard
We dance to hip hop as well as baby shark
A balance of between drinking at the pub and playing at the park
Because bringing up my daughter is not my only purpose
And there’s much more to me than you see on my surface
A poet, a baker, an accountant or a maker
Having a child isn’t a deal breaker
You can be both – a boss and a mother
You don’t have to choose between one or the other
Because motherhood isn’t a prison, 
And you aren’t serving time,
I know it’s hard between school runs and making slime,
And endless washing and buying nappies
Just remember to do the things that make YOU happy


DEAR DAUGHTER
By AR WORDSMITH

Dear daughter
I hope you practice all the lessons I taught ya
I’m going to raise you different to the way that I was brought up 
So you know it’s okay to bring those bad thoughts up
Love yourself just like I love you 
And don’t conform to the way society wants you to 
Life moves quick, everything’s fast pace
But baby take your time because life is not a race 
Each day is a blessing but it is not guaranteed 
Wants are an option, prioritise your needs 
Keep everything balanced, it’s all about moderation
Be sure to give those less fortunate your consideration
On your dark days, I hope you think of me 
and all the things I had to do to get us from A to B
I’m sorry you were exposed to the things I didn’t want you to see
I was trapped for so long but I’m blessed cause now on free
3 bedroom house and we moved on our own 
We had friends and family but they were trapped inside our phone 
No car no money just a pushchair and some bags 
And I’m sorry that I’ve been smoking one too many fags 
But mummy needs a release 
Because this world can be tough 
But you help me stay focused on all that positive stuff


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