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Starting to Fib

Nearly 3 years ago my Uncle Mark was found dead in his house. He was 58 years old. Although I was aware he was unwell, it came as a shock. You see, my uncle, despite having lost his way in life, was still a rock star in my eyes. He was a talented musician who began to rise to fame in the 1980s when his band '2am' was signed by RCA records. I have always had a poor long-term memory but I distinctly remember listening to his records as a child in awe. Sadly, my uncle’s music career was short-lived and started to go downhill when a world-renowned musician covered one of my uncle’s songs without permission. The reasons for his career ending before it ever really started are complex and could be long debated by our family. One point I feel we would all agree on is that his poor mental health contributed.

Skeptic - Gary Westhead, Mark Thomas and Paul Sorat. Battle of the Bands at the Liverpool Empire in 1981 image.

The more I researched after his death, the more I was staggered by the number of musicians suffering from mental health issues. Not only do musicians, like other performers or sports people, have the highs of intense adrenaline rushes alongside the lows of having no work at all, but their schedules and need to perform at 100% all the time makes them more susceptible to becoming substance abusers. With all those chemicals, both natural and not so natural, rushing through their systems, it doesn’t seem that surprising that mental health problems are prevalent. In 2016, Help musicians (The UK’s leading charity for professional musicians) conducted a survey which found that 71.1% of respondents identified as having suffered from panic attacks and/or anxiety, and 68.5% from depression.[1]


Two years ago, Kim and I decided we wanted to create a piece about music and mental health. We approached writer Sara Bodinar, who loved the idea of telling this story and she and I began co-writing Fib, a piece of gig theatre about Mark’s life. I’ll admit that at first this commission was fuelled by me wanting to hear those songs I’d loved as a child played live again and to explore my uncle’s compulsion to lie. But as we delved further into his story, we realised how complex a story it was.


And now, after finding some very talented people to work with (blog about these brilliant individuals to follow), and receiving some ACE funding, we embark on the first reading of a preliminary draft of Fib on March 1st 2021.


I wish that my uncle was still here to ask what he felt about this project, but if he was, I doubt we would have started it at all.


Bryony




Fib is going into research and development in June 2021 in the North-West with an aim to perform it by the end of 2021.



Bibliography

[1] Help Musicians 2016.

https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/assets/publications/files/can-music-make-you-sick-part-2-qualitative-study-1.pdf

“On November 1st 2016, Help Musicians UK published the results of our pilot survey Can Music Make You Sick? Music and Depression (Gross and Musgrave, 2016). This was the largest known academic research project ever conducted on the mental health of musicians and music industry professionals working in the UK, and was carried out by a team from the University of Westminster/MusicTank. From this pilot survey that garnered 2,211 responses, it emerged that 71.1% of respondents identified as having suffered from panic attacks and/ or anxiety, and 68.5% from depression.”


[2] Interesting facts and interviews with famous musicians about their mental health can be found in Mental Health in the music industry: A guide by Rachel Jepson.

Rachel has been very supportive and I want to thank her for her insight. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to helping musicians. http://counsellingformusicians.co.uk/




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KimBo Theatre Founded in 2012 by Kim Burnett and Bryony Thomas