Balance - Wellbeing and Creativity (Issue 1)

Page 1


Wellbeing & Creativity




know what you’re thinking, a magazine stating it’s inclusive and a white woman is on one of the first pages...and the editor. It’s true! I am a white, middle class woman, however I am also plus size (fat), queer and a dreamer.

Over the years I have read many wellbeing magazines and found something missing, the lack of inclusivity, the idea that wellbeing is aspirational and the all round lifestyle they try to sell have always sat badly. I want to push back on this narrative showing a very narrow minded and unrealistic POV. Instead I want to use this magazine to showcase and uplift people who are woefully underrepresented, ignored or even made to feel like they are wrong to exist. So really this magazine isn’t mine, yes I organised it. But the words, art and creations are by people who have been excluded from society due to their race, disability, size, sexuality, gender or neurodiversity. The tone of this magazine starts right from the cover, so thank you to Maithreyee Arun, who did a beautiful self portrait showing her heritage, alternative side and beauty. (Check out pages 44 & 82 for more of her work) The world is a diverse and beautiful place, filled with people who have completely different experiences to our own. All these people deserve to have their voices heard. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating this magazine.




Cover: Maithreyee Arun

Articles 13

New light on an old city: Interview with A.A.Dhand

20 Dancing in the Darkness: How to walk into the issue


Equality Cards: On why representation matters


How negative media of minorities affects mental health.


Living with HIV: How you survive and thrive

61 Good food, what’s needed and why its worth it. 68 Growing Older: What does it actually mean? Fatphobia and disability: What does it matter?


78 How music plays a part in your mental wellbeing. 84 Life as a woman with ADHD 93

What is... Schizophrenia? How it affects one mans life

Creativity 18 Creator of all things: Author and illustrator Phoenix Shaman 33

Steve Ryder: Surface pattern extraordinaire!

34 Beth Rothwell: How lockdown gave a new colourful view.

71 20 13

44 & 82 How Maithreyee Arun pushes the boundaries of what art is



Multidisplinary Clown: Laura Bretnall talks experiences and inspirations

60 & 97 Poetry by Leeds poet

Adekola and his view of the world

92 Poetry created by Joe Denny, showing what it is to grow up with autism.



Meet our con OTIS GALLOWAY A writer (words and music), plays instruments, twiddles knobs, gets involved in politics and comes up with ideas. Find more on Facebook: @ogallowaymusic

A.A.DHAND Part time Pharmacist, full time writer of crime thrillers based in Bradford with a Sikh detective. Find more at

ABBY JAY NAYLOR Lives alone in her wee flat with 2 cats Ripley & Fury, slowly becoming a crazy cat lady. Works full time in the auto industry (despite disability!), loves spending time with friends & family.

STEVE HUGHES The CEO of the Citizens Advice service covering Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale & Trafford but currently on secondment to national Citizens Advice as Interim Head of Help to Claim. Find more on at:

MAITHREYEE ARUN A sleepwalker who prospers in chaos. Practices art with child like awe and always asking why. Find more at Instagram: @mmaiself + mmaiself2.0

GAIL NAYLOR Born in Scotland in 1958, has been married twice and has lived with my partner Jason, for 30 years. Has found growing old quite difficult, knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it’s harder than expected.

ntributors... SOPHIE MATERA A classically trained vocalist and experienced Drum & Bass MC, who has been professionally singing her heart out since 2004. Find more on Facebook:: @sofimarimusic

QUINN PEARSE BROWN 29 years old, pronouns are he/him. A trans man who is very vocal in the trans community as an activist. Find more on Twitter:: @LeedsTransLad

ADEKOLA A writer and performer based in Leeds. He writes about race, class, and faith. He is interested in the search for beauty and meaning in life and art. Find more at

HAN ALLEN A non binary writer and creator, who’s work spans many mediums. Interests are as varied as their work, favorite subject matter is dark fantasy & science fiction, proudly proclaims themself a geek. Find more at:

SOPHIE TULLY A Biomedical Scientist with a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition & 15 years experience in health research & consultancy. Find more on at:

KEN RELF Lives in the West Midlands, where he spends his days making tasty food, writing, playing computer games and dealing with his Bi-Polar Disorder.

JACOB AZTEK A promotor and owner of Aztek Sessions, an events promotion for Rave music and lives with Schizophrenia. Find out more on Facebook: @Aztek.Sessions

What’s Happening?

Protests heard around the world!


n the 26/05/2020 I watched a video, what I saw was so horrific I didn’t know what to do. I had just watched the video where George Floyd Jr. a Black man, died at the hands of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin.

The most upsetting thing about this, is that it wasn’t something new, just something I had only now seen. This however was nothing new to the Black people of America. They have been living this type of brutality for centuries at the hands of privileged white people. George Floyd Jr did not deserve to die with a police officers knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. But that is what he was given. In response to this act and thousands more that happen every year, people decided to protest. Starting in Minneapolis, but spreading to all corners of the world. These protests show just how angry the world was and still is. It can be difficult to see, it’s even harder to embrace the darkness of the moment, but it’s needed, We need to stand up, fight back and give a voice to those who don’t have one anymore. Otis Galloway discusses this embracing of darkness and how to move forward on pg 20.

For more information, please go to

Mental Wellbeing Caring for yourself is hard at the best of times, aspiring to be the master of your own inner peace, but never quite reaching the mark.

There is no advice that works for everyone, you can only generalise, but one thing I have found that works for me is to embrace the silly things, if you feel like you want to dance on your bed, do it, Even if you have to lay down. Feel like singing out loud, then do it (depending on situation). Just embrace that fun voice and give yourself a break from the world, even if it’s just for a minute, because the world is hard and everyone deserves a moment of joy.

Working from home?


orking where you live is always hard, because it blurs the line between your work and life. Work for most of us is separate and can be left as we leave the place. Now we’re home, we are working in our living space and somehow we should just know how to react. But no one really knows how they will react or how to deal with it. One thing we can do is create rules or boundaries to care for our work/life balance. We could also be kind to ourselves and try to understand that this is not normal and that its ok to feel out of sorts, everyday if needed.

Don't forget to stop and breathe!

WHO TO FOLLOW Instagram Wellbeing Get a daily dose of representation with people who are trying to make the world a better place @studiomucci @indyamoore @crutches_and_spices @i_weigh

Be kind to yourself Headspace app is something I use often, I am not a huge fan of meditation but I do find the process of just refocusing myself a must. So even if I just lie on my bed and breathe along, it helps to relax, focus and destress me. If you are unemployed you will be able to access their plus content for free. If you work then it is about £9.99pm. But the free content is more than enough to get started.


I Weigh w/ Jameela Jamil

My Dad Wrote A Porno

A fun podcast on everything from life, sex and finding love. Nicole Byer, the amazing comedian makes the most uncomfortable conversations accessible to all. Give it a go and laugh a lot.

A podcast that helps challenge society’s definition of worth through weight. Discussions with activists, celebrities and leaders gives a good range of perspectives and representation.

Each episode the host reads a chapter from amateur erotic novel “Belinda Blinked” written by his father. The guests give a running commentary on their thoughts and the books. This is one of my favourite podcasts!

Good Times A look at what people are doing around the UK and the North


Bags of Creativity is a new initiative bringing packs full of creative activities and inspiring materials to children in Yorkshire. Ranging from ages 2 - 16 , so they are age appropriate. Check out at: bags-of-creativity All National Trust gardens and parks are free to enter until further notice. This has been done in response to Covid19 and the need for people to get out into nature.



Find out more at:

They accomplished their feat in 263 days, breaking the previous record of 281 day.

Our Street Gallery is a 12 month project transforming Bradford districts into a canvas, showing photographs taken by teenagers aged between 13 - 18, while stuck at home during the lockdown. This is led by the Through Our Lens project.


Cat Dixon (54) & Raz Marsden (55) are two amazing women who broke the world record for the fastest time circumnavigating the globe on a tandem bike.


Cocoa Girl is a new magazine launched in June by six year old Faith and her mother Serlina Boyd after they couldn’t find any magazines representing children like her. That is amazing! Order a copy at:


NHS England announced that the anti-HIV drug PrEP will be routinely available from now on. This drug is 100% effective at stopping HIV and will be incredibly helpful in stopping the spread.

A.A.Dhand A.A.Dhand is a British - Asian crime writer. His recent books are set in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Shedding a new light on a forgotten gem of a city. British Asian writers have never been involved in the crime novel genre before. What made you decide to write a crime novel? I’ve always been fascinated by crime. I was brought up in a corner shop which had a VCR and video rental library, and sneakily watched 18 certificate videos. One evening I watched Silence Of The Lambs - my dad had gone to play snooker, my mum had gone to bed early. I was so freaked out three quarters of the way through, I turned it off and ran into my mum’s bedroom, woke her up and confessed what I’d done. That Saturday, we went to Bradford Central Library, and I wandered out of children’s fiction into the adult section. I found a book called Silence Of The Lambs, and thought “That’s really weird, I’ve just not watched a movie called that”. I didn’t finish the movie but I did finish the book - I couldn’t stop turning the page. I couldn’t believe a book could do that to me. I was freaked out, I was scared, I was thrilled, I was entertained. I finished the book and my love affair with crime fiction was born. When I got older I became a pharmacist but my passion has always been writing. I finished as a full time pharmacist and

A.A.Dhand in back street, Bradord

started writing in 2006. It was a hard task but nobody from the South Asian background had ever written commercial crime fiction before so I thought there was a gap in the market. I wanted to write a book that reflected the South Asian community in a really cool manner that did something different than anything that had gone before.

Well it definitely does that. What made you choose Bradford as a location, and specifically Bradford Grammar School as a crime scene? I’d set up the beginning with Harry (British Sikh Detective Inspector Hardeep Virdee) running through Lister Park. I’m a Bradford lad so know the area really well. I was in Lister Park figuring out what was going to happen, looked up and saw Bradford Grammar School opposite. I thought it was a great way to juxtapose something really bad happening with the magnificent grammar school - “what a great place to leave a dead body!” There’s a contrast there, especially when the book is quite dark and edgy. I like using real places, real locations, even real people sometimes. It adds a bit of authenticity to the book. There’s a lot of history in Bradford, and I try to bring that to life. You can educate


You can educate people at the same time as thrilling them with a crime novel.

What has been the response from the Asian community, especially as they are not normally represented within this genre?

Funnily enough, a month or two before publication the Westfield Shopping Centre (now called Broadway) started to pop up, so I had to edit the book. Bradford has regenerated to some extent, so I probably wouldn’t have written it as dark as I wrote it then. I guess it was just my frustrations, because I love my city and I was annoyed that the people at the top of the food chain had ruined it - that’s how I perceived it to be. I still get frustrated with people not making the right decisions for the city, and sometimes that bleeds into the books.

the way I do is because the South Asian community needs some edgy heroes. The books all cover really tense political conversations we perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have in the South Asian community. They cover identity, grooming, honour, and terrorism - but I tend to do it in a different way. I aim to keep the reader entertained, but hopefully when you finish the book you ask yourself some questions, and they can be answered - sparking dialogue and debate. The people of Bradford always come out in huge numbers (for the book launches) so that’s always pleasing to see. I think

Bradford Grammer School, oppo Lister Park

I have had some criticism. I wrote Streets Of Darkness while being quite angry as a Bradfordian. The city centre had been decimated. There were false promises of a regeneration project and billion pound investment. They knocked the city centre flat in 2004 and left it for a decade. I was quite bitter because I’d been brought up in a very different type of city. I’d been brought up where Darley Street was always booming, the Kirkgate Market and all the shops were there, and it was a nice play to go and do your weekend shopping. Then for a decade it had been left to ruin.

Almost exclusively positive. They’re thrilled there is finally an action hero to rival Luther, Bond, Bauer or Bourne - all those types of westernised, primarily white, blonde-haired blue-eyed characters. Now there’s an Asian guy in the mix who is just as fierce. The reason I write Harry and Saima (Harry’s British Muslim wife) Cartwright Hall, Lister Park, Bradford

What response have you had about setting the book in Bradford, given the somewhat negative reputation it has in the British public eye?

Has there been any stand out pieces of feedback that have influenced your writing along the way, either as comments or people coming out to the launches? The city of Bradford influences my stories and dictates what I write about. I’m that kind of lone shadow that walks around the city at night time. You get a good feel for the city - a measure of the city’s heartbeat when you’re forever just walking around it. Locations sometimes as well - I’ll walk around and think “I’m going to use this location, or that location in the book.” I have a very loose idea of what I’m going to write about, and the rest just happens in the process.

Are you a full time writer now? No, I do pharmacy part time and writing part time. I don’t work Wednesday and Thursday, so they tend to be two days of block-writing. Then in the evenings and at weekends I’ll tap away at the computer and see what’s happening.

Mirror Pool, Centenary Square, Bradford

that tells its own story - when people come out and support me like that it keeps me in the chair writing!

How do you balance your mental wellbeing, especially working as a pharmacist during a global pandemic, as presumably it’s been quite stressful? It’s really hard. I managed to get into a good habit of writing at night time, when the kids are asleep, and social media is quiet. I sit down at around 9pm and put my headphones on. I always write to loud music until probably midnight. That’s my way to relax - to pour things out onto the page. I’m tapping away at the keyboard, listening to Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight soundtrack in my headphones - I’m in the zone. That blocks out everything that’s happening on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s coronavirus, stress with the kids, or work stress. Whatever pressures are on, they tend to quieten down and the writing takes over. Nowadays I have a baby monitor next to the computer. That’s probably the biggest challenge - my four-year-old, standing up or walking out of the bedroom to come and see what daddy’s doing, as it’s difficult then to get back in the zone.

Was representing your community a key point when you decided to write the first book? I wanted to represent Harry and Saima especially, because if you say “Sikh man, Muslim woman” the majority of the population will think of a guy with a turban and a beard and a woman in a burqa, or terrorism. I wanted to represent them as fierce, down to earth Yorkshire people. Harry’s that kind of person, you can never predict what he’s going to do, he’s so unorthodox. That’s what makes him exciting to read, because he’s always putting himself on the line. Then with Saima, she’s the calming aspect of the relationship. Interfaith marriage is a big thing within the Asian community. We need to talk about it, so I wanted to explore that. I wanted to explore two Asian characters that absolutely rip up the rule book and are not stereotypical. They’re not Goodness Gracious Me or Citizen Khan caricatures. They’re here, now, current and you’ve never seen people like them before. I’m always really aware of how I’m going to depict Harry and Saima Virdee in a way that takes everybody with us - white people, black people, brown people, all races, all colours, all creeds. I just want you to root for my heroes - I see them both as formidable characters.

Did you have any concerns when writing the first book when it came to the interfaith relationship? I think I was a bit naive when I first started writing. I’d never been published, so

didn’t quite get that hundreds of thousands of people would read my books! I think if I’d have thought about it too much it probably would have intimidated me, and affected my writing. There are always going to be some people who don’t like what you write, don’t like your books. I think you just have to write the truest version of the books for yourself as a writer. Because I write them in such a fashion, people root for Harry and Saima. There’s lots of bad people in the books from all different types of faith and backgrounds, so I’m not picking on one specific community. The books are genuine storylines and people are depicted in a really real way. I think that’s really important, and I think people appreciate that.

I’ve found the characters seem like I could know them, like people I meet and interact with in and around Bradford. Talking of Bradford again, what would you like to see happen in the future for the city? Bradford as a city is one of the youngest in the UK, and we have the largest population of young people outside of Greater London, so there is a huge amount of opportunity there. But it requires

Waterstones, Wool Exchange, Bradford

investment. It requires jobs. It requires foresight - to say “in 10-years-time it will look like this, or in 20-years like that”. But it is hard. The government has cut Bradford City Council funding dramatically. There are no easy decisions to make. I think Bradford has a really positive future from a tech point of view because we have such a young population. We’ve got some amazing architecture, amazing buildings, and a good transport network. With the right level of vision and investments, you could build Bradford into a tech centre for the north. People need to look at Bradford as a focal point, because of the economic picture - it’s one of the cheapest places in England to live and to have a business. Everything about it is designed for investment. Why wouldn’t we do that? So if I had a blank cheque, and a blank map I could draw, I’d want to see it as a huge tech infrastructure that would become a real powerhouse over the next twenty years.

What three things would you recommend to anybody coming to Bradford? Food. First and foremost! There are so many places to eat, and an array of places to go to suit all budgets as well. You can feed a family of four for a fiver, or get a meal for fifty quid, so there’s something for everybody. It’s the best place in England to have a curry. Secondly, Bradford Literature Festival. It’s one of the greatest literary festivals in England, if not the greatest. It’s diverse

and runs for ten days with four hundred events, so there’s something for everybody. It’s always in the summer months as well, so the weather’s nice, the City Park water fountains are going. It’s just a really good feel-good place to explore literature, which is the thing I love the most. The third thing, easily, would be Bradford Waterstones. It is the best bookstore in the whole of England. It’s in the old Wool Exchange building, it’s beautiful. There’s quite simply no bookshop like it in the world. You walk in there and you’re surrounded by the history of Bradford in one of the greatest buildings in the city. Every time I go into the city centre, the wife and kids will go shopping, and I’ll just head to Waterstones, grab a coffee and sit there. I find it an inspiring place, and I hope the city of Bradford continues to back it - buy books from there, have coffee there, go there and surround yourself with so much literature. It’s just a really inspiring place to be.

I normally lose a couple of hours when I go there. And a few quid as well! You can’t beat it - I love coffee, I love cake, and I love books. Three-in-one, happy days!

You can find out more about Dhand, his books, and other projects at his website:


When I was growing up;

Gay was an insult, queer a slur set aside for cursing;

And that was the be all and end all of our gender education,

But not the end of our gendered education.

Boys played football, girls played hockey,

But we weren’t allowed to play together; [no] And it didn’t matter if you

“played for the other team”,

You stuck with the sport you were given.

In class they arranged us;

Boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy/girl, Because we distracted each other less, Girls would giggle, boys would banter, Why would we ever talk to each other.

Unlikely friendships bloomed;

From such division, such derision.

Till senior year it was decided that boys and girls should be divided,

So we would not distract ourselves.

When I was growing up;

We were never taught about sexuality or gender, We were expected to conform,

Boys were taught to be men, and girls to fear them.

Graduation comes around, though no more learned than before;

For some education is the school of hard knocks, a master class in survival,

Others training to climb the ladder and not look down, a

degree in self assured importance,

Both from the college of KNOW YOUR PLACE.

And people wonder aloud;

Why is there so much imbalance in the world, When their metric is A or B,

And the world is an alphabet.

And the grey areas in their black and white world, The misshapen pieces,

Were left to question why they didn’t fit, Why, what was it that made them so wrong.

I am tired of people growing up thinking they are alone,

I am tired of hearing the stories of amazing revelations,

Because they should not be revelations,

These things should be accepted, should be known.

Tired because; they were me Barely out of the shadows,

Without words to express myself, I never grew.

Lost years before the revelation of a language I never knew.

Every day I see violence in the news, Every day another life swept into ‘acceptable statistic’,

Sanitised, amalgamated, processed and reformed until digestible. And it makes me sick.

I am sick of the black and white blinders, Erasing peoples identity before they have a chance to own it,

I am sick of the whitewashing, of erasure,

of the binary choices, the Alpha or the Beta,

I am sick and tired of mobile phones ringing in the dark,

that will never be answered...

PHOENIX SHAMAN - @phoenixshaman

Dancing with the

H o


ow do you live with depression?

If I’m very, very honest... it’s complicated...

half a dozen friends to suicide due to their depression. I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that I’ve never reached that point.

describe, in a place you can’t actually say. And it just feels like it gets bigger and bigger until it feels like it’s EVERYWHERE. Then it has you. And

For me, depression feels like drowning, but you can still breathe. It feels like being a ghost in your own life. Everything looks familiar, but you feel detached from it, like an astronaut drifting away into deep space. In the past decade I’ve lost

I’ve imagined the different ways I could do it. The times my depression hit me particularly hard, I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to stop existing.

there’s no way out.

If I could just...disappear.

When you throw in the factor of me being a Black man, living in a society that goes out of its way to

Depression is like a pain that you can’t really

I’m not sure when it started or how. I don’t know if it’s inherited or environmental.


devalue you at every turn. You begin to second guess every aspect of your life. Growing up I always felt out of step with life, society, people, pretty much everything. I knew it was As you get older and learn things, you’re able to figure it out, like a psychological CSI of your life. You can see all the fingerprints and bullet angles at the scene of the crime. You know what’s truly horrible about depression? It’s that you have to do all the work. Yeah... you have to deal with assholes. The pressure and anxiety and all that other shit, but it’s YOU who takes it in and serves it to yourself. The depression you is not the real you. It’s a shadow version, but it feeds on your insecurities and anxieties. Whenever you feel like you fucked up, its appetite grows. It just sits there, licking its lips as it fattens you up. Then it feeds on all the

good parts of you until all that’s left are pieces floating around in the void, disconnected and blinking in and out of your memory. You forget who you are, who you were, what you did and didn’t like. What was your favourite food, or the things you loved to do that made your soul sing? Depression is attending your own funeral, burying yourself alive, then forgetting where you left the body.

I could dig into my past and tell you about all the trauma I went through, but while writing this, I had an epiphany. It’s not about what happened to’s about how I learned to deal with it. Like so many others I have dealt with childhood sexual assault, bullying, racism, gaslighting from loved ones, poor relationship choices and bad economic situations… You have absolutely no control over what happens to you. Sometimes that can be fucked up and very unfair.

But this is the unpleasant truth: YOU HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE NO CONTROL. What you do have is control of self. And by recognizing this, you can begin the process of managing and monitoring yourself, so that you can learn how to be the best version of you.

Once you dig through all the darkness, all the pain, all the shame, all the guilt, all the unpleasantness... like all great excavations and explorations, there’s a treasure at the end. You find yourself... This discovery is the most important discovery you will ever make in your lifetime, because

When I reached a particularly low point in my life a while back, I thought to myself, what if instead of running away from the darkness, I ran TOWARD it? What if I dived in...deep? So I did. And I ended up learning to make it a part of me. I use a lot of diving and digging metaphors because a lot of the work you’ll find yourself doing is exactly that.

this is what depression takes away from you. You will find that beautiful part of you that you thought was lost so long ago, still there, on life support.

DO. THE. WORK. It’s tough. It’s messy. It’s ugly. It’s uncomfortable. And this is why you’re gonna do it.

Now you gotta breathe life back into yourself, but how?

Listening to the lyrics of songs gave me insights into myself. Now, armed with new knowledge and a conscious awareness of what defines me, I began to do the really hard work.

I personally underwent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for about a year. The reasons for this were: 1) I didn’t want to take the medication route. The idea of artificially forcing myself to be ‘happy’ legitimately unnerves me. (This is my own personal view). 2) I wanted to develop a strategy to deal with the day to day, and a lot of what I read about CBT made sense for me. 3) I like to talk out my problems.

One day, my therapist asked me, ‘What would you do with your life if money were not an obstacle?’ The answer left my mouth before I could even think of what to say.

‘Music.’ The minute I said that word, it felt like a cosmic key inserted itself in the lock and the door opened. I had a major revelation. Looking back on my life, almost every instance where I found answers to my questions, I found them because of music.

My whole life, I was always creative. Music and storytelling. I still carry it with me to this day. But for twenty-plus years, I allowed it to wither on the vine. Because I allowed other people to talk me out of it. They told me I needed to, ‘be realistic.’ If you do nothing else, to

the person that says that to you, look them right in the eye, raise your middle finger until it’s directly in their face and say, ‘FUCK. YOU!’

homelessness, and dealing with drunk, entitled British club punters can be, even at the best of times, a serious challenge to your patience and temper.

Quitting? I put that on me. I allowed it to happen. But I got back to it, and NO ONE will ever talk me out of it again.

There were a few nights when I felt that Hannibal Lecter might have been onto something…

The first few years of making music weren’t good. I got frustrated and gave up for a bit. I DJ’ed instead. That got old real fast, plus, it wasn’t helping my still quite fragile state of mind. I had gone through a bout of

In the end I shelved DJ’ing and slowly got back into making music. Bit by bit, I began to improve. Along the way, a funny beautiful thing happened… Being able to make music is like having a superpower. As you learn how to use it, you discover other powers you didn’t know you have. Along with getting better at making it, I got better at listening to it. I also got better at connecting it to other things. (As much as I love making music, I also love listening to it. I listen to music instead of watching TV. As a result, I have no fucking clue about Joe Exotic or Game of Thrones. I know about them, but I can’t tell you a goddamn thing. But ask me about Kajagoogoo and I can tell you an alarming amount.)

Music, in one way or another can be connected to just about every other topic of conversation you can think of. If you can conceive it, there’s probably a song about it. In your mind, you start to see connections between concepts in music and concepts in just about every other discipline of study. When you can connect something back to the thing you love, you begin to understand it like never before. It’s like looking at life through new eyes. Everything takes on an aura of illumination. Philosophy, mathematics, politics, physics, metaphysics. Then it hit me. Creativity.

The Flash is one of my favourite superheroes, because of how he develops as both a superhero and a person. When Barry Allen first discovers he has superspeed, it’s when he’s running to catch a bus. Barry runs so fast that when he stops, he finds himself over a

you dress. You have that right To be as creative as life allows. These past few months have been...interesting.

hundred miles outside of Keystone City. I was so busy creating and making music, I hadn’t noticed what was really happening to me. I was getting to know myself. The greatest treasure you will acquire in this life, the greatest winning lottery ticket you can hold, will be the day you get to truly know yourself... FACT. That is where magic happens. Jimi Hendrix became one of the greatest musicians that ever held a guitar, because his guitar became a part of him,

an extension of himself, a piece of his soul. And through that instrument, he showed the world his true being. That’s what creativity did for me. It introduced me to myself. Now here’s the great thing about creativity...It doesn’t have to be exactly the same for everyone. It can be whatever you need or want it to be for YOU. Creativity exists in anything that humans can do. Yes, there’s drawing and painting and playing an instrument. But there is also creativity in cooking, gardening, raising livestock, science, walking, talking, how you wear a beard, even how

It’s funny, but when it became apparent that everything we understood about society was going to change permanently because of the pandemic, I felt initially a rush of panic and the old darkness returning. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that my depression would disappear a few days later, and in its place, a serene, Zen like calm. It took a few weeks to understand what happened, but thanks to Google and YouTube, I have a much better grasp on my situation. Like the Flash, I moved and evolved so fast, I didn’t have time to take it in. Here’s what my reawakened creativity gave me: - Heightened Intelligence: I can see connections between things with greater clarity and understanding. As a result, I thirst for

deeper knowledge. - Heightened Awareness: Socrates one wrote that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ I find myself looking at details in things I previously overlooked. Within those things I find connecting patterns, and those patterns lead to greater insights. That can apply to nature, music, people, concepts...the list is endless. - Spiritual Connection: I am by no means a religious person. I do believe, however, that there is a connective energy that binds everything...The Force, the Universe, God... whatever you want to call it...there is something that is responsible for us being here. Where we are now. I like to think that all of us are the Universe, viewing itself subjectively (And yes, I did shrooms and listened to Bill Hicks if you were wondering.) - Humour: Humour becomes the light in the darkness. I have developed a dark, very fatalistic sense of humour. When the pandemic hit, I said to

myself, ‘So we have to self-isolate? That’s fine with me...I hate people, so nothing’s changed! Just saying that out loud helped me to deal. I have developed an arsenal that has helped me to cope with the darkness in my life. I took the dark matter, and forged armour out of it. I live with my fear, my depression, the anxiety and the nagging doubt.


Otis Galloway is one of those annoying people who does a lot of stuff. He writes (words & music), plays instruments, twiddles knobs, slides faders, gets involved in politics,

comes up with ideas & occasionally finds the time for a cheeky pint or the odd cocktail or three. Whatever spare time he has left is occupied watching videos on YouTube, playing Borderlands or trying to perfect his mac & cheese recipe. He also has a healthy, committed relationship with gin & rum. He lives, loves, drinks & swears in Scotland. djo2isakamrthoughtcrime.

So, tell me what it is that you do? Equality Cards is a small, home-run business based in North Yorkshire, we design and sell greetings cards. We sell online, at specific events, within local shops and communities. Each card comes from an idea or design sent to us by someone within the LGBTQ+ community and is

C J Allison On why representation is important, no matter how small the gift.

intended for others within the community, including friends, families and other allies.

Why did you start the company? And why did you feel the need to start it? It was Winter 2018 when we were discussing the forthcoming Christmas at an LGBTQ+ coffee social and conversation soon came round to the lack of Christmas cards for our community. There were some large corporations manufacturing token same-sex Christmas cards, but it was felt that these often lack any sense of feeling or understanding..

Image of CJ Allison and partner Jake

There were certainly no polyamorous, bisexual, or transgender Christmas cards on the market. Someone suggested that, as I was out of work at the time, I could consider making some. I returned the following week with ten different designs for sale and the business has never looked back. I have since expanded to Valentine and birthday cards, now moving on to a wider range covering various sexual orientations, gender identities and fetishes. There are now over 150 different LGBTQ+ designs available.


Equality Cards is not here to make lots of money; I’ve picked the wrong business if that was my intention! I describe it as a charitable business, where our primary aim is to help people feel accepted & valued as the unique individual that they are. I have learned much about different sexual orientations I previously had little to no understanding of. In the beginning, I learned the hard way by getting things wrong but I am always willing to learn. By designing cards directly based on ideas from people who identify under different sexual orientations has helped eliminate that. There is no way I would assume that I could design a card for a transgender man having their breasts removed but when someone going through the surgery came up with the idea of “No More”, with an image of blue tits, I instantly knew it was right & it soon became one of the top sellers. I’ve met some amazing people through Equality Cards and am often humbled by the feedback that I’ve been given by people who have received one of our cards. It has also helped me to rebuild my own confidence again, as well as raise awareness of the inequalities within the worldwide LGBTQ+ community.

Tell me about yourself, where do you come from? What are your interests? For most of my life, I lived in the proverbial closet, without even recognising who I was, where I fit in, or that there was any alternative life outside the closet. In fact, I was buried so deep within the closet itself that I didn’t even realise that was where I was living. I was an active Christian with strong faith, living in the belief that I couldn’t be both Christian and gay. So, as I knew I was Christian, being gay was never an option I considered. I knew I didn’t fit in with society but was so engrossed in ‘church’ that I simply fell in line, got married and tried to ‘live happily ever after’. That wasn’t to be; I knew it wasn’t right but didn’t know why. My life started to spiral downwards in an ever-increasing dark pit and it was only when I hit the bottom with a jolt, that I pushed the

No More (Blue Tits) occasion card

What impact has creating the company had on your life?

What is the biggest take you have gotten from your company? I guess I’ve always thought more about what we can give, rather than what we can take. Equality Cards is set up as a charitable business whereby 10% of the sale from each card goes to support local LGBTQ+ charities in Yorkshire.

Les - Bee- An Occasion Card

tablets aside, screamed out for help and made a decision to begin my life again. This time I was going to find out my true identity and allow that to drive me forward. I am gay, I am proud to be gay, and I am delighted to say I am a Christian gay.

What do you do to relax? I am in a loving and happy relationship with my partner Jake, who keeps me firmly grounded in LGBTQ+ history and the campaigns. We both enjoy cooking, watching documentaries, taking reflective holidays and exploring cities, towns and countryside together as we learn more about the places around us.

We love to see a smile on the face of those who buy or receive the cards and, if I am to choose one thing specifically, then it is the reaction from people at Pride events. College students buying for their friends; asexual, pansexual and non-binary people are often amazed to see cards designed specifically for them, and older people who comment on how they wish such cards had been available for them many years ago.

Why is it so important for your company to exist? What impact have you seen it have? LGBTQ+ cards have become more accessible over recent months but, at Equality Cards, we feel it is important to be a business that is by, in and for the LGBTQ+ community. We know, respect and love the community, of which we are an active part. Being able to provide cards which help someone to realise they have been

thought of is important for us. A card may seem simple, but they can help to lift someone from a dark place. In days of social media where sending messages often comes without any thought or consideration, cards take time to choose, write and send and, as such, often have a greater impact.

What do you want to do with the company? Expand it, use it as a campaign platform? We aim to represent marginalised people beyond just the LGBTQ+ community and our intention is to provide cards that help all people to feel validated and accepted, regardless of their differences. We have already begun to incorporate some Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and major faith groups into our existing designs but our intention is to expand this when and where the time is right.

What do you want for your future? Like most people who are LGBTQ+, all we want is to be accepted as we are and to be free to live in safety, regardless of our gender or sexuality. Check out more cards and prints at:

Images above: Be Yourself card, Sesku Pride Card and Happy Birthday Lesbian Card

STEVE RYDER - INKBLOT 1 @ ___rydyr___

Beth Rothwell


’m a Multidisciplinary Designer interested in Visual Merchandising. My previous work includes photo montage, collage, creating work from exhibition pieces and single covers. Recently I’ve experimented with creating dramatic installations, using paper to create sustainable displays. All the paper I use is repurposed and sourced from scrap stores, ensuring no new waste is created during the process. Moving to Leeds was a big step for me at the start of university, coming from a relatively small town and leaving my family home, it was quite a change. I was excited to create work I wanted to and to meet more like minded people. With this piece I really wanted to express myself, creating explosions of paper flowers taking over my Mum’s apartment. This was also an enjoyable distraction and a way for me to manage my mental wellbeing during lockdown, I found creating the flowers to be therapeutic. This wasn’t straightforward coming to this idea as I had spent months at university creating an original idea, when suddenly lockdown happened. Having to quickly pack and move back home, resulted in me having to decide which art supplies to bring home and what could get left behind. This meant my final piece had to be changed as the majority of my work was stuck in my university building. This realisation was extremely stressful given the short amount of time before I was due to hand in my work. To overcome this I took some time out


from creating and thinking, just so I could process what was happening in the world and try not to think about a looming deadline for a little while. This helped me to reevaluate my situation, focus clearly on my end of year piece and what I wanted to create. I did this through taking walks around my neighbourhood - noticing the changes around me, seeing less people driving and out on the streets, and recognising how that was impacting nature and wildlife. ‘Forget Me Not’ is a series of dramatic handcrafted paper installations, staged around my home. My work is a commentary on how being in lockdown has affected the environment around us and of the struggles faced by those in a similar situation to myself living in a small apartment with no garden and limited green space. The theatrical display of flowers and growth taking over everyday objects in my home was inspired by my daily walks and news reports of nature thriving during this time. I imagined what it would be like if it got inside my home and grew everywhere. The title is a reminder of this time and what nature can do if we let it.

Check out Beth’s work on her instagram and website:

Androgynous teenager in crowd at Pride

How Negative Media Portrayal of Trans People Affects Mental Wellbeing


eing a trans person is in itself difficult - facing challenges both personally and professionally. It’s not helped by the media spinning nasty stories and creating an environment where trans people are afraid to be themselves without being referred to as “predators,” or being deadnamed and misgendered constantly. I’ve been fortunate enough not to consistently have negative experiences, but my mental wellbeing can be affected by seeing other trans people being completely abused by TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and transphobes, who are completely ignorant to the harmful behaviour they are creating and therefore inflicting against trans people.

This especially affects trans women because transphobes view them as “men dressed in women’s clothing” who “go out to harm women”. This is simply NOT true. Trans women ARE women. And then we have the toilet issue, which is ridiculous because we don’t gender toilets, they’re inanimate objects! I was lucky enough to see a positive response regarding I tweeted about how worried I was about using them in the future. It seems I had NOTHING to worry about, with 1.3k likes showing me how positive it is! Social media has played a huge part in the negative portrayal of trans people, especially Twitter where high profile names such as JK Rowling and


Graham Linehan have used their platforms to project hate and dox trans women and men (doxxing/dox means publishing a victim’s personal information across social media and inviting people to use that information in horrible ways). Now this does affect people’s mental wellbeing because both of them as celebrities have a responsibility to set an example and they haven’t done so. In fact, they’ve gone the other way, causing extreme levels of distress to trans people. Again, trans women being the focal point of the harassment. I have heard from friends how they have been struggling with depression and anxiety due to the full on, disgusting tweets they’ve received and they’ve therefore had to either delete their accounts or change it to protected tweets. There is some good news out of this though as Graham Linehan’s Twitter account has been permanently suspended and he’s also been told by a notoriously transphobic forum (Mumsnet) that he’s not welcome there either! This warranted a major celebration amongst trans people which was a joy to behold, but we still have a long way to go before we can celebrate transphobia ending full stop.

The media in newspaper form have been very transphobic and I know a couple of papers especially that go all out to harm us. It’s completely unacceptable and shows an alarming bias towards transphobes who think they can get away with what they say and do. But we will ALWAYS challenge them. This is a battle where trans people WILL win the war against newspapers, the negative side of social media and portrayals of trans people in mainstream media.

Allies from within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community can do more to help trans people and to turn the negative portrayal of us into positive ones. I hope this will happen soon.

Written by Quinn Pearce Brown Quinn is 29 and pronouns are he/him. He is a trans man and very vocal within the Trans community. Check out his Twitter: @LeedsTransLad

How to be a good Ally! 1) Learn and respect trans people’s pronouns and names. 2) Do NOT ask about deadname (ask name before coming out as Transgender). It’s something that stays in their past & doesn’t need to be dragged up again.

Quinn Pearce Brown with filter

3) Don’t ask intrusive questions which make trans people uncomfortable. Its not your business unless trans people are comfortable enough to share that information with you. 4) Try & call out transphobia whenever you see it. On social media & real life, it needs to be challenged. 5) Promote trans people’s work, especially Black & trans people of colour. 6) Support them at Pride events. Especially at trans and non-binary specific Prides.

MAITHREYEE ARUN - @mmaiself2.0

Laura Bretnall Multidisciplinary Clown Right into it, why do you do what you do?

What is your inspiration behind your work?

Being a plus-sized and gender-fluid person, who’s still trying to learn and accept my own identity, we are constantly shamed for having confidence in ourselves, and it’s as if society thinks because we’re fat we deserve to live in this constant state of shame. I create my portraits to really dig deeper into my own identity and to reinforce the fact that identity is fluid. When I’m in my looks my confidence skyrockets, I feel like my true self, which is something that I don’t feel often. So I guess I do what I do to discover my identity, self worth and ideas of beauty.

A lot of the inspiration that runs through my work is from the past and present feelings that I have experienced. I also like to use my friends as inspiration when I use them as models. Not just because of the way they look but often the experiences they have faced in life, sometimes I use my shoots as a voice for that experience or feeling.


How do you come up with an idea? Where do you begin? It can come from anywhere really; a conversation with a

friend, a post on Instagram or just a thought in my own head that begins to to show itself visually.

What is your process when it comes to getting work done? I do a lot of visual research at the start of my process, then, I tend to dump it all into a mood board so I can remember what I’ve seen and ideas that have stemmed from this. Then I just like to experiment, I love to do a makeup look over and over again and see how it changes each time.

Who are your favourite artists? Oh, that’s a tough one. My all-time favourite is Alexander Mcqueen but I have to say that Parker Day also has a spot in there, her portraits inspire me so much and I just love the way she creates these crazy characters. There are so many amazing artists on Instagram at the moment it’s so difficult to choose but here’s some that I’m loving at the moment, @hatti_rees, @fakehauswives, @uggiebbyboy and @brianvu.

How does your work help you with your mental wellbeing? My work helps me a lot when it comes to my mental wellbeing, Make up really helps me to just be in the moment. Nothing else matters at all when I’m halfway into a make up look. My photography/make up work has pushed me into corners where I have to speak to clients, models, etc causing my confidence to increase. Since I struggle a lot with accepting my appearance, makeup has definitely helped me realise the fluidity of identity and how it can be manipulated and changed so easily.

How does creativity help you in your everyday life?

What do you like about the art world?

It gives me a purpose. When I’m having a really bad day I think about the creative ideas I have, if I’m not here then how will they come to life? I also feel like due to my creativity its easier to see inspiration and beauty in the things around me

I love being in a creative atmosphere with other artists, creative people can be so inspiring and accepting. I feel safe to express myself through my appearance and my work in the art world. Also, a lot of artists have been through dark times in their lives, feeling like an outsider, it’s nice to have people to relate to on subjects like that.

What do you enjoy doing the most? I just really love being creative with my friends, having conversations about photoshoots and ideas. We really get each other inspired and rilled up, I love it! Working on shoots with my friends is amazing, you really get to see them let loose and have fun! I think experimenting and playing with makeup comes close to that as well.

What do you dislike about the art world? One thing I really hate about the art world is people expecting artists to be able to write amazingly about our work, like what’s up with that? I’m an artist not an English teacher! I would also like to see more LGBTQ+ POC artists coming into universities to give artists talks, I’m tired of listening to straight white male artists!

So why did you choose your art? I’m not really sure to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t say I chose it I would just say it fell into place. When I was in high school I had a close friend who did cosplay, I used to tell her about these characters I wanted to create and photograph, we would dress her up and create this story through the image. When I first arrived at University I studied Fashion Photography and I just knew it wasn’t for me, I didn’t like how it had to be so clean and polished. I wanted to go back to embracing the ugly and weird! I feel as if I’m on the tip of my artform, only just truly finding the art that I want to create.

What would be your dream project? I haven’t really thought about this, working with other people seems impossible because of Covid 19 so right now I feel like my dream project would be to create a creative space with my friends to just express ourselves, create work and have fun!

So, what’s next for you? I’ve been having a break from creating

recently after graduating University during Coronavirus. After being in education for want to create work for myself, pressure-free. I want to find myself, creatively, again. Being in lockdown caused me to lose a lot of my confidence in my work so I’m looking to build that confidence again. I’m hoping to enter the Creative Practice MA (Masters Degree) at Leeds Arts University in September.

Check out more of Laura’s work and how to contact her on Instagram: @clownratz_

Living with HIV Steve Hughes tells his story about coming to terms with HIV and living well with it


wanted to write about HIV and how it has impacted my life — or not, which you will hopefully see from this story. I have toyed with the idea of writing about this for some time now, not to bring attention to myself, but to highlight the issue for those who are struggling with their status.

20 miles north of Manchester City Centre. Despite the close proximity to Manchester, arguably Pride City, it was still hard to come out to my parents at the age of 17. My mum has always been supportive of my sexuality, always pushing me to be the person I want to be, my stepdad, unfortunately, was not of the same mind.

I grew up in Rawtenstall, the gateway to Lancashire, located about

Despite the massive steps forward in LGBTQ+ rights, there was still very

little taught in school, actually, I don’t ever remember talking about being gay in PSHE, but always remember when at school knowing that it wasn’t really “right” — but that could have been because of the very religious focused education. Having said that, I often go back to my old school and they have never been anything but supportive. Sex was never something I discussed with family

11 MINUTE READ For more information or to find out where you can be tested please visit:

or friends, even when I became comfortable with my sexuality, but living so close to Manchester, sex became a regular part of my life very early on in my university life — mainly safe, occasionally not.

2016 was a year of change, for so many reasons. On reflection, 2016 was a difficult year for me, despite being a fresh start for so many reasons. Early in the year, I finally broke free from a difficult relationship and moved into my own place, I was standing for re-election as a councillor on Rossendale Borough Council (and won) and I had just started a new job. I remember feeling like I was a free man. I made the most of single life, spending most weekends drinking out in Canal Street, enjoying myself. I had a couple of short term relationships, but nothing serious.

was always on top of my sexual health, making sure I was tested regularly (partly because I didn’t always use condoms). The nurses and doctors at the clinic are always so nice and I think they recognise that its not a natural place to be relaxed. December came along and I went to get tested. I always went at the beginning of the month, it had become a regular thing to do in my monthly calendar. I had the usual blood tests, swabs and urine samples for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, HIV and the various Hepatitis infections.

The process of being tested is one that I had grown used to. I had been going to the same clinic for years, and am one of one of those people who

Image above: Steve Hughes at 7 years old

My initial visit was the same as every other visit, I had no symptoms and in a way, was just looking for that piece of mind that everything was okay. Within the week, I would usually get a text saying my results were all clear, or a text saying I needed to phone up to book an appointment for treatment. The response on 5th December was different though - I got a phone call from the nurse staying I needed to come in as my HIV test was inconclusive. It was at that point, I knew something was wrong. The following Monday (12th December), I got

I remember thinking on the way into the hospital that day — it will all be a false alarm — I couldn’t have HIV, I just couldn’t. When the consultant, who was very gentle and friendly, told me, I just cried — I was so confused. I knew nothing about HIV, apart from the fact that HIV and AIDS were the same things (which they aren’t), that people died from AIDS and the massive AIDS tombstone from the 80s government TV ads. I didn’t take any notice at the time, but the consultant said something to me that day that I will never forget. He said, “Today, I could have given you a diagnosis of diabetes or even worse, cancer. Instead, I have given you a diagnosis of HIV — something that will have very little impact on your

life”. He was right..I remember leaving the clinic not really understanding what had just happened. I just remember saying to Julie, let’s go to the Trafford Centre and get some lunch. We went to Pizza Hut, I sat down and it hit me, I just broke down — quite embarrassing really.

I text three words to my housemate Sean “I am positive”. He knew exactly what it meant and when I got home, he just came up to me and gave me a hug, saying (in true Sean style) “It will be fine”. He was so right! I had always been confident in my ability to deal with difficult

I started to think — oh

Image from AIDS TV advert from 1980’s

a call from the matron saying I needed to see the consultant. Inside, I knew I needed to prepare for the worst. My best friend Julie agreed to come to the appointment with me and on 13th December I was told I was HIV positive.

my god, my life is over. Whilst I didn’t think I would die, I did think it would impact on my ability to do my job. I thought I would be single for the rest of my life. I thought my friends wouldn’t understand and then wondered how I would ever be able to tell my mum.

situations and felt like I was in a good place to deal with anything but when I got this news, it was hard - I felt pressure like nothing I had felt before. Reflecting back, I think this was because of the stigma that surrounds HIV. I actually felt dirty,

For more information or to find out where you can be tested please visit:

I felt ashamed. My best friends Julie and Sean, along with the support from the Terrence Higgins Trust, really did help me understand that there is nothing to be ashamed about, but like all things, you go on a journey that has its ups and downs. I’d be lying if it doesn’t still impact on my wellbeing, but it’s important to

the fact: I was HIV+. As time passed I got used to the idea, I did my research and reached out to the Terrence Higgins Trust and George House Trust who provided me with all the information I needed to realise that one, I wasn’t going to to die, and two (and most importantly) I was still

Image of man getting HIV test

remember that your friends are there because of the person you are, not the conditions or illnesses you have. I didn’t sleep much that night or the weeks after that day really, but I continued to go into work. I remember it being the only way I could stop thinking about the fact

still the same person. In my own mind, I wanted to get Christmas and New Year out of the way. Only a handful of people knew what had recently happened. Just before Christmas, I picked up my medication — one pill per day — and planned my 6 monthly trips to the clinic.

Christmas and New Year came and went very quickly and one miserable day I rang my mum and said we were going for dinner. I was going to tell her I was HIV+. We got very drunk together (I think it was the first time that had ever happened) but I realised I wasn’t ready — I concluded that she didn’t need to know. I knew she would worry and she would see that I was struggling, which would worry her even more. I think she knew I was going to tell her something but didn’t push when I didn’t end up telling her anything. My status stayed a secret for nearly 3 years when, in 2019, I decided I was ready to tell my mum. I had become more comfortable in myself and more relaxed about who knew but I was always very conscious that my mum didn’t know. Regularly I would think, if she finds out from someone else, I would be devastated. I’d decided that I would talk about my status openly. I felt that by sharing my story, I was in a position to help those

For more information or to find out where you can be tested please visit:

(in a small way) who had gone through what I had gone through and I am a firm believer that the more we talk about HIV, the quicker we can strip the stigma away.

virus on.

I told my mum one sunny November (19) evening. I know she was upset that I hadn’t told her previously, but she understood why. On December 1st, on World Aids Day, I published a video outing myself and I made a commitment to not hide my status away. HIV has had very little impact on my life. Education & understanding are so important.

I have a lovely, supportive partner and I have a great group of friends who couldn’t care less about my status, not because they don’t actually care, but because they know it is a non-issue. My employer, Citizens Advice are totally supportive of me, but I know, this isn’t the same for everyone living with HIV out there.

My commitment to myself is; I will continue to be open about my status, helping people and organisations understand more about HIV. The more we talk openly about it, the more we will get rid of the stigma for people living with HIV. My life now is great and whilst I am aware of my status, it doesn’t impact on my ability to do anything. It has made me think more about my wider health and wellbeing - so I have a gym membership, although I know I should probably work out more. I have no side effects from my medication and there are lots of different types of antiviral medication out there meaning that most people don’t have side effects.

I am HIV positive and I am proud to know my status.

I take one pill every day at 12 noon (for those who have heard my alarm go off at that time, that is what it is for). By taking my medication — Eviplera, I am not only protecting myself but others too. The meds mean that the viral load within my bloodstream is minimum and means I can’t pass the

I would be lying if I said everyone was okay with it, there are some people out there who haven’t taken the time to understand what HIV is and, more importantly, what it isn’t, but that is their choice. What I am committed to doing is supporting them to learn — if they want to.

Once upon a time, HIV did have a big impact on your life, now it doesn’t.

For more information or to find out where you can be tested please visit:

Steve Hughes is the CEO of the Citizens Advice service covering Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale &Trafford but currently on secondment to national Citizens Advice as Interim Head of Help to Claim leading the national service that supports people to claim Universal Credit. Alongside this, He is a local authority councillor in Rossendale with responsibility for Communities & Customer Service on the Cabinet. He also is a Non-Executive Director of Trafford Housing Trust and chair the £4m Greater Manchester Social Investment Fund. In his free time, he loves to get out on his mountain bike and look at the stunning north-west views from up high.

Starting in 1985, six gay activists set up Manchesters AIDSline in response to HIV. Launching in the 90’s George House Trust brings together all the HIV charities in the North. They campaign for all gay and sexual health rights.

Terry Higgins was one of the first people to die of AIDS related illness in the UK at 37 years old. After his death his partner and four friends set up the trust in Higgins name. Now they are a the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity.



At Season Well we know food tastes so much better when it’s packed full of fruit, vegetables and herbs that are eaten in their proper season. As well as teaching seasonal cooking and growing we love to make delicious tasting food all year round using local, seasonal and often homegrown produce.

Check out more at -

POEM: ADEKOLA - @adekolapoetry IMAGE: STEVE RYDER - @ ___rydyr___

Black Excellence

I don’t believe in black excellence, The silly idea, idea that being on your best behaviour will end racism, I’m not humble or grateful or happy to be here, I don’t want to be the only black face at the table, Not a role model, not respectable, I hit back and I hit first, Push me to the edge, see me at my worst, I don’t believe in black excellence, I believe in black mediocrity, Black normality and black humanity.


Good food starts with a taste...


here is a lot of talk on the internet about how diet can miraculously treat mental illness. There are discussions on amino acids, antioxidants and super foods. and whilst it is absolutely true that diet does affect your mental health, there is no one “magic bullet� that will make all your problems go away. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for almost twenty years, and even before that I knew that when I began to go off the rails, I would stop eating right and my physical health would soon start to suffer as well as my mood.

The simple answer is that there is no simple answer. Sure, eating carbohydrates at a massively increased volume will lift your mood temporarily, which is why I have an addiction to tortilla chips and a friend of mine used to eat a loaf of bread a day to get their necessary fix. But crawling into bed with your favourite Dusty Cheese SnacksTM will not help the slow decline of your brain into the dark places. I used to play pharmacological chess with my brain and food stuffs. 5HTP was the answer, chicken, milk and potatoes. Omega 6 from fish, nuts and seeds.


But the truth of the matter is that when you are lying face down on the carpet, staring at the emptiness of the universe, steamed fish and poached eggs are a world away. The easiest thing to do is click “last order” on the takeaway app and wait for someone to knock at the door and leave food on the step.

spices and very little effort you can make a variety of food that is tasty and nutritious. The recipes provided each have similar ingredients, making the shopping easier, and use a couple of different spices that, once you have them, can be used over and over to make your meals more enjoyable.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to eat a balanced diet, however hard it may seem. Fresh food cooked daily is the best way to give your brain a chance to crawl its way out of the hole it has fallen in. It might sound impossibly hard, but it is easier than it seems. For me, the English palette is the worst way to entice me. I need flavour, not salt and vinegar on everything. But with only a very few spices I can be persuaded to eat almost anything. My line exists at whelks, I discovered, when I had them at an authentic Chinese restaurant. There’s nothing you can do to jazz up those gastropods.

Written by Ken Relf

I also find that having a menu is helpful when I struggle to make decisions like putting on my socks or surrendering to the inevitability of entropy. I have a simple list of what I am going to make everyday, and a recipe that tells me, very simply, what I need to do next. Chop an onion. Okay, I can do this, I have and onion. I can chop it up. I’ve done it before. Then I might rest for a bit. Then it tells me I have to fry the onion. I guess I can do that without too much trouble. Before I know it I have food I can eat and I’ve got through another day. It is that simple. With a few ingredients, your trusty

Chicken Quesadilla Serves 2 Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 15 minutes 350g boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips (easily replaced with tofu or quorn pieces) 1 onion, sliced 1 pepper, sliced 1 heaped tsp cumin 1 tsp paprika 1 tsp oregano 1/2 tsp garlic salt Pinch of chilli powder 1 tin of tomatoes (or equal jar of passata) 3 flour tortillas Grated cheese


Fry the chicken in a small amount of hot oil. When it has coloured all over, add the onion & pepper and fry until the onion begins to brown.


Add the spices (I mix them in a small glass ahead of cooking) and mix to coat the food & you can smell the rich aroma of the cooking spices.


Add the tomatoes & cook through for about five minutes until the chicken is cooked through.


Heat a small amount of oil in a pan, over a medium heat, & add a tortilla. Put some of the chicken mix to thinly cover half the tortilla, add a little cheese & fold the other half of the tortilla to cover the chicken.


Fry until the tortilla begins to brown & then turn over & repeat on the other side. Remove from the pan onto a plate with kitchen towel (to soak up any excess oil). Repeat with the other two tortillas & then cut them in half & serve three halves per person.

Pasta Bake Serves 2 Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 45 minutes 350g boneless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks (easily replaced with tofu or quorn pieces) 1 onion, chopped 1 pepper, chopped 1/2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp garlic salt 1 tsp oregano 1 tin tomatoes (or jar of passata) Pasta


Fry the onion in a little oil. When it begins to alter in colour add the chicken and fry until it is no longer pink all over.


Add the pepper and fry for a few more minutes. Add the paprika and garlic salt and mix together before adding the tomatoes.


Season with salt and pepper and add the oregano. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.


Cook the pasta according to the packet’s instructions.


When the pasta is ready, drain the water and toss the pasta into the tomato sauce. Mix thoroughly and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Add cheese to the top.


At this stage, if you want, you can put it aside to be eaten later, even fridging for a few days. When you’re ready to eat it, place in a preheated oven and cook for 180C for 30 minutes or until the cheese has browned nicely on top.

Tagine Serves 2 Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 1 hr15 mins - 1 hr 45 350g boneless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks (easily replaced with tofu or quorn pieces) 1 onion, chopped 1 pepper, chopped 1 heaped tsp cumin 1 tsp coriander 1/2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp garlic salt 1 tin of tomatoes (or jar of passata) Dried apricots or raisins Lemon juice (optional) Cous cous/rice (to serve)


Fry the chicken in a little oil until it has begun to brown. Remove to an ovenproof dish. Fry the onion and the pepper together and when they are beginning to brown add the spices.


Mix for a minute to cook the spices before adding the tomatoes and apricots or raisins, season and add to the dish with the chicken.


Mix it all and place the lid on top before putting in the oven at 150C for 1 hour to 90 minutes. It can cook for longer, but if you are not using a tagine check that the food does not become too dry. If it is a little dry add a little more water, mix and put back in the oven.


When it has finished cooking, remove from the oven, season and add lemon juice to taste and serve with cous cous or rice.


Simply prepare the rice according to the instructions so that they are ready when the tagine comes out of the oven.

[Note: you can use a tagine, but any ovenproof pot with a lid will do the job perfectly well. This can also be made in a slow cooker.]

Chicken Curry Serves 2 Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 30 minutes 350g boneless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks (easily replaced with tofu or quorn pieces) 1 onion, chopped 1 pepper, chopped 1 heaped tsp cumin 1 tsp coriander 1/2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp garlic salt Pinch of chilli powder 1 tin tomatoes (or jar of passata) Rice and/or naan or chapatti to serve


Fry the onion and pepper until they begin to change colour. Remove to a bowl.


Fry the chicken until it begins to brown, add the spices and mix with the chicken. Allow the spices to cook for a minute until they begin to give off a rich aromatic smell.


Add the tomatoes, the onions and peppers. Add a lid and allow the curry to cook through for at least ten minutes, until the chicken is cooked.


Taste and season. You can add more chilli for extra heat, or add more coriander for a lemony taste. Experiment for your personal taste.


Prepare the rice according to the instructions and the bread (if you choose to serve it). When the curry and rice is ready serve and enjoy.

Getting Older Gail Naylor talks about the the pros and cons of aging and what happens to your life...


was asked to write a small article on the subject of growing older; looking at the good and bad things that come along with aging. From my point of view, growing older has had some positives but sadly there have been far more negative aspects. On reaching approximately 55 years old, in the span of approximately one year I was diagnosed with COPD, Diabetes Type 2 and Osteoarthritis. Now I completely understand that age brings it’s problems, I just didn’t expect so many. After moving to a new area, I found I had to change doctors and - oh boy! - I found them to be ageist and fatphobic. I felt my treatment was less than satisfactory,


something I believe happens to too many older people. Because of this I found myself quickly changing again to another GP’s Practice. One of the positives of getting older is, from my point of view, seeing my children as grown ups living good, well functioning lives. I also have amazing grandchildren and love to spend time with them. I remember telling my son that when his son was hard work, it was “Grandma’s Revenge”. Unfortunately, due to Covid 19, I’ve been unable to spend any time with my family. There is, however, a positive as I’ve tried to be careful - I am alive to see them when the time is right. I think possibly one of the worst aspects

of aging is experiencing the death of someone you love. My sister died at age 67, which is in this day and age quite young. This has had quite a reaction, affecting one of my illnesses quite severely. Although I didn’t see her every day as we lived quite a distance from each other, we did talk almost daily. In a way, I was lucky to have spent 2 weeks with her the Christmas before she died. She was very unwell and needed the company, and whilst it was a worrying time as she was so unwell, we really did have a lovely time. We laughed a lot and reminisced for hours. I struggle at times, missing her so very much - but talking about her, as well as time & tears help. Another negative aspect is the “empty nest” feeling following your children becoming adults. Whilst it was lovely to have no children at home for the first time in almost 40 years, the feeling of missing them overtook the enjoyment. I think I’m really lucky to have amazing relationships with all my children. I enjoy going out & socialising with them. More importantly, the fact they seem to enjoy time with me is great! When I was younger I found it impossible to understand how it would feel to grow old. I have the body of a 62-yearold and the wisdom that comes with aging, but my brain still thinks of me as a 30-year-old. However, I swear there’s been a time warp. I am NOT old enough to have a 42 year old child. This, you understand, is my 30 year old brain talking! An example of “wisdom” is something as simple as knowing how a situation might turn out - you’ve seen this or been there

before and can remember how it ended. I like to think that I’m very broadminded and find it easy to accept a lot of modern inventions and attitudes. I do feel some people let good progress get in the way of perfectionism, but things are changing. Some are changing at a good pace, but some still have a long way to go and a lot could be sped up. Progress and change can be for the good. Stopping sexism, racism, fatism, homophobia and transphobia are all changes needed. There have been some major changes over time and hopefully this will continue as we move forward. One piece of advice I’d give to anybody is: Relationship wise, most people are on their best behaviour to start with, so if their best is bad, RUN for the hills. If your partner treats you badly or is abusive in any way at the beginning of your relationship, it will usually get worse as time goes on. Having said all this, I really wouldn’t have my life in any other way. My children and grandchildren are the joys of my life. Maybe I should include my hubby in there? Him too!

Written by: Gail Naylor Gail was born in Scotland in 1958, has had a tricky and difficult life at times, but it’s all good! She has been married twice and had lived with her partner Jason for 30 years.


What are you staring at? Have you ever been eating in a restaurant or browsing in a store and just know people are staring and talking about you? I’m sure you have; but does it happen to you almost every day? What goes through your head?

cannot hide, the two society makes very clear it is not acceptable to be. I have a walking stick, a noticeable limp and am very clearly overweight. This makes me an easy target for dirty looks and nasty comments. But my next thought is

“What are they staring at?” “Why are they laughing at me?” “What’s wrong with me?”

For me it’s “They’re talking about me because I am disabled and I am fat” and of course this upsets me.

Image of Abby Jay Naylor aged 13

These are the main two attributes about me I

“Why does it matter? Why do they care? Why is it any of their business?” and the upset turns to anger. Who the hell are they to judge me?! I am a smart, funny, kind person. But of course because I am fat, I’m deemed to be lazy, smelly and greedy. They probably think I’m not really

disabled and that I use a walking stick to get seats because I’m a “sloth” who struggles to lug around my weight all day. I just want people to look a little deeper into why they have these prejudices, and realise how absurd it is to be judgemental of someone they know nothing about.I was 13 when I first had serious back pain, I can remember vividly the moment it occurred. I was walking through my high school and suddenly couldn’t walk any more. A piercing pain shot down down my back, through my buttocks, into my left leg. It took all my strength not to collapse there

“Why does it matter? Why do they care?”

and then. I managed to hobble to a teacher who, despite my pale face, sweating and shaking, ordered me to go to my next class. Little did I know this would only be the first of many instances where my pain was dismissed. I went to the doctors the next day to be told I had pulled a muscle and it would heal within a week or two. A month passed, the pain had gotten worse. I arranged another appointment with the doctor to get help... and another, and another. I was told each time it was nothing serious, to take paracetamol and the pain would dissipate soon. After around a year of this agony, I made another appointment with the doctor. I was desperate for some help, stronger painkillers, a referral for a diagnosis, even just for someone to believe me. But once again I was dismissed. The “pulled muscle” excuse had run its course, but the doctors had a new target – my weight. Due to being immobile I began gaining weight. I couldn’t go swimming,

play badminton, go cycling or even play table tennis. I had lost the ability to complete many of my favourite activities. Desperately sad, I turned to food for comfort. The lack of exercise and the increase in my dependence on comfort food had caused me to gain 2.5 stone within the year. The doctor advised me to lose weight to make the pain disappear. I wanted to scream at him: “THE PAIN CAUSED THIS WEIGHT!”

but I was too embarrassed to say anything. I struggled through the rest of school, I was in constant pain and was getting bullied due to my back and weight gain. It wasn’t until 6 years after the pain began that a doctor finally believed me. I was 19 years old, working my first job out of college when my back pain became even worse. It was horrendous. I had to take time off work to attempt a recovery and I went to the doctors to get a sick note. I hadn’t met this doctor

Image of Abby Jay Naylor aged 15

before but I still broke down. I cried hysterically, and between sobs explained the hell I’d been through over the last 6 years. He put his hand on mine and said

blaming my weight for the unbearable pain I’ve suffered over the past 6 years... or so I thought.

He shocked me so much by saying this that I stopped crying momentarily. Once it dawned on me someone believed me and was actually going to help me, I began sobbing again - this time out of relief not despair.

I went to see a spinal surgeon in the hopes he may be able to cure my ailment. But no, I was too fat for safe surgery. I can remember being inconsolable on the drive home. I had experienced this pain since I was a fit and healthy 13-year-old and if I had been taken seriously when the pain initially started, I would have been eligible for surgery. Now, because of the bias of my doctors, I had almost no options. I was going to live the rest of my life like this.

A few weeks later I was called in to receive the results. I had 2 discs in my spine that were protruding and putting pressure on my nerves, causing sciatica in my left leg, and 2 discs with Osteoarthritis. This was affecting 3 discs in total. FINALLY! An explanation! This is what my family and I call “good bad news” - you obviously don’t want a diagnosis as serious as this, but at least you finally have one! Now doctors will stop

Over the years I have come to terms with my disability. I’ve realised I can’t do anything to change it. I manage it with exceptionally strong prescribed opiates, however I am slowly building up a resistance to them and will have to continue increasing my dose for the rest of my life. God knows what this is doing to me internally but quite frankly, I don’t care. I can finally work and go out with my friends on a regular basis.

“Abby, I’m really sorry we haven’t helped you. I will book you in for an MRI scan now, and see what we can do about the pain in the meantime.”.

Image of Abby Jay Naylor in her 20’s

The drugs have made my pain bearable. Something I cannot come to terms with is my weight. Think about all of the TV shows and films with fat people in. They are used as comic relief, or as disgusting slobs. Think Big Momma in Big Momma’s House; Fat Bastard in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me; or Monica in Friends. Even though I know my weight gain was a direct result of my disability, I have internal self-hatred stemming from society’s obsession with “fitness”. I’m sure almost every curvy person reading this

probably feels the same way about themselves. Unfortunately, due to these biases, we do this to other fat people. I can remember when I was in a restaurant with my friends, they all looked behind me, looked at each other and smiled silently. Confused, I turned around to see a man who was morbidly obese - he was quite possibly the biggest man I’ve ever seen, I turned back and was furious. My friends know how upsetting it is when people do this to me, but it’s OK to do this

to someone else because they’re bigger than me? Who are they to gatekeep what size and shape is OK to stare and laugh at? Would they do this to me if they didn’t know me? It made me question my friendship with these people as I didn’t want to be complicit in this sort of behaviour. I have had many friends give me advice on my weight and disability, even though they’ve luckily never had to go through anything like this.

“Why don’t you just try swimming?” “Have you hought about going on a diet?” “My sister had back pain and it went away as soon as she lost weight.”

Do these people seriously think I haven’t already tried everything I can think of to try and improve my quality of life? Of course they do, because even though they are my friends and supposedly are empathetic to my plight,

they assume I am too lazy to try and make my life better. They simply don’t believe that my back pain was the root cause of my weight gain. Even though my friends and doctors didn’t believe me, I am one of the lucky ones. I have an amazingly understanding family supporting me every step of the way. Others are not so lucky. When the doctor who sent me for my scan retired, I sat down and cried for hours. The one person who actually believed me and helped me the best he could was no longer there. Was I going to fall backwards to where I was in the beginning? Thankfully not. However, I still have to fight every appointment to be believed. As an obese woman, I find I am unlikely to have my health concerns taken seriously. It’s either hormones or my weight. There’s a well known comic where a fat woman goes to the doctors with her arm hanging off, begging for help. The first thing the doctor asks is “Have you considered losing weight?”

Image of Abby Jay Naylor at 26 years old

This is exactly how it feels. Almost every health complaint I’ve had over the past 15 years has been diagnosed months or years too late due to doctors dismissing me. What I am asking is that you don’t immediately jump to conclusions when you see a disabled or fat person. Don’t be a “concern troll”, where you state you are pointing out someone’s weight/ disability because you are concerned for their health. Healthy peoples’ reactions to Covid-19 have proven they don’t care for overweight or disabled people’s health. The vulnerable (elderly, disabled, asthma sufferers etc.) have been written off as an acceptable loss in the fight to overcome Covid-19. I can’t count how many times I have seen people complain about how they’re having to “protect us” - that we should just stay inside.

other disabled people are the same – and they should be. There are 11 million disabled people in the UK, and we are having to fight harder and harder every day to simply receive the same treatment abled people take for granted. We have to push through the anxiety of walking into a shop or a club knowing people will be staring and laughing at us. We have to deal with limitations on public transport or inaccessible workplaces to travel to work every day. So the next time you see a disabled and/or

overweight person out and about, don’t judge them. Be proud they push through all of the negative associations and physical limitations just to do something you take for granted – live a good life.

Written by: Abby Jay Naylor Abby works full-time within the Automotive industry (even with her disability) and loves to spend time with family and friends.

How do they expect me to support myself if I cannot work? I pride myself on my ability to push through the pain and work full time. I’m sure many Image of Abby Jay Naylor at 28 years old.

STEVE RYDER - @ ___rydyr___

Beat Balanced Brains How music plays a major role in our mental health and well being

Greetings fellow readers!

Let me take a moment to introduce myself and touch on the subject matter at hand: I am a classically trained vocalist, as well as an experienced lyricist, heavily involved in (yet not limited to) drum and bass [D&B] music. I’ve been singing for many years under a different alias, performing professionally since around 2004, and involved in the D&B scene since 2008. No matter what name I’ve gone by, the music has always been what matters most.


I’ve seized this opportunity to create articles for you about how music affects us in wonderfully healthy ways. For those of you who weren’t aware, music and its effects on our brain have been a topic of discussion, research and study for some time now. Many of those said studies have proven that music does indeed affect our cognition, often enhancing its function. It’s through that enhancement that researchers have found music helps to improve our overall health; ranging from memory and mood to cardiovascular function and Athletic Performance. (Harvard Health Publishing).

Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a cause I strongly support. Collaborating with Ben Soundscape of Intrigue Music we finalized a song entitled ‘Start Again’. In short, the song speaks of getting yourself out of an emotional rut and starting again with a fresh perspective. I sat with what Ben had sent me and got lost in the soothing watery sounds of the song. Having grown up in Miami I often frequented the beach for leisure as well as retrospection. The sound of the waves often calmed my racing mind. At the time I was living in London and found myself missing home. I envisioned myself sitting on the sand by the water and the lyrics simply poured out about my journey of taking a risk and moving overseas. I had to get myself out the emotional rut I was in and start fresh. Writing the tune was a great release and

perfect example of how music helps us in all sorts of situations. We completed ‘Start Again’ back in 2019 and had been mulling over where to place it. Initially it was to be released through a different label, but once Pyxis (founder of ‘Beats in Mind’) announced that they were taking submissions for the second volume of the ‘Headsbass’ album series, it clicked. Of course! Considering the subject matter of the tune, and the current Covid19 situation the world finds itself dealing with, it made total sense to submit the song for consideration. I believe it’s safe to say that Ben Soundscape and myself are very proud of the track and its release. You can support and give ‘Start Again’, as well as the other tunes featured on Headsbass Vol 2, a listen from the links at the end of article.

Beats in Mind: HEADSBASS album series

Image of cover work for Headbass album

‘Beats in Mind’ is a dance-music based community offering information, support, music and comfort to those suffering with mental health issues. The community was created in January 2020 and has since released two albums from their ‘Headsbass’ album series. Each volume hosts a plethora of great D&B producers, vocalists and MCs. Artists contribute to the series by submitting a track that they feel fits with the ethos of the community. The album series is meant to raise mental health awareness with proceeds going to mental health charities. UKF’s Dave Jenkins wrote a brilliant article about what the ‘Beats in Mind’ community is all about by speaking to its founder. Read that here: Be sure to follow Beats in Mind on Facebook and Instagram for updates on forthcoming releases and other news. Part one of ‘Headsbass Vol 3’ is set for release on August 7th, 2020 with two beautifully haunting, liquid tracks. One tune is a collaboration between the Netherlands’ Leniz and UK producer Henry on their stunning track “You Got Me”. The second track is by Australia’s Missledz, entitled “Falling for A Dream”.

It was a pleasure to contribute to something so special as I, myself, have dealt with mental health issues and have had difficulty addressing them. So many of us are left feeling alone and confused about our situations, feeling as though no one would be able to help us or understand. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see so many now discussing the importance of mental health awareness. Communities like ‘Beats in Mind’ are a part of that mission to ease the identification and early treatment of those individuals who are suffering in some way, shape or form. They also help to eliminate any stigma for these same people. No one should feel ashamed or embarrassed about having mental illness, yet most do. Life is challenging enough in this day and age and if we can create a safe space for those who need it, then we can make it that much easier for us to deal with our day to day experiences. Mental health awareness is vitally important for all of us. The more we know about it the more we can apply that knowledge and help out those we love; as well as help ourselves. If we take the time to look into it, there are many ways in which we can treat mental health issues and keep our wellbeing in better balance. There are a variety of psychotherapeutic treatments, including my top choice: Music Therapy, as well as support groups, complementary/alternative medicine (CAM), and self-help plans to name a few. Of course, some of us may benefit from consuming some sort of medication, but if you’re anything like me, I try to avoid that route if I can. As a vocalist I live by what my vocal instructor taught me: body, breath and

all are connected and should be in healthy balance to sound our best as singers. I feel that the same goes for our mental health in the sense that keeping our bodies in shape and doing daily breathwork can help us with mental clarity and calm. Applying those lessons attained through my journey in music has been my saving grace in regards to my mental health. The aim here is to share with all of you how beneficial music can be and really is to our overall health and wellbeing. Until next time!

Written by: Sophie Matera Sofi Mari is a classically trained vocalist, and experienced drum and bass MC, who has been professionally singing her heart out and working events since about 2004. Her love of music, and its many different genres, combined with her curiosity about its effects on our general wellbeing will bring informative articles to the table through her ‘Beat Balanced Brains’ segment in ‘Balance’ magazine.

Maithreyee Arun A model, artist and poet, Maithreyee Arun was the perfect choice to be on the cover of the first issue. Her self portraits features here and on the cover, her illustrations and poem (pg 44-45) show her range and style. "My art tries to challenge the thoughts of the viewer through my personal experiences, the raw aspect of my style helps me represent my true emotions with no inhibitions. This visual poetry represents the volatile nature of my emotions during drastic changes in life. I tried to represent the uneasiness one feels through the poem, it represents how in a moment one can never know what another person is really thinking of or going through because it cannot be expressed in words. The visual poetry (Pages 44 - 45) is experimentation for an upcoming project that will be finished this year which connects obscure narratives and dreamscape

Check out Maithreyee’s work on Instagram: @mmaiself & @mmaiself2.0 Check out her website at:

Organised Chaos: Life as a woman with ADHD

Welcome to the life of a woman with ADHD! We may have biscuits.

In a typical week which of the following might you: Misplacing your keys? Forgetting an appointment or social engagement? Realising you haven’t done the washing for so long you have run out of underwear? Logging in to do your emails and feeling so overwhelmed you immediately close them? Walking into a room and forgetting why you are there? Be consoling your best friend over her recent break-up only to get distracted by the bird flying past the window and forget what she just said? Wear that gorgeous new top for the first time whilst out for dinner only to spend the evening in the bathroom frantically tearing out the tag because it’s so scratchy it’s all you can think about? Be unable to follow the conversation in your favourite TV show because they’re playing background music? Wake up after a perfect night’s sleep only to feel exhausted and unable to move within minutes when contemplating everything you need to achieve in the day ahead? Wake up at 3:00am and be unable to fall back to sleep for two hours because your mind is buzzing with exciting ideas for a project you must work on in the morning? Sit down to work on your exciting project only for your mind to go completely blank? Feel horrendously anxious about your project’s imminent deadline only to be sucked into a four-hour YouTube hole whilst attempting to meet it? Finally get started on the project and find yourself battling through an endless stream of intrusive thoughts about everything from the funny look the postman gave you this morning to remembering you forgot your nan’s birthday, again! Look up from your work to realise that you haven’t moved, eaten or drunk anything for 6 hours? Finally get your washing done only to leave it in the machine for three days? Be at a party you’ve been looking forward to for a month only to have to leave because the noise, big crowd and flashing lights are so overwhelming it brings on a panic attack?



i, my name is Sophie, and last year at the age of 34 I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, despite having two degrees and a successful and rewarding career as a health scientist and consultant. Issues like those above had become a daily occurrence for me but, growing up in a household of what I now understand to be four undiagnosed neurodiverse humans, these struggles were my normal. It wasn’t until I was completely unable to cope and became physically unwell that I finally discovered my lifelong struggles were part of something more complex! My diagnosis, like so many womens’, was a shock and a blessing. I finally had the answers for why I was completely frazzled, exhausted and depressed - despite 10 years’ experience as a health coach supporting people with the same health issues. Finally, I understood why I’d had so many struggles in previous relationships; why I changed jobs repeatedly across my career when others seemed

when others seemed content for years; why I struggle to get started on work or academic projects and procrastinate, even when I’m really passionate and full of ideas. Why I can feel so anxious I can’t think or even breathe, even if there’s no reason for it. Why I’ve spent my whole life feeling misunderstood, different and to blame for everything that has gone wrong. Why I struggled to get the grades I did at A-level and in my undergraduate degree, even though these were lower they should have been. Why during my Master’s degree I developed severe anxiety and insomnia and felt like I was going mad; and why I had to resign from what I thought was my dream job because it made me mentally and physically unwell. Neurodiversity is the umbrella term for

Autism Spectrum Conditions: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia; OCD; and Tourette’s Syndrome. It encourages us to see these conditions as neurological differences rather than conditions needing to be fixed. When thinking about ADHD in particular, you probably think of hyperactive little boys. This is because, until recently, this is how it was represented in any literature and diagnostic criteria. The current NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines estimate that ADHD is more common in males than females by a ratio of 4:1. This is because girls usually present with less hyperactivity than boys, and are subsequently less disruptive so more unlikely to be identified and diagnosed. Thanks to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition), which recognises inattention and emotional dysregulation as major criteria for ADHD diagnosis, things

are starting to change. But it’s not uncommon for adult females to find out they have ADHD after years of being incorrectly labelled with anxiety, depression, a personality disorder, chronic fatigue, or even bipolar. Research conducted by King’s College London recognises that many cases of ADHD still go undetected and the ratio of girls to boys with ADHD is much more likely to be 1:1. Unfortunately this means there are thousands of women in the UK who are still un- or misdiagnosed, and being left to struggle.

or sociable, having lots of different interests and jobs, being bossy, loud or arrogant, interrupting people, being impatient, easily irritated, impulsive and thrill seeking.

Girls with ADHD are often perceived as dreamy, lazy or lacking motivation, and repeatedly told to ‘try harder’. In adolescence and adulthood women may experience excessive mind wandering or racing thoughts, forgetfulness, difficulty doing anything that requires significant or sustained mental effort unless it is urgent or of interest, and below expected academic achievement. They may also be perceived as overly emotional, sensitive or moody. Hyperactivity manifests as being very active or

It’s not all bad; ADHDers are also passionate, driven, entrepreneurial and highly empathic. However, because of our issues we often struggle to live up to expectations, which results in poor self-esteem, people pleasing and putting others’ needs before our own. Emotional sensitivity and hyperactive or impulsive behavior may negatively impact relationships with friends, family, partners and colleagues in the workplace, leaving us feeling isolated and afraid to make new connections. .

All this happens because ADHD affects the production and processing of the brain chemicals dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline which are involved in motivation, pleasure, reward, focus and attention - to name but a few. This means we struggle with information processing and communication specifically around language, numbers or spatial awareness. We struggle with emotional regulation and can experience extreme emotions with very sudden onset, which can be hard to control and feel overwhelming. We have difficulty with executive functions which affect working memory, planning, organisation, self-control, task initiation and switching, and time

management. We are also more at risk of mental health problems including poor self-esteem, social anxiety, generalised anxiety depression and mood swings. Sensory overload can be a big problem due to the increased amount of information that we’re processing all day, which is at increased intensity. This overwhelms our central nervous system and makes us have a meltdown, panic, or feel the need to run away and hide. Together this can make life a real struggle especially when juggling the competing demands of home, work and social life. Our brains work at 100 miles an hour and we are constantly coming up with new ideas for business ventures, or creative solutions to world problems. We are passionate, excited and highly capable but we race into our new ideas filled with vigour and enthusiasm only to get overwhelmed, or distracted, and unable to see things through, which leads to a lifetime of frustration and feeling unfulfilled. One of the biggest

frustrations of an ADHD female is how poorly understood this condition is and how dismissive people can be of our struggles. ADHD women don’t typically live up to social and societal expectations of what a woman should be and so we feel like failures as a mother, wife, employee or friend. Women with ADHD want to be able to talk to you about it but there is still significant misunderstanding and stigma around ADHD, making many of us afraid to be open. We want you to understand and support us whilst benefiting from all the wonderful things we have to offer the world.

To help you truly understand what it’s like to be a female with ADHD and become part of our affirmative force that’s going to help change perceptions and improve the world; I asked the wonderful women in my online ADHD support groups to share their experiences of living with ADHD. On the next page are their biggest frustrations, ADHD superpowers and the things they want you, our neurotypical allies to understand:

“The most frustrating thing is wanting to get stuff done but just being unable to. The best things are the desire to always be better and be learning new things. Hyperfocus, when it kicks in, is great as what I can achieve in a few hours is amazing” Chelsea Y “I regret every day that I am not where I should be in life due to being undiagnosed and untreated for most of it. Despite being extremely clever, I was unable to focus and never believed in myself. However, I love that it makes me very easy to get on with and my superpower is myempathy for others; as well as being an accidental comedy genius!” Jane K

“If only people would realise how HARD we try to do all the stuff neurotypicals take for granted - how we live with the feeling of being ’different’ but don’t know why. Late diagnosis in my 50’s caused Identity crisis with such a sense of loss at what might have been, I’m finally realising that I can actually embrace my quirkiness and I am ok as I am!” Janice S “My energy can be a superpower; my brain is lightning fast which is a curse and a blessing all at once. The forgetfulness and distractibility can be awful” Shona H

“People dismissing my struggles “because everyone is like that sometimes” further reinforces the feeling that I’m a failure. The best part is having so many interests that I can talk to almost anyone as we usually have something in common.” Samantha B

Neurodiversity, and in particular ADHD, comes with a wealth of frustrations and struggles which women are often forced to put up with for a significant portion of our lives before getting diagnosed or receiving help. But having ADHD can also be wonderful, and is what makes us loyal and caring friends, excellent problem solvers, fantastic under pressure and extremely passionate and creative. It helps us feel things intensely - meaning we see the beauty in the world and love new thrills and challenges. We are fantastic travel buddies and great at innovations. Our passions and ability to see problems where others don’t makes us strongly motivated to change the things we feel are unjust or inefficient. We want to make the world a better place, and have an innate need to help others. We have magical powers when it comes to connecting with, and understanding, people and are fantastic to have around in a crisis. It’s no coincidence that many of the greatest minds and figures in our political and social history

Image of Sophie Tully

had ADHD including Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Beethoven, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, John Lennon and Muhammad Ali. Many of whom were so ahead of their time they were ridiculed and socially outcast at times. With the right understanding and support from our neurotypical peers and environments, people with ADHD could become your most valuable asset. Education is key so thank you for reading this article. Please spread the word and if you know a woman who could have ADHD, get her to read this. It could just change her life!

Written by: Sophie Tully Sophie is a Biomedical Scientist with a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition and 15 years experience in health research and consultancy. As a health and wellness coach Sophie specialises in supporting those with chronic and complex physical and mental health concerns, as well as individuals and families with neurodiversity, in particular ADHD. Get in touch:

STEVE RYDER - INKBLOT 1 @ ___rydyr___



i, my name is Jacob. For the last 14 years I’ve been living with a condition that has changed the way I live my life. I’ve had to change how I work, and how I go about my day to day life. It’s been a struggle. This is my story of living with Schizophrenia and using music as a way to get by.. Media and social platforms perpetuate stereotypes of what Schizophrenia sufferers are, yet give no voice to people living with it, and no real insight into the condition at all. It would be easy to sit down and listen to someone who suffers from this condition - let them talk about

how they feel and how they get by in their day to day life, but this is ignored. I myself have been portrayed to be something I am not. This is why music was, and still is, my gateway to stability with my condition. As a DJ and music promoter, I’ve realised what I want to do and where I want to be because it’s given me a sense of relief, and a way to make me feel like myself and be comfortable with my condition. I have become more open and sociable, and feel less anxiety. But before music, it was different. Over the years, trying to overcome something I never really understood was possibly the hardest part. I was confined


to my bedroom, billowing away my dreams and accomplishments after passing my grade in highschool. I never really wanted to go to college or go through any other form of learning methods but my own. I never made real friends - I couldn’t keep or socialise with the ones I made, as they didn’t understand the difficulty of being pushed aside or being left out. For years, I watched people walk away and leave my side because I never understood the aspect of feeling a sense of normality. Everything is not what it seems to be when people talk about Schizophrenia. For most of my life my emotions got the best of me. Things are perceived differently - when people say things, it could turn over in my head and go the wrong way, or I simply wouldn’t really listen as it didn’t fit my methods. Things are easily overturned in my head and thrown away because they are not my own. You could say something nice to me and “boom” - I explode into my other self. My other personality. There’s a side of this condition that no one but yourself has a real understanding of - a knowing of what’s going on or what is to come next. People looked at me as the crazy guy, the man with ants in his pants. This always put me down and made me question whether I was good enough to be on this earth. The way my mind works just isn’t known enough for people to understand. People are too judgemental with these things, everyone has their own view and insight - which will be different to my own. I have never been “normal”, as I also suffer from autism and ADHD. These

difficult life, but made me realise I needed something I could use as a focal point to success - MUSIC. Music changed every aspect of me, and how I see who I really am. I’m not special or different to anyone else. For the last five to six years, music has helped me be the person I’ve always wanted to be, and has changed how I look at my condition. I’ve seen from my own perspective why people could never really understand the condition I have. I’ve been able to reach the point of opening up and explaining to the world “this is why I do what I do and why”. People have changed their views and opinions on me. They now see a person just wanting to be heard, to be listened to. A person pursuing a goal that does nothing but good for their own well being. Music was never really a passion, nor a sense of relief. Not until I realised this is what I needed to be. It made me a better person. Now, being known as a person who only wants to give more to the world has given me the ability to do so much more. I have pushed hard enough to accomplish what most have never done in 20 years in half the time others. Pursuing a music career has given me life, feeling, hope and a sense of character.

Written by: Jacob Knowles Jacob is the promoter and owner of Aztek Sessions, an events promotion for Rave music in the north.


Thank You! This magazine has been a massive undertaking, it would never of been completed without all of the people who contributed. So here are their names and links to their social media & websites. Thank you to every single person who contributed time, effort and their art. I am incredibly grateful. You are amazing! An extra special thank you to my partner in crime Roj Naylor, who has helped edit written work, kept me calm and generally been a massive help. MissFits Workout

Jacob Aztec





Otis Galloway

Sophie Matera




Adekola Poetry @adekolapoetry Steve Ryder @ ___rydyr___

sofimarimusic Quinn Brown @ quinn.brown.7393

Sophie Tully

@ LeedsTransLad

A.A.Dhand @ aadhand

Some of the people don’t have public social media but equally deserve to be thanked as well.

Steve Hughes So thank you to:

Abby Jay Naylor Laura Bretnall @clownratz_

Ethan Carney @creativemind_studio

Gail Naylor CJ Ellison Equality Cards @EqualityCards Beth Rothwell bethrothwell

Ken Relf Phoenix Shaman @PhoenixShaman

Joe Denny

@phoenixshaman Maithreyee Arun @mmaiself @mmaiself2.0

You are all amazing and I thank every single person from the bottom of my heart!

Love Yourself

You’re beautiful, love yourself, Sounds a little corny, it’s a cliche right, self-love, self-delusion, so many raised with trauma, so many live with it daily, despite oppression, the world is beautiful, life is not easy, life is unusual, a gift, a curse, you’re made from stardust, act like a star, you end up as dust, humble yourself, more than your environment, more than your output, your dignity is deep, you’re beautiful, love yourself.


POEM: ADEKOLA - @adekolapoetry IMAGE: STEVE RYDER - @ ___rydyr___