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living with invisible illness

Welcome to SICK! magazine. SICK! is a contemporary arts programme running in Medway during summer 2017. Our aim is to begin a conversation about something rarely talked about, but which impacts so many lives. SICK! makes the invisible visible, smashing the preconceptions, stigma and loneliness of living with invisible illness, increasing understanding and mindfulness. At the centre of our activities is a group exhibition at Sun Pier House (5-27 July 2017) featuring twelve artists affected by invisible chronic health conditions – covering a diverse range of disciplines, media and conditions; from colitis to bipolar, from fibromyalgia to dementia. In July we organised workshops for people living with invisible illness - you can read more about these on the following pages. A huge thank you to everyone who is reading this, who has been to our workshops and seen the exhibition - this is for you! Another massive thanks to everyone who has given up their time to contribute to this magazine! Instagram: @sickexhibition Facebook:


SICK! logo by Ralph Steadman All photography by Rikard Österlund,, unless otherwise stated Back cover by RAU Illustration

I Can’t See You, But You’re Real 4 Xtina Lamb 5 Zara Carpenter 6 Paiñata! Workshop 8 The Secret Life of Fascia 11 Rosie Melville 14 Jemimah Dean 15 Matt Bray 16 Alcohol Addiction 18 Rikard Österlund 22 Our Stories Matter 24 Zines Workshop 26 Scratches And Blots 28 Philip Absolom 30 The Moving Image 31 Jatin Patel 32 Alison Blackburn 33 Heike Irion 33 Eleanor Kerr-Patton 34 Creative Recipies 35 Danielle Wright 39

Editor: Rikard Österlund Design: Danielle Wright, Contributors: Ralph Steadman, Danielle Wright, RAU Illustration, Anna Morell, Emelie Hill Dittmer, Brad Harmer-Barnes, Kyra de Coninck, Natasha BoardmanSteer, Faye Lamb, Gary Barrell, Matt Bray, Xtina Lamb DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this publication are the authors own and do not reflect the views of Arts Council England or Medway Council Arts Team.

This project is supported using public funding from Arts Council England and additional support from Medway Council Arts Team.

I can’t see you, but you’re real. There’s a game children play where they cover their eyes. If I can’t see you you’re not really there. If I can’t see you, you’re not real. How often do we look at somebody, somebody like us, no sling, no stick, no crutch, no wheelchair. There’s nothing wrong with them. Disability? Illness? If I can’t see it, it’s not there. One in three people in the UK suffer from an invisible illness. A medical condition you can’t see. Something which causes them difficulty with day to day living. Pain. Discomfort. Trouble moving. Trouble seeing, hearing, tasting, touching. Trouble being. The clue is in the name: invisible illness. It’s got a catchy alliteration to it. It’s marketable even, so why don’t we know about it? Why don’t we treat people with invisible illnesses the same way we would somebody in a wheelchair? Because the clue’s in the name: invisible illness. With invisibility comes shame. The need to explain. Again, and again. I really do need to sit down. I can’t do that today. I’m sorry, I can’t be there this evening. I can’t, I can’t. And you can’t... see. It’s harder to believe in something you can’t see. Harder to have faith in that friend or stranger. Harder to believe that what you can’t see, or share, is real.

SICK! is making the invisible visible. It’s sharing the names of as many of those illnesses as it can. Tongue teasers, new words, things that make you go huh? Things that have been hidden from you. It’s laying them bare. It’s putting them out there. There’s a model of thinking within the disability movement called The Social Model. It states that it’s not disabled people that are the problem, but the obstacles society puts up against them. That applies equally to people with invisible illnesses and disabilities. It’s not that we suffer that is the problem, but that people can’t see we suffer to offer understanding and compassion. There’s a game children play every Christmas. They stick a stocking on the end of a bed, close their eyes tight, and believe. I can’t see you, but you’re really there. I can’t see you, but you’re real. What a difference belief makes. I can’t see it, but I know I know now - it’s real. Anna Morell is a writer, mother and community campaigner. She lives with the chronic conditions CFS, arthritis, lymphoedema and lipoedema.

Xtina Lamb Xtina’s bookwork ‘Rupture’ layers text, personal photographs and ephemera to revisit memories of living with a bowel disease. The book was printed on her beloved Risograph stencil duplicator and is bound at both ends, perforated in the middle and must be torn to be read - echoing the destructive trail left by chronic illness. Xtina's main medium is printmaking, but she also creates artworks using unusual materials such as marine plastic. Community engagement projects form a key part of her work too; she recently worked with 300 students from schools in Dartford and created a design used to wrap a council bin lorry made from their prints and drawings. She founded Rochesterbased arts venue INTRA and runs a print studio there.

Zara Carpenter Zara's artistic practice explores the act of creativity as a panacea - shifting awareness of pain towards something positive. Zara has personal experience of living with invisible illness in the form of chronic pain (fibromyalgia, hypermobility), OCD and anxiety. Suit of Armour is a tailored suit cut from fabric designed and silk screen printed by hand. The pattern is a complex repeated design featuring a selection of invisible illnesses affecting the people closest to Zara. Printed in invisible ink, these illnesses only become visible under UV light. Follow Zara on Instagram @zaracarpenter

a Ăą t i a a P !

This hovering dark cloud piĂąata is covered with true stories about the difficulties, challenges and negative feelings experienced living with invisible illness. Participants in a workshop on the 22nd July made bright, colourful things, hand written positive messages and made small uplifting gifts to go inside. We will defiantly smash this negative cloud and enjoy a rush of colour to celebrate the opening of the exhibition!

figure 1

Crawling under the skin: The secret life of fascia I first became interested in this relatively unknown layer under our skin more than 20 years ago, when working with people with persistent pain conditions such as lower back pain and fibromyalgia, as a massage therapist. This lead me eventually to become a researcher specialising in the function and dysfunction of fascia. Fascia is a network of connective tissue layers which wraps around and connects all our bones, joints, organs and muscles. Sometimes, these layers are very thin, as in the transparent ‘skin’ on a raw chicken breast between the skin and the meat (lighter coloured muscles on the shoulders show the thin fascial wrapping in Figure 1). At other times, these layers are thicker, for example, the tough gristle in red meat is fascia too. In this article, I will be focusing on the fascial layers

which connect muscles to each other in the lower back, as well as the broader fascial network in our bodies. Only now, are we beginning to understand that both animal and human fascia plays an important role in movement, tissue healing and chronic pain. For instance, layers of fascia in the lower back are connected to muscles in the upper back, abdominals and hip muscles right through to muscles in the back of the legs (see ‘Lumbar fascia’ in Figure 1). These fascial layers slide over each other to allow muscles to work together when contracting and lengthening, during running, kicking a ball, reaching up, twisting and bending. However, in some people with chronic lower back pain, the lumbar fascial layers are 25% thicker and slide 20% less (Langevin et al., 2011).

These changes might be the result of overuse or underuse due to chronic or persistent pain, microtears, old injuries, inflammation, or a combination of factors. We don’t know yet whether thicker or stiffer fascia is the cause of lower back pain, or whether is develops as a result of altered movement patters. We do know that excessive stiffness in the lower back fascia can limit movement (Barker et al., 2007) but conversely, a lack of tension, for example in people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or other hypermobility conditions, it has been proposed lead to difficulties in stabilising the lower back and hips (Vleeming et al., 1995), or the shoulder joint. I recently came across this very apt description ‘Every bit of you is encased in it. You’re protected by fascia, connected by fascia and kept in taut human shape by fascia’ (Lucas, 2011). You may think of joints being held together by individual ligaments and joint capsules, however, these in turn are connected to the body-wide fascial network, which is important in rehabilitation. Next time you stretch or strengthen any part of

your body, remember your wrist, shoulder, hip or knee is connected to surrounding structures as part of the fascial network. The mechanism behind the differences in tension in the fascial system is still not fully understood. A wide range of researchers are currently trying to unravel the secret life of fascia, such as surgeons, biologists, manual and physical therapists, osteopaths and chiropractors, scar tissue specialists, but also structural engineers and food scientists. What they all have in common is that they realise that fascia could hold many of the keys for understanding persistent pain and inflammation, as well as a wide range of therapies. Despite the fact that the mechanisms behind the differences in peoples’ fascia is still not fully understood, the concept of fascia as a bodywide network, similar to the nervous system is growing. Kyra De Coninck, Lecturer in Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences; Sports Therapy, Physical Activity and Health Research Group; University of Kent, UK.

References: Barker, P. J., Urquhart, D. M., Story, I. H., Fahrer, M. and Briggs, C. a (2007) ‘The middle layer of lumbar fascia and attachments to lumbar transverse processes: implications for segmental control and fracture.’, European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society, 16(12), pp. 2232–7. doi: 10.1007/ s00586-007-0502-z. Langevin, H. M., Fox, J. R., Koptiuch, C., Badger, G. J., Greenan-Naumann, A. C., Bouffard, N. a, Konofagou, E. E., Lee, W.N., Triano, J. J. and Henry, S. M. (2011) ‘Reduced thoracolumbar fascia shear strain in human chronic low back pain.’, BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 12, p. 203. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-12-203. Lucas, J. (2011) Understanding your fascia, Runner’s World. Available at: https:// understanding-your-fascia/#comments (Accessed: 13 July 2017). Vleeming, A., Pool-Goudzwaard, A. L., Stoeckart, R., van Wingerden, J. P. and Snijders, C. J. (1995) ‘The posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia. Its function in load transfer from spine to legs.’, Spine, 20(7), pp. 753–758. Further information: A podcast interview with Prof Helene Langevin about connective tissue and inflammation: https://www.liberatedbody. com/podcast/helene-langevin-lbp-049 Dr Robert Schleip’s website with research articles for everybody on all things fascia: Pain is Really Strange, a research based graphic book by Steve Haines Figure 1: Wikimedia Comms - https://commons. (20351394431).jpg Black and white engravings: De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books) is a textbook of human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) in 1543.

Rosie Melville Rosie Melville creates sculpture using a variety of materials, including ceramics. Her recent work expresses the emotions and physical sensations experienced from living with depression, chronic pain and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Portrait by James Macintyre

“Do not ask me who I am, do not ask me to remain the same, I like countless others, doubtless like me, write in order to have no face.” Michel Foucault Through ‘The Foucault Project’ Jemimah aims to bring the subjectivity of mental health sufferers into view; she is inspired by individual identities, and looks at how and why we are made to conform within society, or kept hidden. Jemimah herself was diagnosed with bi-polar affective disorder at 30 and was placed onto Quitiapine, a powerful anti-psychotic drug, until the last year of her studies. She states: “The power to know myself was always interrupted by the powers who told me how to know myself. I am aware now of who I am, aware now of who I was and accept that I may not be this way tomorrow. The tide is not tied to the sea y’know and it’s a relief to finally become aware that I am not tied to me.” Follow Jemimah on Instagram @_weirdfruit_

Jemimah Dean

Matt Bray Matt Bray is the curator of SICK! and is currently making work based on The Virgin Suicides, as well as a series of sculpted heads with Adam Newton, exploring feelings of antagonism inherent in the notion of the body as object.

The weirdest thing about not drinking is when people ask you why you don’t drink. I’ve had it at parties, festivals, office Christmas dinners, restaurants, gigs…and it’s such a weird thing to ask, when you think about it. If you don’t like mushrooms, no-one asks you why you don’t like mushrooms. No-one asks you if you used to be addicted to mushrooms. No-one worries if it’s all right for them to eat mushrooms in front of you, because they’re worried that if you see them eating mushrooms then you’ll somehow fall off of the mushroom wagon, and the next time they see you you’ll have mushroom vomit stains on your lapel, and smudge of stroganoff under your nostrils. So here’s my way of dealing with it: if someone asks why I don’t drink, I just tell them that it’s because I’m a recovering alcoholic. The reason I do this is because I’ve learnt that it’s the answer people want to hear. The fact that it’s true is also a bonus. Nine times out of ten, they’re hoping you’ll say that because of the drama and human interest it entails. However, eight out of those nine, it totally kills the conversation, because they don’t have a clue how to respond to it. They’ve addressed the elephant in the room, and it’s charging at them. The other reason I say it is because for the other one in ten times, they’re not just fishing for drama. They’re asking because they’re worried about themselves, or someone they know being

in the same situation, and I’m glad to say that I’ve done my best to help out on a few occasions. Alcoholism and all forms of substance abuse are now generally considered to be illnesses, which are manageable through lifestyle. The only treatment is willpower and the support of your friends and loved ones. I don’t particularly want to talk about why I started drinking, or the things I did or why I decided to quit. That’s not important to anyone but me, and my story and the next sufferer’s story will be completely different. Instead, here’s what it’s like to be a recovering alcoholic.

I’ve been clean for nearly fourteen years now, with no relapses. This doesn’t mean I’m cured. This doesn’t mean that I can drink again. This doesn’t mean that I never think about drinking, especially in times of hardship. It doesn’t mean that my brain works properly now. First point – I can never be cured. Addiction/ alcoholism/substance abuse is an illness/condition that cannot be cured, it can only be managed. The easiest way to control that is through total abstinence from the substance that you became addicted to. The easiest way to do that, in my experience, is to shift your obsession onto something else, something less harmful. For me, it was tabletop gaming, a hobby I loved as a child and teenager, and threw myself into fully once again when I stopped drinking. I’ve gained friends, career opportunities and many good times from it.

Make no mistake, though, this is still a facet of my addictive personality. If I’m obsessed with a writing project, and am unable to work on it for a couple of days, I get cranky, twitchy, obsessive... much the same as quitting any addiction. There is a fallacy that an alcoholic wants to be drunk all the time. This is – in the majority of cases – incorrect. Alcoholism is a compulsion; a lack of choice. The desires of the alcoholic do not feature into their actions at all. What I really want is to have one or two pints of Guinness with my friends or family, be sociable, go home, and get up the following day perfectly normal. I have to accept that that is not the way my brain works, so I can’t. If I have one pint, I’ll have twelve. I’ll make a total idiot of myself at the gathering, have an argument with someone, crash out at 3am halfway through a Rambo movie and wake the following day feeling like death and desperate for another beer. I know that because that was my life for just over a year. Okay, it wasn’t always a Rambo movie, but the point still stands.

So, how do I cope with living with alcoholism? Firstly, as mentioned above – I deflect. I recognise that I can’t control the addictive side of my personality, so I know I can never just shut that side of myself off. What I do instead is to redirect it into something that I can engross myself in that isn’t, in and of itself, destructive. I’ve learnt to embrace it as a positive energy. If I’m going to embark on something creative, it’s great that that’s what will occupy my every waking (and sometimes dreaming) moment. I can invest myself into something on a level that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to – and certainly more than I ever could if I was drinking. Secondly, I drink a lot of non-alcoholic stuff. I don’t just mean non-alcoholic wine or beer, although I do go through more than my fair share of that as well. I just drink more than the average person does; I’ll always have a glass or cup of something on the go, wherever I am. I worry that if I get super parched, it’ll make me think I want an alcoholic drink, when it actuality I’m just plain old thirsty. Again, this is all about realising that

there are parts of my life and the way that my brain works that I simply can’t change, so instead I’ve built up an arsenal of coping mechanisms. If staying up until 1am painting a bunch of Star Wars miniature figures while knocking back pints of cola means that I’m not drinking, then that’s just fine by me. That’s the sort of person I’d rather be anyway. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, despite suffering from alcoholism, but at the same time I’m constantly vigilant. I have so much to lose, should I relapse. Everything I have in my life is as a result of me quitting drinking. I’d never have performed stand-up, played in Bender Crack Corn, or enjoyed any of the other creative projects that I’m so proud of. More than that, I wouldn’t have any of the great friends that I do now. I wouldn’t have my wife, and – worst of all – I wouldn’t have my daughter. I’m coming up fourteen years clean now, and I don’t suffer from it nearly as much as I used to. It’s reached the point where not drinking is my new normality. When I first quit it was a massive change for me, psychologically and physically. Now, it just doesn’t enter my consciousness on a regular basis. As a great man once said “Always remember: your focus determines your reality”.

I’m not really sure how to summarise all of this for you. It’s such a part of my life that I just…get on with it. I suppose that I’d say that living with alcoholism is not a debilitating illness, but it is one that is always there, and can become a severe problem if it isn’t constantly kept in check.

Finally, if you’re worried about your drinking habits, or if you’re worried about someone close to you, then do reach out. It’s a problem that can be dealt with, and there will always be someone willing to help you. Give Alcoholics Anonymous a call on 0800 9177 650 for yourself, or for a friend or relative call Al-Anon on 020 7403 0888. Written by Brad Harmer-Barnes Illustrated by RAU Illustration, Brad Harmer-Barnes is a writer and comedian from Kent. His first novel, North Sea Hunters, is available now from Severed Press, and he is a regular guest on The Crazy Train podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter or Instagram @RealBradHB

Rikard Ă–sterlund


Initially I photographed to try and understand what Zara was going through, since it is so hopelessly out of my control. I soon learned that this was actually something we were both going through. I wanted to capture the visible signs of her illnesses and make sense of our day to day life. Taking pictures allowed me to look back and reflect on her conditions, and my role in our relationship. The biggest problem with invisible illnesses is that they are just that - invisible. I felt it was time to show what this life looks like, to give it voice.

Photographs from Rikard's long term project "Look, I'm wearing all the colours"

Our Stories Matter Write Your Self is a writing movement that helps people reclaim their voices after experiencing trauma. In the run up to the SICK! exhibition this method was explored in three workshops. Åsa Boström is the founder of Write Your Self, she is a writing and Yoga teacher, artist and author. SICK! Magazine caught up with her for an interview.

Can you tell me a little about how the Write Your Self concept was developed?

Why do you think expressive writing is such a powerful tool for healing?

For the past ten years, I have taught women of all ages who have experienced domestic violence using autobiographical writing and yoga, and I’ve developed materials and methods for this. I myself have experienced domestic abuse and these practices have been important tools for me in my healing. When I started teaching, this was a way to move this on and to enable more to be helped by writing and yoga.

Writing is in many ways a powerful tool for selfawareness, self-esteem and self-strengthening. Writing is also a democratic tool, to have a voice and expression is an issue of equality and a democratic right. As individuals, we need good systems, support, and tools when life becomes shaky. 70-80% of the world’s population experiences trauma at sometime during their lives.

Write Your Self started in 2013, first as a writing program for women and transgenders and was run during 2013-2015 in collaboration with Women’s Aid in Sweden. With this, I went from the physical classroom to digital teaching and it meant an opportunity to reach participants who were geographically dispersed, who were hiding or who were traveling around.

Through writing we come in contact with ourselves, what is going on in our minds, bodies and lives. What is stored within, and what may need to be expressed. Writing allows us to organise, process and verbalise feelings, memories, ideas and thoughts that we carry. Trauma breaks us apart, what we thought we knew about life and our place in the world changes and afterwards we need to piece together what we experienced and find ways to move on. To write your story backwards is a way to write your story forward.

Women with experience of violence continue to be a main target group, but we also focus on people who have experienced illness, loss and crisis. We all go through various difficult experiences in life, and writing is a powerful strategy to address these. We want to help people reclaim their voices and stories after trauma through writing. Emelie Hill Dittmer, who ran a series of workshops as part of the SICK! programme, is one of our guides. She is also a licensed fellow. Each year, we distribute a number of these fellowships that consist of free access to the Writing and License program. The application system will open again this autumn.

James Pennebaker, a professor of social psychology, coined the concept of expressive writing. Our methodology has been influenced by his research. It shows that how we write is important for writing to be healing. Writing in detail links thoughts and feelings, shows us meaning and understanding and how we structure the writing time gives us self-care during the process. Sustainability is a central part of our writing methodology.

What can we learn when we put pen to paper and from the experience that the Write Your Self methodology provides? The main purpose of our method is to bring choice and empowerment back to the writer. Trauma often causes us to feel powerless. The writer always chooses the subject matter, there is no need to write about trauma, but if you want to do that you will get the tools and strategies to allow you to do so. What we experience is stored in our minds and bodies. In time these stories begin to come to the surface, like images, sensations, feelings when we start writing. Keeping quiet or pushing them away from consciousness can take a lot of energy and make us sick as we end up trying to suppress in different ways. When we have a solid foundation for our writing and we feel empowered we can write about anything. Then the process becomes something we can use for the rest of our lives. What we practice in the writing space we can take with us to the rest of the world and make our voices heard in other areas of life.

What advice and wisdom would you share with others who are thinking of writing as a part of their recovery process? Some advice for those starting out is to go gently and carefully. Write a little at a time and check in with yourself regularly as to how it feels and what it awakes. It is also important to rest and recover. You are entitled

to your own space and voice, your experiences, ideas and dreams are important. We have chosen to call our business Write Your Self because that’s exactly what this type of writing is about, to move into oneself and express this by writing.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the Write Your Self method? We want to establish Write Your Self as a global writing movement. By giving writing to people from all walks of life who would like to receive help to write and also communities where writing may not be currently used. For example, we’ll focus on educating guides so that they can reach more writers in turn. We want it to be self-evident that when we experience trauma we should get good help writing. We want it to be simple. To take the first step to write is a threshold to overcome, but otherwise writing is something available to most. The only material we need is paper and pen, or some technical means. We want to change people’s lives. We want to give a voice to people who feel that trauma has taken it away. We want to face a challenge that our society is facing. So many of us suffer for various reasons, and existing support resources are not enough. A supplement is required. Writing is a really good complement.

Interview by Emelie Hill Dittmer

FACTS/WRITE YOUR SELF Write Your Self is a global writing movement that helps people reclaim their voices and stories after trauma. They offer two digital writing programs: the Writing Program, where private individuals can get help writing as well as the Licensing Program, where professionals are licensed to teach Write Your Self’s trauma writing methodology. Write Your Self is an online-based business and works globally. Their team is based in Sweden. For more information visit:



Here are some cool health zines to check out: Sad Ghost Club Terrarium by Amy Parish Hysterical Girls, a zine about self harm, scars and stigma Trich Witch - a mini-zine about living with trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder) Sick Days Anxiety Comics

Zines are small, cheaply self-published magazines, often focussed on a particular topic or theme. They come in all shapes and sizes, with bindings ranging from simple staples to inventive use of stitching, folding, brass fasteners or eyelets. They have been made for decades as a direct way for individuals to communicate their ideas, opinions or graphic styles, without the need to use mainstream channels. Although there are zine distributiors and shops specialising in small / DIY publishing, many zines go straight from the maker to the reader. Not having to conform to anyone else’s idea of what can or should be published is a liberating factor that many people as creators, readers and collectors of zines enjoy. They can be funny, serious, angry, confessional, full of strong opinion or a bit vague and there are some blurred lines where zines, artists’ books, mail art and comix meet. Certain zine aesthetics crop up regularly; a retro cut & paste look (possibly using typewriters or hand-written text) and ones with a comic-strip format are particularly popular. The thing that unites zines is how they represent the voice of their makers, their passion for a chosen topic and desire to share this with others. Xtina Lamb, manager of the SICK! workshops,

Scratches and Blots During my misspent youth, like most burgeoning lunatics I went through a Hunter S Thompson phase. Anyone who has read his Fear and Loathing books will know their unforgettable art style that infests your mind the moment you encounter them. The drawings explode onto the page with anarchic zest - scratches and blots of ink imbuing the characters with a raw, unruly energy - these inimitable drawings are the work of Ralph Steadman. Another universal touchstone for all trainee delinquents is the perfectly deranged Withnail and I, and once again Ralph’s artwork captures perfectly the frenetic lunacy of the movie’s titular duo on the cover art, aptly embodying the film’s spirit in a single image.

Over the years I have collected a few of Ralph Steadman’s art books - I Leonardo, Sigmund Freud, and The Big I Am. The writing is wickedly irreverent, and the art work is a step beyond; his books allow him to stretch his style even further than the commissioned work, and each page is a genuine masterpiece in its own right. So, as a member of the SICK! team and gushing Ralph Steadman fanboy, having the big man himself create our official logo as well as a piece of art for the exhibition - I’m sure you’ll understand that I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. The whole team behind this venture couldn’t be more grateful to Ralph for his generous contribution to our cherished project! Matt Bray, curator of SICK! The Exhibition Photographs by Rikard Österlund

'Fit for Work' by Philip Absolom

The Moving Image The experience of watching a film in a darkened room surrounded by strangers can certainly be considered a lonely endeavour. Shutting out all extraneous thoughts, feelings and anxieties which may have been percolating over the course of the day leading up to an evening’s retreat in the cocooning sanctuary of the cinema can also be incredibly therapeutic – a visual and aural balm to soothe away the stresses and strains of modern life. Cinema is an escape, regardless of the subject matter thrown up on the screen; it is a haven, a state and mind-altering distraction into an alternate reality, if only for a couple of hours. Cinema had been widely tipped to have had its day, superseded by the combined might of Netflix, Sky and Amazon Prime in the battle for our viewing attention. Box-set bingeing is the order of the day now as we gluttonously devour the latest season of whichever TV show happens to be trending on social media - the clarion FOMO call defying us not to engage and consume like all good consumers must, obeying the master-toservant mantra from on-high. Television can be consumed in a very sociable setting, with friends and family, all the home comforts and a very convenient pause button, handy for loading up on snacks, or for dropping them off. Cinema can also be sociable though with the gaze fixed on the big screen, joyously distraction and chatter-free. Laughter is communal and emotions are heightened by the shared experience of the screening room. Post-film discussion provides catharsis, greater understanding and fellowship as the lights come back up. Entirely volunteer-led and non-for-profit, Rochester Picture Palace has been screening films on Rochester High Street for the past four years or so, originally at the Corn Exchange where we adopted the name of a former incumbent a century ago, ‘Rochester Picture Palace’. Now relocated to the Huguenot Museum above the Visitor Centre we have undergone an upgrade with retractable raked seating and a bespoke

drop-down screen. Our nationally commended programming largely avoids the mainstream fare served up at the multiplexes but instead focuses on the wealth of alternative and world cinema. We aim to represent all sections of society, screening award-winning films ranging from ‘The Tribe’, a Ukranian movie shot entirely in sign language with no sub-titles, to ‘Tangerine’, a Los Angeles-set transgender feature film shot entirely on iPhones. Some of the Palace’s most memorable evenings have been collaborative efforts featuring guest speakers, such as the screening of ‘Suffragette’ on International Women’s Day; ‘Mission To Lars’ with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation and our two afternoon screenings to commemorate World Holocaust Day. Medway is such a vibrant area teeming with a diverse array of talented artists and an abundance of fantastic folk who care passionately about the lives of those around them. This, for me, is the defining aspect of society. Local arts and cultural initiatives have been at the forefront of promoting community-based events, raising money for good causes but also awareness of issues which otherwise would garner little or no publicity from the mainstream media. Rochester Film Society is proud to be involved with ‘SICK! – Living With Invisible Illness’ with the screening of Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning ‘I, Daniel Blake’. The film is a scathing critique of Broken Britain’s humanity-stripping bureaucracy, exposing the humiliation and shame heaped upon disability benefits claimants. The film is also a beacon of hope, however, as it shows how real change can come about by people coming together and helping one another. It is by collaboration and co-operation rather than conflict and division that we can forge ahead and become a society where those without a voice are heard and those in need of help and support are not ignored. Gary Barrell, Rochester Film Society

Jatin Patel Jatin Patel is a fashion designer and creative director at the British fashion label Kalikas Armour. For SICK! he has created an installation piece. A UK size 0 gold female mannequin sculpture adorned with an heavily encrusted evening gown that questions and challenges the unrealistic beauty and body image ideals projected throughout the fashion industry.

Alison Blackburn Textile artist Alison works using many processes and mediums such as dye, stitch, weave, quilting and patchwork over 2 and 3 dimensions. Her current work is an exploration of polycystic ovary syndrome; using quilting and embroidery she has created 28 vessels for installation in the SICK! exhibition. Follow Alison on Instagram @thestitchistsews

Heike Irion Heike Irion’s IN/VISIBLE is a short piece of video poetry reflecting on the role mental health can play on how we perceive ourselves. The video was a process for Irion to find a voice and giving her license to be herself.

Eleanor Kerr-Patton Eleanor creates contemporary art jewellery, her current work explores mental illness and the social taboos surrounding the discussion of it. Her work shows that broken is beautiful, using the japanese technique of kintsugi, which treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Portrait by Meredith Andrews


Sometimes all you need is to write a sentence to get your creative juices flowing again. Try to complete one or more of the following sentences, then keep going!

When I look through the window I see … Later today I would like to … I hope that my writing will lead to … In my body, I’m now feeling … The thing that feels most difficult about starting to write is … I feel strongest when …. Last year at this time I was hoping that … My story is actually about …

CREATIVE HANDS CALM THE MIND Tactile hanging decorations 1. Cut 2 matching pieces of fabric e.g. a star or heart. 2. Choose your decoration/ embellishments and stitch or glue onto one side.

Ingredients: • Fabric or felt pieces • Embroidery thread • Sequins/buttons • A piece of ribbon • Small amount of stuffing

3. When dry, pin the two pieces of fabric together. 4. Starting at the top point, position the ribbon doubled over to make a hanging loop, and using a running stitch or blanket stitch join the shapes together. 5. When you get close to the end begin to stuff, making sure that the shapes are puffy, but not stiff.

Faye Lamb is the director of Unravel & Unwind C.I.C and author or ‘Unravel & Unwind: The Art of Love Through the Art of Business; Self-Discovery Through a Creative Enterprise’

Positive Spin This shape can be used with a cocktail stick to make a basic spinning top, but with sections that can be written into. Get friends to write things that may help you when you’re struggling, or fill it in yourself: “you are loved”, “I will make your favourite food”, “you don’t have to be amazing every day”, “I will listen to you” etc. so you can spin it on days you don’t feel too good and either call in promises or just remember good thoughts. Download the page from our blog and print onto card, colour in the sections if you want to, write in the sections, cut out the shape poke a cocktail stick through the middle use tape to secure to the stick and spin! Download at Xtina Lamb,


RAGE Putty!

Let your anger and stress out on a homemade inanimate object! This relaxing putty, similar to the old school silly putty you got in an egg as a kid (which you had to throw it away when it had too many dog hairs in it). Here I am offering you a lifetime supply to make up for it. Safety: Borax is a natural mineral and negative reactions to it are extremely rare. However if you have sensitive skin please wear gloves. Also; do not eat the putty! Ingredients: For the Borax solution: PVA Mix: 100ml warm water 50ml PVA glue 1/2tsp Borax 1tsp water A little food colouring 5 drops of essential oil (e.g Lavender Oil) Glitter (optional)

Step 1: In a small jug dissolve 1/2 tsp borax in 100ml of warm water and mix until it has mostly dissolved. Step 2: In a separate bowl mix the 50ml PVA with 1 tsp of water. Add 5 drops of lavender oil and a little food colouring. Don’t go crazy with food colouring remember this will be in your hands! Add the glitter now if you are using it. Make sure this is nicely mixed and smooth.

Step 3: Slowly add your borax solution 1 tsp at a time to the PVA mix. After adding each tsp of borax solution mix really well using a fork. It will start to stick together. Keep mixing, adding small amounts of borax solution until it sticks to itself and no longer sticks to your fingers. Please do not just add all the solution to the PVA! Stop when it starts sticking together.

Step 4: When it no longer seems sticky pull the putty out of the bowl and start playing with it in your hands. It may seem a little wet to begin with but this will change and the putty will become smooth and will not leave any residue on your hands. If it starts to break apart lots when you squeeze it then you added too much borax solution and I’m afraid you will have to start again! If it is sticky after a minute of playing with it then you need to add more borax solution and mix it into the putty. In the picture I mixed 2 colours of putty together to make a rainbow putty. Obviously after a while this will become one colour but you can enjoy it while it lasts! Store the putty in a sealed jar or pot. It will keep for a long time if it is air tight (or until it is covered in dog hair). By Natasha Steer from Creatabot , Twitter: @natashasteer Natasha offers bespoke workshops for parties and events for all ages. She is DBS checked and trained in mental health first aid. If you are interested in having her at an event contact her on


CAKE By Danielle Wright




*COUGH* *sigh*

CAT here puss! here puss puss!


ooohhhhh.. I think we should have fish and chips for tea! yes, okay

no school today, dear?

I don’t like that cat.. it’s ignorant

well go on then go get them!

Would you like another cup of tea, grandma? Oh yes please! and a nice piece of cake!

grandma, that’s a cushion stupid cat

it’s not! well I never!

it’s 9:37. yes.. AM. no school today, dear?

no grandma, I’m 36 years old

no grandma, I’m 36 years old

you’re not!

you’re not!

do we have any cake?

no school today, dear? no grandma, it’s Sunday well, that explains it!

Illustration by RAU,

Profile for SICK! Living with Invisible Illness

SICK! The Magazine  

SICK! is an arts program exploring what it means to live with invisible illness by artists with first hand experience. This magazine compl...

SICK! The Magazine  

SICK! is an arts program exploring what it means to live with invisible illness by artists with first hand experience. This magazine compl...