What Love Arts Leeds means to me

I’m getting quite excited now, as my work is all packed up and ready for me to hang at BrewDog this weekend, for my new exhibition of paintings.

I’m taking part in the Love Arts Leeds festival, which has been going for 6 years now, celebrating creativity and mental well-being in the city. It’s important to me to take part because although my work isn’t directly informed by the subject of mental health, I have had periods in my life where I have had depression and anxiety, and it’s only recently I have been able to discuss it openly without feeling like it is something that I have to hide.

Having seen friends and family members coping with similar or in some cases even more severe mental health issues than my own, I have noticed how common it is to get unwell, and how much better it is for everyone if we can talk about it. Unfortunately, for some people, coping with mental health problems is something they feel ashamed of, and there is still a stigma attached to people disclosing their difficulties, in particular to employers, who it is felt will not want to employ someone who may ‘be off sick all the time’.

Well-meaning people have given me warnings not to take part in the LAL festival, lest the stigma of mental unwellness sticks to me like some kind of terrible issue that taints the appraisal of my art(!) Frustratingly, this is exactly the reason I am taking part, in order to challenge misconceptions, and to try and encourage others who may feel like they can’t talk about or get help with their own mental health problems.

New Paintings by Helen Dryden opens on Wednesday 5th October, with the official launch of Love Arts Leeds. Launch party 4-6pm at Leeds Corn Exchange, all welcome. Paintings are on show at BrewDog, White Cloth Hall, Leeds, from 5th to 29th October 2016.



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