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Ulster Poet to host Toronto Workshops

Monday 5th September 2005 at 11am 0 Comments


The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is helping performance poet Carol Kelly from Portstewart, to travel to Canada in October where she will be hosting two workshops at the Workman’s Theatre, a centre for addiction and mental health in Toronto.

Carol, who describes herself as a survivor of the mental health system, has been writing since she was seventeen. Few people are candid about mental health problems but Carol uses her poetry to cut through the stigmas that surround them, breaking down barriers. She takes an unusual and honest approach to expressing her own circumstances, performing the poems to make a greater impact.

Carol is a member of Portstewart’s ‘Unlimited Survivors,’ a small voluntary support group for users and survivors of the mental health system. As part of her Canadian workshops, she will be presenting a collection of poetry and photography, created by the Portstewart group and based on the demolition of an old style psychiatric facility.

“Some of the poems are dark, but many are humorous” she says. “Most people are surprised by just how hilarious these psychiatric hospitals can be at times. It’s not all doom and gloom.”

Carol holds an MA in Peace and Human Conflict Studies from the University of Ulster, Coleraine and in recent years has given many lectures on mental health to enhance the skills of professionals and students in the psychology, social work, nursing, and occupational therapy fields.

“My personal testimony, purely from a survivor’s experience, sends out a very powerful message and has affected a great many of these people deeply. I have received letters from professionals telling me that they have found my work quite profound and very useful.”

Carol is excited about this opportunity to take her innovative work across the Atlantic. “It gives me the chance to perform in front of an international audience. The Canadians love the Irish. Just to speak in that country is enough but to speak in the company of poets is something else! My presence will provide support for fellow mental health survivors and other performance poets.”

Arts & Disability Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Chris Ledger stated, “Carol gets panic attacks whilst travelling, so her trip to Canada is very courageous indeed. For this reason we are funding Coleraine Theatre Studies Graduate Abby Oliveira to accompany Carol on the trip and give support when it is needed.”

Carol is just one of the individual artists who is benefiting from the Arts Council’s ‘Arts and Disability Networking Abroad’ scheme, set up to enhance the International profile and reputation of disabled artists and to develop the networking potential of the Arts and Disability sector.

“The trip will allow Carol to network on an international level and help build her profile as an artist, which in turn will lead to opportunities for further performances and workshops and bring outside influences back to Northern Ireland – that’s what these grants are all about.” said Chris.

“The trip will not only benefit Carol, it will be a positive move for the ‘Unlimited Survivors’ group in Portstewart. Given that isolation is one of the problems for individuals with mental health needs, the knowledge that people in Canada appreciate their work will give everyone involved a great boost. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to be funding this endeavour.”

To find out information on the many types of funding available from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, check the 'Funding' section of this website.


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