Dawn Bland Q & A

DAWN BLAND, photograph by David Lindsay

DAWN BLAND, photograph by David Lindsay

Hi Dawn! Firstly, could you briefly introduce yourself and your practice?
I’m Dawn Bland and a volunteer at Spectrum People. I create artwork and write poetry to raise awareness of mental health and childhood trauma to encourage people that are struggling to reach out for help. 

What motivated you to want to work with Spectrum People to create this new art group?
Spectrum People helped me when I was in a dark place and therefore I wanted to help others who were struggling in return to help to create change. These were the first sessions like this to be delivered, but I would like it to become permanent using these as a pilot for something long term. There were weekly sessions throughout the Summer with an Art therapist which me and Adrian Atkinson supported to deliver, so people could drop-in just the once if they wanted or could come to see us every week to have more ongoing support. 

Your practice is very much socially engaged and collaborative, what do you hope the people you work with learn from this? 
I hope they will look at the art in a non judgemental manner and know that if they are struggling, that they can reach out too. There is help out there. By being creative and telling my story and experiences, it has helped me with my own recovery journey, so I hope this inspires others to do the same. I always want to raise awareness of the services that are out there, especially Spectrum People, so hopefully new people will hear about them and the great work they do.

The pandemic has challenged society and had a negative effect on people’s mental health in many ways. Have there been any positive experiences you’ve been able to take away from it?
During the pandemic I wrote another poetry book  - 2020 the other side. All the money raised through sales goes back to Spectrum People to help others, and it aims to raise awareness, as it’s never been about money for me. Writing the book and drawing gave me a way to channel my thoughts and feelings during that time. The first lockdown gave me more time to be creative, but the poetry and art helped me to stop over thinking and stopped my mental health deteriorating. By posting what I was creating online the artwork connected with them, and it encouraged others to reach out. It provided people with an online community and support during that time.

I also nominated Spectrum people for the BBC Radio 4 All in the Mind mental health award, which we won! This is a national award and is huge for Spectrum People – and for Wakeifeld - to be acknowledged for the amazing work they do.

What's next for you and your work? Do you have any projects coming up that you'd like to tell us about?
I already have another book written which will be released later, and we’re hoping to set up another Spectrum People art group if we can get funding to make it a permanent thing people can benefit from. With restrictions easing I’d like more people to be able to take part and find out about the art therapy groups, enabling them to share their journeys and reach out. I don’t want the art therapy sessions to stop! So I’d like to keep working with Spectrum People to build more supportive spaces. 

I’ve also been asked to become a member of the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Board which helps support and benefit the community. Hopefully we will catch those that slip through the gaps and can support them, and I can share how being creative can help with the journey to recovery. I want to help make a change and give a voice to those who aren’t heard.

And finally, the majority of our audience weren’t able to go on holiday this Summer. So if you could travel anywhere right now, where would you like to go and why?
I’d like to go to the coast for a weekend to chill out, rewind and relax a bit. My favourite place on the coast is probably Whitby. I wouldn’t want to go somewhere packed, but relax sitting on the beach reading a book.

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