Star Q&A: James Arthur

Round & About

Mental Health

Liz Nicholls asks singer James Arthur, about music, mental health and more. His new single September is out on 11th June, via Columbia Records, taken from his as-yet untitled album out in autumn

Hello James – thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts with our readers.

 

Q. Congratulations on the new album, and the single out in June. You must be really proud of these? “Honestly, I am so proud of this whole album. I made the whole thing at home during lockdown, and I never could have imagined the difference working in a space I felt comfortable in could have led to me being able to produce the best work I believe I’ve ever made.”

Q. As someone who suffers anxiety myself, and a huge fan of CBT thank you for being so honest about it. How are you feeling now? “I take it day by day, I’ve found really focusing on staying present is the most important thing for me, I can’t control the past or the future, and trying to do so only breeds anxiety, so I focus on being in the present moment and just being grateful for that. What advice would you have for anyone going through a dark time? Speak to someone, you will be so surprised at the support you will receive if you just let people in, all it takes is a text to someone saying ‘I’m really not feeling ok’ which might sound like a scary thing to do, but by doing that, you are no longer alone. There is also an amazing out-of-hours mental health helpline by the charity SANE (sane.org.uk) if you don’t feel like you can speak to someone you know.”

Q. What is your go-to album or song to lift your spirits & make you feel good? “Got to be Real by Cheryl Lynn is my jam.”

Q. What is your first memory of music? “My early childhood memories of music are of rock vinyls playing at my dad’s (Thin Lizzy, AC/DC etc) – also Prince, Michael Jackson and soul music on repeat at my mum’s.”

Q. How did you feel about fame when you were young? And how do you feel about fame now? “I don’t think I ever really thought about fame when I was younger – the greats that I looked up to, I didn’t necessarily see them as famous, I was just so inspired by their talent. I also think the concept of fame was very different when I was younger – people that were ‘famous’ were very untouchable, you knew nothing of them apart from their art, and fast disposable fame didn’t really exist, whereas now, with social media, people really have an massive amount of access to a person’s life and personality. I guess it’s a necessary evil. I don’t think of myself as famous which probably helps me, and I’m so grateful to have people who love my music enough that would consider themselves a ‘fan’ of me, but if I could do my job without being famous, I’d definitely take that option!”

Q. How do you take care of your fantas1c voice? Anything you don’t eat or drink, or exercises etc? “I learnt very quickly after back to back tours that if I want to sing the way I want to sing every night I have to look after my voice, so I do an hour’s warm-up before a show and then a cool down after the show too. Even with that, if I don’t have days of complete voice rest built into the tour my voice completely cuts out for a few days, and it’s the worst feeling in the world as there’s nothing I can do to make it come back but wait and rest. It’s one of the most frustrating things about touring for me, so it’s a constant balancing act.”

Q. You have said you miss touring – having had some rest time, are you ready to go & perform live now? “I cannot wait! I’ve got some festivals lined up this summer and I’m really hoping they go ahead.”

Q. Is there an upcoming /lesser-known artist out there who you want to give a shout-out to & urge us all to listen to their music? “Shotty Horroh – I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about this artist for many years and I will continue to do so. He’s the best MC.”

Q. Rule of six time: who would be your dream party guests to hang out or have dinner/picnic with, living or dead, real or fictional? “Kurt Cobain, Jay Z, Elvis, Cillian Murphy, Ed Norton, William Wallace.”

Q. Do you have a favourite book? “My two favourite books are Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.”

Q. What were your favourite saviours of lockdown: i.e. things that made lockdown life better? “FIFA was massive for me during lockdown – I put my gamer tag on Twitter and my requests went crazy. From that I managed to find five guys who have become my really good friends. We spent the first lockdown speaking for hours and hours while playing FIFA every night. I’ve never even met any of them, but I speak to them nearly every day, and having that escapism was massive for me during lockdown.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I’d wish that people would be kinder to each other. I don’t even think that’s that big an ask.”

Q. Is there anything on your horizon or future ambitions you can tell us about? “There’s some exciting acting roles coming up for me, but I might get sacked if I talk about it so you’ll have to ask me again next time!”

AZUMI-Wellness: Nature Therapy Berkshire

Round & About

Mental Health

We at AZUMI-Wellness are very excited to offer nature therapy experiences in Berkshire, a county blessed with extraordinarily beautiful parks, woodlands and forests. We passionately believe that going outside in nature can help us to feel calmer, more relaxed and less stressed.

At AZUMI-Wellness we pride ourselves on helping people to feel better and we believe in tailoring experiences to our clients and not our clients to the experiences.

We know that modern life is fast paced, full of uncertainties and always changing. Our minds are busy, jumping from one task to the next with little time to stop and enjoy the stillness of our surroundings.

Nature therapy encourages us to slow down, breathe and reconnect with our environment and ourselves. The practice of nature therapy focuses on reconnecting with the natural environment through a series of invitations, encouraging participants to become aware of all the amazing smells, sounds, sights, tastes and textures that surround them; leading to an enhanced experience and a deeper embodied sense of relaxation.

Nature therapy is the practice of immersing yourself in nature, particularly forests, for better mental and physical health. This evidence-based practice began in Japan in the early 1980’s and is known in Japanese as, Shinrin Yoku.

Studies have proven that people who regularly participate in nature therapy also known as forest therapy benefit from: reductions in feelings of anxiety, stress, anger, tension, fatigue and depression. Additional benefits include: lowered blood pressure and heart rate, improved quality of sleep and concentration.

At AZUMI-Wellness we are experts in guiding our clients through an authentic Nature therapy experience – our 2 hour sessions are run by certified and accredited therapists who will guide you through a sensory experience you are unlikely to forget!

Our sessions are suitable for everyone and we are very happy to adapt to your specific needs.

Each session is about 2 hours in duration, we do not walk more than ¾ of a mile, we walk slowly and carefully, mindfully moving through sensory invitations and taking every opportunity to relax and reconnect.

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Mental Health Mates are offering support

Liz Nicholls

Mental Health

Abby Lacey set up Mental Health Mates – Reading after needing help herself, the support group helps anyone suffering as well as their family and friends

Founded in 2016 by author and journalist, Bryony Gordon, Mental Health Mates is a network of peer support groups, run by people who experience their own mental health issues, meeting regularly to walk, connect and share without fear or judgement.

In early 2019, being a fan of her writing and podcast, as well as suffering from anxiety for most of my life, I decided to check out Mental Health Mates. The nearest to me were about 20 miles in either direction, so after about five minutes of procrastination, I contacted them and offered to start my own group.

I know from experience that mental illness magnifies through isolation. I also know that being outside in nature is great for your mental health, so to incorporate walking and talking to someone, sharing with them or simply walking beside them – just connecting – is the first step to recovery.

In May 2019 I set up Mental Health Mates – Reading, organising bi-monthly weekend walks for people suffering from mental illnesses, along with their family and friends, in and around Reading.

We were lucky enough to have almost a year of walking together before the pandemic hit, but we’ve carried on walking when we can, and when we can’t, we meet bi-weekly through Zoom. The Zoom calls are a great way to check in, in a really informal environment. There is no structure to our calls – we chat about everything from TV to politics, from fashion to medication – we cover it all! There is never an expectation to talk and if you don’t want the camera on, that’s fine too.

We have built a great community of like-minded people, and we have visitors on the calls from all over the country as I, along with other walk leaders, actively advertise that all are welcome.

When we are able to get together, our accessible walks are as gentle or as brisk as the group would like, so we cater for everyone, covering about two miles over an hour.

We are truly spoilt for choice for locations in the area from beautiful lakes such as Dinton Pastures and Whiteknights Lake at the University of Reading, to the River Thames at Caversham. We’re hoping to expand our offering to west Reading too in the early summer too, so we can reach even more people.

If you would like to join Mental Health Mates – Reading please visit facebook.com/mhm.reading
Or for more information on support, visit mentalhealthmates.co.uk/support/


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Gemma Hardy offers mental health advice

Liz Nicholls

Mental Health

The term ‘mental health’ has recently become something of a buzzword. Worries of how the pandemic is affecting our mental health are discussed daily in the news, on social media and in our social circles.

It’s encouraging that a topic, which is usually considered taboo, is being given so much airtime, however, do we really know what mental health is?

Interestingly, there is no finite definition of mental health. The World Health Organisation suggests it is: ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.

The language surrounding mental health is often misused and terms such as mental health and mental illness get confused despite being very different. The truth is, just as we all have physical health, we all have mental health too. We know the importance of looking after our physical health and it’s no different from our mental health.

With last year’s constant changes and uncertainty, some of us may be feeling stressed, overwhelmed or deflated. As lockdown restrictions are eased, how can we adapt to our ‘new normal’ whilst keeping mentally healthy?

Try our top three tips:

Acceptance

It’s much easier to live in a state of harmony when you accept the things that are out of your control. You can’t change the actions of others, predict if there will be another lockdown or change how people respond to rules. So, accept the things you can’t control and focus on the things you can control.

Practise gratitude

People who regularly practise gratitude feel more positive emotions, have improved sleep, and express more compassion and kindness. Take time to notice the small things around you, like a beautiful blue sky, a delicious lunch or time to dive into a new book.

Exciting opportunities

The plus side of uncertainty is you never know what’s around the corner. Could it be the pandemic has forced you to make changes that will actually enhance your life? With a positive mindset, you can look at change as a new chapter filled with new goals and successes to celebrate.

Take action and invest in your mental health today!

Hardy Training Company works with businesses and schools to create mentally healthy workplaces, by providing internationally recognised Mental Health First Aid training courses.

If you, or your organisation, would like further information please visit hardytrainingcompany.co.uk


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Holme Farm community hub

Liz Nicholls

Mental Health

Ronnie Kendall is passionate about creating a community hub in the Woking area to help those with mental health issues and to combat loneliness.

The idea behind Holme Farm, Woodham, is to create a community hub with workshops and a café which also provide a safe haven for those with mental health issues and to combat loneliness.

There will be space for gardening, an orchard, bee-keeping, re-wilding and family areas for relaxing. Inside the ‘sheds’ there will be a café where people of all backgrounds and ages can meet and socialise, and courses will be organised for everything from crafting and creative activities to computer skills and woodworking.

In the longer term, it is hoped to involve local councils and assist with high child poverty and levels of loneliness in our boroughs. It is this that inspired the group of community-minded individuals including myself and my wife Christine to come together to try and secure derelict buildings and adjoining land, currently owned by DEFRA, in Woodham Park Road.

Loneliness causes mental illness. Recently there has been a heightened level of awareness around the issue of poor mental health and an urgent need to take positive action in tackling this issue, reducing the burden on the NHS and emergency services. Workshops are a simple way of helping with this growing problem.

It is hoped the Holme Farm project can start this year. It will be a place to pursue interests, to share and practice skills, enjoy making and mending and discuss anything. A community project to share knowledge, make social connections, build friendships – and of course a lot of laughter and tea!

To join the project sign up here or email


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Putting children’s wellbeing first: Inside Out

Karen Neville

Mental Health

Inside Out is an education charity based in Reading focussed on improving children’s wellbeing.

Children’s mental health and wellbeing have never been so high on the school agenda. Teachers have never been under so much pressure, managing daily change.

To help teachers and parents with the current, flexible approach to schooling, they have developed a ‘Wellbeing Guide’ based on their 5 Keys to Happiness, the equivalent of 5 fruit and veg a day for your mental health.

This is a free resource for schools, teachers and families packed with inspiration and activities to boost children’s happiness and wellbeing. These resources will now help ease the long-awaited transition back to school.

There is a wealth of information and resources out there but it’s often confusing and hard to know where to start. The Wellbeing Guides are full of activities that are simple, fun and quick-to-use, at home or school.

The Guide offers fun, simple ideas and resources for children, whether they are currently being educated at home or in school with a new edition shared each week during lockdown. Please see attached pdf of the latest edition, which includes a 5 Keys to Happiness poster for parents to print out and use at home.

For more wellbeing inspiration, why not follow INSIDE OUT on Facebook and twitter or visit their website www.theinsideout.org.uk for all previous issues of the Wellbeing Guide.

Read about pop icon Billy Ocean and the Young Voices Choir’s charity single to help children’s mental health here.

Billy Ocean & the Young Voices

Liz Nicholls

Mental Health

Billy wishes you a Lovely Day with charity single to help children’s mental health

Pop icon & beacon of positivity Billy Ocean, who lives in Berkshire, has teamed up with the Young Voices Choir to release a new and uplifting recording of the Bill Withers’ classic, Lovely Day.

Also featured on the track are award-winning broadcaster and musician YolanDa Brown (saxophone) and The Voice UK 2018 winner (and former Young Voices singer) Ruti Olajugbagbe. Released on January 26th by Magic Star (the home of children’s and family entertainment at Sony Music UK), all UK profits will go to children’s mental health charity Place2Be.

“We have all been affected in different ways over this difficult last year,” says Billy MBE, “and many children have really struggled. I’m so happy to be able to join with Young Voices to help make a difference and to raise funds for children’s mental health with this wonderful and hopeful song.”

Profits from the single Lovely Day will go to the Place2Be charity which launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015. Place2Be’s school-based teams estimate that 85% of the young people they support have been negatively affected by the pandemic, and have seen an increase in referrals around self-harm and suicidal thoughts in secondary schools. 1 in 6 children and young people have a probable mental health condition (Source: NHS Digital)

Ben Lewis, CEO of Young Voices, says: “With school life currently disrupted, this highlights the need, more than ever, to support children’s mental health.”

Young Voices is an all-inclusive educational programme designed to use music to develop 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, mindfulness, and innovation. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year Young Voices have staged the largest children’s choir concerts in the world. In 2020 alone, Young Voices headlined 24 arenas across the UK, including a record breaking concert at Manchester Arena, overtaking Take That’s previous record of 46 shows.

This summer Young Voices will attempt to break their own Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Simultaneous Sing-Along’, currently standing at 293,978 – a record set when the ‘Big Sing 2005’ was broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall. Streamed live from The O2 arena, Bily Ocean, Yolanda Brown and Ruti and Young Voices will join children, their teachers and families throughout the UK to sing ‘Lovely Day’. Involvement can be registered at: youngvoices.co.uk/biggest-sing/

Show your support and buy the single and share with us if Place2Be have helped you or someone you know

Rock Choir fundraiser

Round & About

Mental Health

Rock Choir, the largest contemporary choir in the UK with 32,000 members, is supporting Mental Health Awareness Week (18-25th May) by hosting #RockChoir24.

The 24-hour non-stop fundraising event is running via their Facebook page from 11am on Tuesday, 19th May to 11am the following day.

All day and night, the Rock Choir team will host an energetic schedule of dynamic singing sessions, themed musical events, songs from the decades and social musical events as well as sessions aimed at teenagers and younger children so the whole family can join in the virtual music Rock Choir Festival from the comfort of their own home.

As well as the live and pre-recorded footage, there will be video messages from Key Worker Rock Choir members who will share their stories with us from the front line in response to the pandemic. Also highlighted will be stories of inspirational acts of kindness from across the UK to reinforce the theme of ‘kindness’ which Mental Health Awareness Week has adopted for this year in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rock Choir has also been receiving video messages from their celebrity friends and fans including Jess Glynne, Michael Ball and Sir Cliff Richard to name a few. Each has sent messages of kindness, encouragement and support for Rock Choir’s fundraising mission and Mental Health Awareness Week. These messages will also be shown throughout the 24 hour period.

Founder, creator and creative director of Rock Choir Caroline Redman Lusher will host the event. She said she was proud they were continuing to sing and help through the crisis, adding: “Rock Choir has been looking after the well-being of the British public for 15 years now and I knew that we would need to ensure that we continued to support not only our Rock Choir Members but also the needs of the public as lockdown continued and anxiety, stress and difficulties developed through this time.

“Our 24-hour Rock Choir National fundraiser on 19th May will not only bring back to back music, singing and entertainment to everyone but will also lift spirits and engage everyone with feel-good and uplifting music.

“Most importantly, it will help raise awareness of and much needed funds for the Mental Health Foundation who host the national annual Mental Health Awareness Week.

“I hope everyone will not only support our 24-hour Rock Choir Fundraiser but also become more aware of how every single person in the country and beyond will be trying to manage their own mental well-being through the pandemic and what they can each do to be kind to themselves and to one another.”

Mark Rowland, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation said he was delighted to have Rock Choir’s support and that he would be joining in.

He said: “By bringing people together and raising funds, The Rock Choir is not only an expression of kindness but one that uses singing which is also great for our mental health. I can’t wait to take part.”

Everyone can get involved in this fun event and donations can be made via the Facebook Donate option on Rock Choir’s Facebook page as well as a TEXT option which can be made by texting SING5 to donate £5 or SING10 to donate £10 to 70500.

Head to their Facebook page

Mental health day

Round & About

Mental Health

Look after your emotional well-being and you’ll be looking after your mental health.

That’s the message from the Samaritans today (Thursday, 10th October), World Mental Health Day.

This year the World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen the theme suicide prevention. Every 40 seconds, someone in the world takes their own life. The organisation is encouraging people to prepare to take “40 seconds of action” to help: improve awareness of the significance of suicide as a global public health problem; improve knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide; reduce the stigma associated with suicide; and let people who are struggling know that they are not alone.

“Put simply, this is an opportunity to show you care,” said Chris Lindsay, director of Samaritans of Bracknell, Wokingham, Ascot & Districts. “Talking, rather than bottling things up, helps but sometimes, when we are worried about someone, we are not sure how to start the conversation,”

The website Samaritans.org offers “SHUSH” tips on how to be a good listener.

“We would like to get the message across that Samaritans can help people acquire the skills to look after their emotional health and look out for others, before they reach crisis point,” said Chris.

Samaritans offers free resources for schools and colleges to incorporate into their emotional health programmes.

The charity also offers Wellbeing in the Workplace. This is an online learning programme which brings Samaritans’ listening and wellbeing expertise into the workplace.

“It’s okay if you’re not an expert – just listening can help someone work through what’s on their mind. When people feel listened to, it can save a life,” said Chris.

Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year. The charity provides a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Call 116 123 (free to call) (UK), email , or visit www.samaritans.org for further details.

YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health, is encouraging people to say #HelloYellow today and help raise funds for YoungMinds.

Whether you choose to go for a subtle splash of colour or really turn up the sunshine with head to toe yellow, join in to show young people they’re not alone with their mental health.

Find out more

Bollywood bliss

Round & About

Mental Health

Shalini Bhalla, a well-known Cranleigh resident and director of local Bollywood dance-fitness company Just Jhoom!, has just published a revealingly honest book about her mental health and relationship with late husband Jeremy Lucas.

Shalini dancing Indian classical style
Shalini dancing Indian classical style

Shalini Bhalla, finds solace in traditional Indian dancing and focusing on mindful practice, as a coping mechanism when life gets tough and her mental health suffers. She says: “I used dance, mindfulness and meditation, nutrition and healing to bring (and keep) my mind, body and spirit into alignment.”

She founded Just Jhoom! based upon the joy principal and engaging others in the fun of Bollywood style dancing. Shalini is also an accredited mindfulness teacher and developed an online four-week introductory course into mindful practice -Mindfulness for Beginners.

She feels that this training in mind, body and spirit helped her cope and deal with the impact of losing her husband Jeremy Lucas in 2016, due to cancer. Dancing and focusing didn’t lessen the grief, just helped her to cope, and Shalini took to writing about her feelings in a self-published book, Always With You.

Shalini's lifeThis book is about Shalini’s personal battles with mental illness, the coping strategies she relied upon to regain a positive mental state after severe depression and the loss of Jeremy to cancer. In this emotive memoir, Shalini writes about her experiences of depression, attempted suicide as well as family estrangement, and struggles with religion and national identity.

Shalini wrote the book so she could share her story with others, offering an inspiring message of recovery and renewal as she looks to face the future with strength, hope and anticipation.

Shalini’s positive message has led her to be chosen as a “Voice of MIND” – campaigning for better mental health provision in the UK. She has spoken in the Houses of Parliament to MPs about wellbeing and mental health resilience.

Shalini has lived in Cranleigh for 18 years and been involved in village life, with Just Jhoom! and Mindfulness classes, over that time. Her late husband had lived in the area all his life and his untimely passing, aged 59, left a gaping hole in the community.

Jeremy and Shalini in Samburu
Jeremy and Shalini in Samburu

The pair also had a shared love of Kenya and its people, culture and wildlife, Shalini established an education fund: The Jeremy Lucas Education Fund, initiated in 2017, it has raised just over £42,000 and is sponsoring 12 children to attend secondary and tertiary education in Kenya.

Always With You is available on Shalini Bhalla website www.justjhoom.co.uk or Amazon.