At Work: Communications - Medium and message

Indira Das-Gupta

Islington Music Forum put on a musical co-written and performed by people with mental health problems.

Islington Music Forum is a charity that organises musical activities, such as DJ workshops and songwriting classes, for people with mental health problems.

Sardines - The Musical, which was co-written and performed by 44 of the charity's service users, is its most ambitious project to date. The charity put on three performances of the musical at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, at the end of last month.

"Many people find music therapeutic in helping them deal with mental illness," says Claire Ward-Thornton, development manager at the forum.

"It doesn't matter if you can play an instrument."

The charity first came up with the idea for a musical 18 months ago.

After securing funding from Capital Volunteering, it was able to team up with the London Symphony Orchestra.

"Our members wanted to do something that was mainstream," says Thornton-Ward. "It's not just some Mickey Mouse art class - we are engaging with professional musicians."

An editorial board of 10 mental health service users worked with the writer and poet Rosemary Harris to develop the script. "We wanted the whole process to be as open and participatory as possible," says Thornton-Ward. "The board met once a week and a recurring theme was the idea of 'stuckness'. The musical is about people stuck on a Tube train - which is a clear metaphor for this.

"All the feedback we've had has been positive and the cast is over the moon. It's definitely something we'd like to do again."

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