Norwich Baroque musicians’ fundraising ride for mental health charity MIND

Players from a period music ensemble swapped their instruments for cycles to enjoy a dawn fundraising ride in aid of a mental health charity.

Members of Norwich Baroque pedalled 26 miles along the Marriot's Way from Aylsham to Norwich on Saturday to raise money for Mind, the national organisation which seeks to promote awareness of mental illness and offer support to anyone affected by it.

The choice of charity was close to the hearts of the 'Baroque Bikers', most of whom had found themselves needing to cope with mental health issues at varying points in their lives.

Among them were 33-year-old violinist Jim O'Toole, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 28 – a condition which leaves him battling severe mood swings.

After setting off at 5am to enjoy a Norfolk sunrise and the serenity of the early morning, he said it was equally important to boost awareness and break the stigma surrounding such psychological conditions, as well as raising money for care and support projects.

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Mr O'Toole, who is also directing the group's forthcoming performances, said: 'I feel slightly torn between not wanting to draw a personal focus, but on the other hand, other people like Stephen Fry (the TV personality who also suffers from bipolar disorder) being open about it has been an enormous help.

'I have periods of extremely high energy and very little sleep, followed by periods of quite intense exhaustion and feelings like: 'What is the point in getting up, when it is so much effort?'

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'I want to be really open about it, because we want to raise awareness and let people know there are ways and means of getting help if they are prepared to ask for it.'

Also on the ride were viola player Helen Stanley, who has a parent with dementia, and double bass player Andrew Durban, who has suffered from bouts of depression.

Mr Durban said: 'There are a lot of stereotypes about artistic people being like this. But doing something musically, you have to have feelings to put into your music. If you are not someone who wears your heart on your sleeve then you cannot be a musician if you don't have those feelings that you want to express in a way that goes beyond words.'

Violinist Jane Slocombe said she had battled with anorexia in her 20s. 'Lots of people in the band have had difficulties with anxiety or depression but we all pull together and help each other,' she said. 'We are a very close bunch of friends and so we have that stability, and it helps us musically as well.'

=The group has already raised �700 in sponsorship, but hopes to raise more than �1,000. To donate, visit

=Norwich Baroque's forthcoming show called Music for a Summer Evening, directed by Jim O'Toole, will be performed at St Mary's Church in Attleborough on August 31 (tickets 01953 453985 or 01603 628319) and at Binham Priory in north Norfolk on September 1 (tickets 01328 830362). Both begin at 7.30pm.

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