Wellbeing day at Alby highlights positive effect of arts on the mind

David Alston of Alby Crafts and Gardens has a go at arm knitting with Phee Melancon, who will be run

David Alston of Alby Crafts and Gardens has a go at arm knitting with Phee Melancon, who will be running a workshop as part of a wellbeing day running at the centre on Saturday. Photo: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

The positive impact of the arts on mental health will be highlighted at a wellbeing day running at Alby Crafts and Gardens this weekend.

The event, which was the idea of teacher and centre owner David Alston, will feature craft demonstrations, complementary therapy taster sessions, poetry readings and workshops.

Visitors to the centre, which was founded by Mr Alston's late father John more than 40 years ago, will have a chance to see blacksmith George 'the forge' MacKilligan at work, watch a pot-throwing demonstration by Alby's resident potter Helen Dixon and try their hands at arm-knitting with Phee Melancon of vintage boutique The VQ.

Mr Alston's performance artist daughter Kirsty will be giving tours of Alby Crafts' four-acre gardens from her own unique perspective, while alternative therapy taster sessions will range from Reiki and reflexology, to hand reading and Indian head massage.

Throughout the day, Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind will be showing amusing, mental health-themed short films, made as part of the Bigger Picture, a Time to Change-funded film and video project aimed at sparking conversations and changing attitudes towards mental health issues.


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Having worked with people with mental health problems, Mr Alston is very aware of the stigma surrounding mental health and he hopes that Saturday's event will encourage people to share their own experiences.

'I have had my own issues with depression and, in job circumstances, you are always wary of mentioning anything to do with mental health as, particularly in the realms of teaching, people can be very nervous of it,' he said.

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'I think that, especially in a rural area like north Norfolk, it can be very difficult for people to know what is out there in terms of support, so the aim of the wellbeing day is to be fun, interesting and informative.'

Mr Alston hopes to make the event a regular feature on the Alby Crafts calendar and is appealing to local therapists, health professionals and people with mental health issues to contribute towards a booklet he plans to produce next year.

'The idea is to include poems and personal stories to give people a voice, but also to have an easy reference point for people looking for support with mental health issues,' he said.

The wellbeing day runs at Alby Crafts and Gardens, Cromer Road, on Saturday from 10am, with a talk by a MIND representative followed by an open discussion at 4.15pm. For more information, phone 01263 768563.

Anyone wanting to contribute to the booklet can contact David Alston by emailing dalston@tisadsl.net

For more about the Mind Bigger Picture project visit www.biggerpicturenorwichmind.org.uk

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