Greg Rogers shares his own experience of ill mental health, and how he's supporting fellow artists and creatives in Birmingham to improve their own mental health by creating a night of performances that express the inherited trauma of the Black community.
“I’ve experienced mental ill health in the past and the encouragement shown to me by Red Earth really helped so I wanted to give something back. I make music, write songs and poetry, and the first time I ever performed was at Red Earth’s StereoHype festival. Since then I’ve set up the Making Change Studio and I’ve worked on a few of Red Earth’s projects.
We did a project recently asking artists and the community about the historical impact the transatlantic slave trade had on people’s emotional health, about the trauma it’s caused. We found lots of different responses from blues musicians or poets, but the same feeling of trauma was evident from learning about Black history, the slave trade and how it’s depicted.
I now work on Red Earth’s StereoHype Social project, funded by People’s Health Trust, doing creative workshops with five local artists – singers, poets, rappers, musicians. Each one of the artists has their own distinct stye and personality but all of them have lived experience of mental health issues, so it’s about getting comfortable with one another, getting comfortable with themselves, writing, creating, and expressing themselves. I’ve seen massive improvements in development and in their mental health in such a short time. The artists working with us have used mental health services in the past, some recently, but you should see them when they’re performing or in the studio. The people that came to me are not the same people that I see today. Being in a room together allows us all to express things we feel and stop the thoughts rattling around our heads.
For me it’s linked to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. By giving them the space to rehearse and try things out, we’re allowing people the opportunity to see what self-actualisation looks like and that’s half the battle. To see the artists now, they’re going from strength to strength, finding new avenues of creativity and work. The way they talk about themselves, their appearance, even the things they talk or write or sing about have changed.
Often the quickest way to find out where someone’s head is at is the stuff they’re writing or the songs they’re asking you to listen to. In my studio I’ve seen guys, 18 years old, singing about friends being killed, murder on their minds, and it makes you sick with sadness, but that’s their experience and that’s where they’re at in their journeys. When StereoHype Social began, I heard a lot of darkness, but recently the mood and tone is more positive. You can hear the difference in the music.
You can hear the difference in the music."
Core Member of StereoHype Social, Co Curator of Let Freedom Ring
We recently we’re put on a show called Let Freedom Ring which was directed to show a journey of progression to reflect the experience of the artists and also the Black community. Performances at the beginning showed raw anger and bitterness about the days of slavery when people were being whipped, segregated, and more recently killed by police. To celebrate the strength and resilience of the Black community, you’ve got to show where it comes from. But you’ve also got to show how it's overcome, so towards the end the music built to uplifting beats.
I’ve gotten to know the artists well, and to work with them intensely towards a common goal has been empowering because it makes you feel like you’re not alone in your thinking, you’re not the only one who feels this passionately. It creates a solidarity. I’ve made music and poetry for years, but I never really wanted to perform. Working with these guys makes me want to create more and to perform it for people, and as well as co-curating the Let Freedom Ring event, I was also on stage with the artists. The audience didn’t know our stories directly, but they heard the pain and the passion in our lyrics and the music. “
Source: People's Health Trust