Artist Amelia Hawk to lead BEDLAM Nature and Healing project

Tue 21 March 2023
Two white women are sat at a table, you can see their arms and hands but not their face. Taken from a birds-eye view. They are making artwork from foraged materials. The woman on the left uses red petals and green leaves to dye a white square of fabric. The woman on the right uses a stone to press petals into a cream piece of fabric to make marks and dyes. There is a brush, a board covered in clingfilm, a tea spoon, a pebble, a pot of petals, scissors, and pencils on the table.
Foraging and dye-making workshop at MAC, image by Amelia Hawk

MAC is delighted to announce a new collaboration with artist Amelia Hawk, who will be leading a creative wellbeing project on the theme of Nature and Healing, as part of BEDLAM Arts and Mental Health Festival. BEDLAM is a Birmingham-based festival celebrating the arts, mental health and wellbeing, run by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Sampad Arts and Red Earth Collective.

MAC’s BEDLAM project follows a taster phase that ran from September to December 2022, which offered the opportunity for participants to try a range of different craft activities, and take part in nature walks. Following an Artist Open Call with input from participants, Amelia was chosen as the lead artist to deliver weekly creative workshops with a group of local women, who have been referred to the project via NHS mental health services. The project will culminate in an exhibition at MAC opening this spring.

Amelia is a Birmingham-based visual artist whose work explores experiences and conversation as a way to make and share artwork, often starting with a cup of tea or coffee. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at Interkulturelet Museum in Oslo, Luda in St Petersburg, Floodlight Foundation in Delhi and National Gallery in Prague. In 2021 she received an Arts Council England grant to explore how to integrate counselling strategies might create new spaces for conversations within her artwork, resulting, among other things, in the project The Listening Line

The programme kicked off in late February with herbal tea-tasting and foraging and Cannon Hill Park, and further activities will develop through a process of listening and collaboration with project participants. The theme of Nature and Healing chimes with the 150th anniversary of Cannon Hill Park this year, and is close to the heart of group members, several of whom are animal-lovers or gardeners.

Picture of found objects (twigs, leaves, conkers) placed in a circle on the ground. Soil and leaves surround the circle, with some objects placed in the middle to create a pattern or natural artwork.
Nature mandala created during a walk in Lickey Hills with artist Chloë Lund, October 2022

Amelia said: “I’ve seen through lived experience of caring for my mother how important relaxed, informal, non-therapy spaces are when experiencing mental health difficulties or social isolation – alongside having access to therapy, which is of course also vital. 

“The simple act of turning up, sharing space, and being together is a lot bigger and more impactful than many of us realise. I’m excited to see what the space we are making together will hold, what we will make and how we will support each other's creative journey.”

The participants in MAC's BEDLAM project describe it as a low pressure space where they feel welcome and understood, and ‘don’t have to pretend’. 

One participant said: “The project has made a massive difference to my mental health. Before I started I was literally a hermit. I barely left my house. I’ve found that meeting the wonderful ladies of the group has given me confidence to come out of myself.” 

Now in its 12th year, BEDLAM 2023 sees a shift in focus from educating and entertaining audiences to longer-term engagement with people with lived experience of mental health, by BEDLAM’s four arts partner organisations.

Creative work from the project will be shared at an exhibition at MAC's Community Gallery from Sat 29 April - Sun 18 June, and there will be an all-day symposium and showcase event on Tue 16 May. 

For more information, please contact: Emily Churchill Zaraa, MAC Community Engagement Producer, [email protected]