The return of Mental Health in Movies

Mental health focused film screenings are back at the Belmont Filmhouse after pandemic hiatus

Two Aberdeen mental heath nurses are bringing back their mental health focussed movie screenings after a 20 month Covid hiatus. Dan Warrender and Scott McPherson are the team behind Mental Health in Movies. The first screening with be the John Hughes thanksgiving classic comedy, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. You can join them at the Belmont Filmhouse Kino Bar on Tuesday 30 Nov at 6:30pm.



Where did Mental Health in Movies start?

Originally called, Mental Health Movie Monthly, Mental Health in Movies was launched in 2016. Dan and Scott wanted to make mental health discussions more accessible and engaging. They achieved this by hosting film screenings, open to the general public. This was followed by a discussion of the mental health issues raised in the film. They created it with the intention of using film as a platform to encourage conversations around people's mental health experiences.

Scott and Dan stand in the glass roofed atrium of an office building. Scott (on the left) is is the taller of the two. Both are red haired, but Scott has a whitening beard. Scott is wearing a green t-shirt and Dan is wearing a blue polo shirt with a lanyard round his neck. Both are smiling.
Scott McPherson and Dan Warrender | Mental Heath in Movies

Dan told us, “I’m really looking forward to getting out there and discussing mental health in film with my good friend and the wider public. It never feels like hard work, but it always feels important that we have these conversations.”

Their last screening was Fargo on the 16th of March 2020, just before we all went into lockdown. It was a popular event for Robert Gordon University students, staff, and members of the public. Many were regular attendees until MHMM had to halt. The screenings created a safe and welcoming environment. This allowed people to talk about mental health by using films as a conversation starter.

Name change

During the pandemic, Dan and Scott decided on a name change, rebranding it ‘Mental Health in Movies’, or MHIM. With cinema spaces reopening in Scotland, MHIM has returned along with a brand new podcast. There are plans for semi-regular film events and discussions in 2022 in the Aberdeen area. You can find ‘Episode Zero’ of Dan and Scott’s new podcast on Anchor and Spotify.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/5hc3t9LOOKkkKHnzb8EwPV?si=cc9135e71ae4461e

Mental Health in Movies will be hosting a showing of Planes, Trains And Automobiles (1987) at Belmont Filmhouse’s Kino Bar. The film starts at 6.30pm. Tickets are priced at £5 and it will be shown with English captions to make the event more accessible.

Scott is excited to share the John Hughes classic with the audience. He told us, "I can't wait to use one of my all-time favourite comedies to create conversations around mental health and to be able to do so in partnership with the Belmont Filmhouse in their Kino Bar is fantastic. The pandemic affected our ability to provide these sorts of showings for people. So we're really excited to be able to do this in-person again. We hope that the public will turn up to support the initiative and enjoy a great film in comfortable surroundings, followed by some judgement-free discussion."

What you need to know

Where: Belmont Filmhouse, Belmont Street, Aberdeen
Date: Tuesday 30 Nov 2021
Time: 6:30pm
Price: £5
Follow: Twitter | Facebook

https://twitter.com/aberdeencity/status/1463472234924843009

About POST

Kevin Mitchell and Chris Sansbury founded POST from a desire to cut through the noise to share the great things that happen in Aberdeen. They therefore focus on community, culture and the interesting people of the city. The local artists, businesses and charities; photographers, musicians and entertainers; the people at a local level that make a positive impact on our city each and every day. So they use video, audio, writing and social media to amplify the voices in our community, and to ultimately give a platform to Aberdeen folk to engage and tell their own stories.

Recent work includes interviews with We Are Here Scotland founder Ica Headlam; Paralympic gold medalist, Neil FachieChef, an Aberdeen rapper who is pushing for success; an article by film director Mark Stirton about the state of high-rise buildings in the city; coverage of Nuart Aberdeen and TEDx Aberdeen, as well as coverage of British Art Show 9.


Vision Portraits director Rodney Evans sits on an underground train with the window behind him. His eyes are closed and the black handle of his cane is visible in front of him.

Caption This | New pop-up cinema dedicated to disabled audiences

A brand new accessible cinema experience launches to audiences this week. Caption This is a new series of pop-up cinema events with an aim to represent and engage disabled audiences. They aim to champion diverse stories both about and for those with a disability. Their first screening will feature the documentary Vision Portraits on 17-19 November.

The pop-up cinema strives to empower and prioritise Deaf and Disabled communities by reflecting this value in its programming and access measures. Audiences can look forward to a series of hybrid, virtual and in-person screenings throughout the year and across Scotland.


A red outline of three cinema seats, with a white rectangular outline depicting a screen. In the screen, the words "Caption This". Below, the words "accessible cinema".
Caption This Cinema Logo

Charlotte Little - The driving force behind Caption This

The driving force behind the project is Charlotte Little, a deafblind Aberdeenshire access consultant with a passion for curation. She campaigns for for a better experience for disabled audiences, drawing on her own experience as a moviegoer. Speaking ahead of the launch, Charlotte told us, “Growing up, I never saw positive, authentic on-screen stories about disabled people. I didn’t experience my first accessible cinema trip until I was 17. Also, I didn’t see myself on the big screen until I was 20. I want to change that for the generations of young disabled kids after me.

She went on to explain why this means so much to her. Telling us, “I want disabled people to feel valued as audience members. I don’t want access to be an afterthought or seen as a burden. Working as an access consultant within the film exhibition sector and having a personal perspective as a hard of hearing and partially sighted moviegoer, I’ve seen how far we’ve come but I’ve also realised how much work we have left to do in order to standardise inclusive cinema experiences.

Charlotte Little is standing at the back of an empty cinema. She is wearing a black face mask and is holding a blue and red box filled with popcorn.
Charlotte Little | Caption This Cinema

First showing | Vision Portraits 17-19 November

The first film showing as part of Caption This is the 2019 documentary Vision Portraits. It's a deeply personal documentary by filmmaker Rodney Evans in which he explores what it means to have vision while losing his own sight. Odie Henderson at rogerebert.com called it "an inspiring film. A funny and informative feature whose subjects were creative kindred spirits I’d never seen onscreen before."

Charlotte's passion for cinema is hugely infectious. A passion that she doesn't let go to waste. She's fighting to bring as many people into the cinema as she can, especially those who have felt under-represented. She told us, “I want more spaces and events that celebrate and prioritise representation and accessibility. I set up Caption This as my own contribution. Vision Portraits is our inaugural film because I’ve struggled with pursuing a career in the film industry as someone who’s losing their sight. I saw myself in Rodney Evans’ journey, and I hope that by showcasing this beautiful documentary, I’ll lend a hand to deconstructing the harmful misconception that blind and partially sighted people can’t be creative, that they can’t thrive and succeed in the arts, that they don’t have vision.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJzkxdUvWSI
Vision Portraits Trailer (Captioned)

What you need to know

Vision Portraits will be available to watch through the screening platform Eventive from Wednesday 17th to Friday 19th November. The film will have English captions available as well as English audio description. Tickets will be on a pay-what-you-can sliding scale from £0, £2, £4, £6, £8. There will also be a live discussion over Zoom and live-streamed to Eventive on Friday 19 November at 7pm with guest speakers Theresa Heath and Tara Brown. The live discussion will have live captioning, BSL interpretation, and the host and guest speakers will provide visual descriptions of themselves to make the event more accessible for partially sighted audiences.

Get tickets now on Event Live
Follow Caption This on Twitter
Event page on Facebook


About POST

POST was founded by Kevin Mitchell and Chris Sansbury. They have a desire to cut through the noise to share the great things that happen in Aberdeen. We focus on community, culture and the interesting people of the city. The local artists, businesses and charities; photographers, musicians and entertainers; the people at a local level that make a positive impact on our city each and every day.

Our recent work includes interviews with We Are Here Scotland founder Ica Headlam; Paralympic gold medalist, Neil FachieChef, an Aberdeen rapper who is pushing for success; an article by film director Mark Stirton about the state of high-rise buildings in the city; coverage of Nuart Aberdeen and TEDx Aberdeen, as well as coverage of British Art Show 9.



We Are Here Scotland in the spotlight

Back in late 2020, we interviewed Aberdeen creative and podcaster Ica Headlam. He had just established We Are Here Scotland, a creative fund designed to practically support creative people of colour (POC) throughout Scotland.

Nearly a year later, having achieved funding through a successful GoFundMe campaign, We Are Here Scotland are just about to close applications for their first round of funding of creatives. We wanted to chat to Ica further about We Are Here Scotland. We wanted to know the background behind the fund, some of the challenges he has faced, and what he can offer creative people of colour. As always, Ica was keen to share his experience.



What is We Are Here Scotland?

Tell us a little about We Are Here Scotland. How did the idea came about and develop into a real life fund?

The idea for We Are Here Scotland came from my experiences of presenting Creative Me Podcast. And also, of course, being a person of colour here in the north east of Scotland.

Being born in the early 1980's I've always recognised the importance of representation. However I didn't see much of that in Scotland across the artistic and creative industries. I wanted to create something that not only allowed for there to be recognition of black and POC artists and creatives, but also as a means of supporting the community in practical ways too. This is where the Creator's Fund comes into play.

I had numerous private conversations and a number of Instagram Live events. After that it became very clear to me that many people in the community needed help. Both in terms of funding and practical support. However, getting this from larger organisations always seemed like such a daunting and monumental task.

Bearing that in mind, I felt that there should be a fund that not only made it easier for people to apply for, but also provided some follow through in terms of practical support via mentoring and guidance from industry professionals to help those who are awarded funding.

What are some of the challenges you've faced in launching the fund?
Well we launched the fund in mid-November last year whilst still in the pandemic. Given the climate it was a slow burn, however we eventually reached our target of £6000 in June this year. Recently that amount has grown to £7,490. This has allowed us to support more black and POC artists and creatives across Scotland.

What advice would you give to creatives of colour starting out just now? In particular, advice about raising funding and dealing with the challenges that their industry may throw their way?

With regards to funding, I think it's important to explore all the viable options available to you as a creative. It's about finding out what opportunities are happening in your local community as well. For example, does your local authority have funding opportunities for creatives? Is your local art space/gallery looking to commission artists etc?

In terms of the challenges you may encounter? For me I always find that it's important to have a good support network around you. This industry isn't easy to navigate. Over the past year I've heard from people in my community who have had horrible experiences within Scotland. So, I would say it's also important to hold people accountable. We can't minimise problematic attitudes and behaviours in the hope that it'll all be forgotten about. Especially in the current climate.

Systemic misrepresentation in the arts

Do you think there's a genuine willingness within Scotland's creative industries to actually stamp out their systemic representation problems once and for all?

Well I'd like to think so. But the past year has shown me that within Scotland's creative industries the conversation of representation and systematic change can easily turn into a tick box exercise. It's becoming on trend now for some predominantly white led businesses and organisations to be seen to be amplifying black and POC voices. The thinking is in doing this, organisations show evidence to potential funders that they are actively engaged with supporting the community.

In all honesty I do think that some people prefer the status quo of things. Some people don't want to be challenged. They don't want to reflect on certain issues that requires them to actively engage in meaningful conversations or progressive thought.

Is there anything people working in creative industries can do to pressure their organisation to be better?

I think people need to be more vocal about the systemic issues within the creative industries. However, it shouldn't just be black and POC doing this all the time.

I think we have gotten into this mindset in society that if it doesn't personally impact on you or your mental health then do you really need to say anything. Yes ,you absolutely do need to challenge and hold people accountable especially in this industry. People need to ask important questions within their organisations. Ask about meaningful representation and what that can look like for marginalised groups.

Who in benefiting?

Who are some of the creatives that you have helped? Tell us a little about them and the work they do.

When I first started We Are Here Scotland. I used to do a lot of Instagram story shout outs. We've given this a little more structure with a spotlight feature on our website. This feature will introduce people to a number of talented artists and creatives across Scotland. The first artist in our spotlight is the acclaimed Scottish-Caribbean poet and performer Courtney Stoddart. You can check out her interview here.

What are your future plans for WAHS?

We have a number of projects that I'm really excited about beyond the Creator's Fund. Hopefully we'll be in a position to secure funding to develop these projects. We ant to provide more opportunities for black and POC artists and creatives in Scotland.

The Creator's Fund is still live until Sunday 31st October at 11:59pm you can apply for the fund here: https://www.weareherescotland.com/creators-fund


Thank you so much to Ica for again taking time to talk to us. He has a special ability to focus on his project and achieve his lofty goals. That has always been an inspiration to us here at POST, so it's great to catch up with him again.

We Are Here Scotland | Find Out More

You can fine We Are Here Scotland at a number of places around the web. Please go follow them to stay up-to-date on their progress.

We Are Here Scotland | website | Twitter | Instagram

We also very much enjoyed this episode of Just a Chat With...Ica Headlam

https://youtu.be/7sI4vD0oO5Q

Greyhope Bay breaks ground

Greyhope Bay has started the building phase of project that will eventually see a dolphin viewing centre, a cafe and new education and community space for Aberdeen. Breaking ground marks a milestone for the charity. It's culmination of a 6-year journey from the original idea to construction. The build has received wide support through community-led fundraising.  

It's been a challenging road to get to this point. Because of difficulties in the construction industry and scarcity of materials, the project has suffered unexpected delays. However, thanks to the perseverance, resilience and strength of the community, Greyhope Bay is ready to take its next steps.



Project lead architect, Prof Gokay Deveci today said, “I am delighted to be the architect for the development that will bring new life to Torry Battery. This work reflects the role of architecture in nurturing and sustaining our communities that 'Yes, it can be done'. I am grateful to all team members helping us to deliver such a challenging and innovative project. It would have not possible without their teamwork, commitment, and dedication.”  

Greyhope Bay founder, Dr Fiona McIntyre added, "What we are about to witness is the outcome of countless hours of planning and many years of dreaming, leading to the achievement of this significant moment in which an historic place is altered by our purpose and ignited with new life.” 

An exciting future for Torry Battery

The project’s development will secure a bright new future for Torry Battery. That said, it will also reaffirm its position as a site of both environmental and historical significance. The new green-powered community space will create a spectacular vantage point. As a result visitors can take-in views of the city, coast, harbour and the many resident Bottlenose dolphins who regularly make an appearance. 

This milestone represents the beginning of a transition for Greyhope Bay. What was primarily a fundraising exercise now looks towards providing a vibrant new destination centre for the community and visitors. As a result, this new phase will see the charity deliver programming and events that connect the community to the local coast. This will happen from an off-grid and low impact container conversion which will use the latest in green technology. Because of this, they'll minimise its environmental footprint, including waste produced by the café. 

How can you support Greyhope Bay

There are many ways to continue to support Greyhope Bay as the organisation moves forward through the build phase and into opening doors as a charity with programming and events that serve to connect the community to our coast from a beautiful new home. 

If you're interested in helping Greyhope Bay, you can join as a Founder Crew member. Organisers are campaigning to sign up their first 1,000 members before doors open. You can join at the sign up page. For those that do, you'll receive an exclusive pin badge, five free coffees once open and a discount on events. 

If you are a local businesses or corporate, you can join as a Corporate Skipper or Admiral. Greyhope Bay will offer these members a staff team beach clean, coffee and cakes and a story tour. 


Aberdeen high-rise buildings | The selective regeneration of our city

We interviewed movie director Mark Stirton last month about his career and how he has coped with lockdown. Shortly after we published he told us that he had something important to share about Aberdeen high-rise buildings and asked if he could write for us on the subject.

While a number of Aberdeen high-rise buildings have been awarded category A listed status, their residents continue to suffer awful living conditions. Over to Mark.

The selective regeneration of Aberdeen by Mark Stirton 

Someone sitting in an air conditioned office somewhere has decided that Aberdeen high-rise buildings like Virginia Court and Marischal Court are in some way historically important. Presumably whoever made this decision at Historic Environment Scotland has never actually been inside these buildings. Certainly they have never had to live in one. So, let’s take a closer look at these historically important buildings shall we?

First
Impressions


The first thing you’ll notice upon arriving in the area is that every single paving stone is broken. Not just one or two, all of them. So already, without actually entering the buildings, you can clearly see that this area has not been maintained in any meaningful way in quite some time.

But things get so much worse when we enter Virginia Court. Lift or stairs? Let’s try the lift first and as the door shudders to a close I notice that someone has scrawled something inside; ‘Please fix this door before an OAP gets stuck’. Sound advice and I immediately wonder if the doors will ever open again.

Fine, let’s take the stairs.

The steps leading up to the main stairwell are an immediate cause for concern. The problem is not that the banisters have been removed, which would not be so bad, it’s that the banisters have been partially removed. Nasty sharp metal struts have been left still in place and pointing outwards at exactly eye level for a toddler. Smart.

‘Please fix this door before an OAP gets stuck’. Sound advice …

Aberdeen High-Rise | The Flats


The stairwells themselves are pretty gruesome, with nasty big chunks of wall missing all over the place. But then, no one lives in the stairwells. It’s the flats that are the real eye opener here in this most important of buildings.

Where to start? Electrical wires hang out of the wall as if repaired by someone wearing a blindfold. Plaster is falling off the roof in big chunks. I can see cracks all over the place with massive gaps between floors and walls.


These gaps are more than just unsightly since they allow local insects to infest the lower flats. Without the addition of many rolls of flypaper to at least moderate the influx of midges, these rooms would not be considered fit for human habitation. Especially when you consider the rats.

Also problematic is the difficulty in heating a room that’s surrounded by walls that don’t reach the floor. Having said that, the storage heaters here have been imported from the 60s and would only heat you up if you sat on one.

This may explain why there is dry rot everywhere. One woman I spoke to, who was moving out, cited this exact reason for her moving; the health of her children was suffering just by being here. Is that a mushroom growing out of the floorboards? Yes, you can grow mushrooms here.

Yup, I saw rats. I didn’t hang around to photograph them, but I saw them.

Communal space or lack of privacy?


Anyway, let’s take our lives in our hands and try the balconies. Now maybe it’s beyond the understanding of a simple film director like myself to comprehend why rust and missing bolts everywhere is a perfectly safe way to leave a balcony, but to use your eyes and your common sense? I didn’t linger.

Another issue with the balconies is that of privacy. You see, everyone gets a balcony. What you might not realise from the outside is that most rooms have access to the same communal balcony, including the bedrooms. So if you fancy a neighbour standing directly outside your bedroom door at night, you’re in luck. It’s an appalling design. One that points towards another dirty little secret of these buildings – they were never any good to begin with! Presumably the original 1950’s based theory was to allow for a sense of community. You know, talking to a neighbour on the balcony while discussing the merits of teabags or some such. In the less cosy reality of 2021 however, it just means someone can come along and pee outside your bedroom door at 4 in the morning.

So if you fancy a neighbour standing directly outside your bedroom door at night, you’re in luck.

Not that communicating directly with your neighbours is that big a problem since the uninsulated walls here are paper thin. It’s quite possible to have a conversation with next door without raising your voice.

Aberdeen high-rise | Walkways


Speaking of disasters waiting to happen, let’s examine the two walkways that once connected Virginia Court and Marischal Court. These have not been in use for at least 3 decades. Again, maybe it’s beyond my humble understanding as to why leaving these walkways unmaintained and subject to the harsh winds and rain of Aberdeen for decades is in fact, perfectly safe and nothing to worry about. But I do worry.

There seems to be an insane innocence to all this, a sort of, it’ll never happen here, attitude.

But it might. Consider the aforementioned banister struts sticking out of the wall. No children have lost eyes, yet, so it must be safe to leave like that. They won’t take action, apparently, until after someone gets hurt.

When Historic Environment Scotland granted these Aberdeen high-rise buildings protected status, Aberdeen City Council protested in a kind of ‘Hey we were just about to fix that problem’ sort of way. But make no mistake, the problems in these buildings are entirely down to the borderline criminal negligence of Aberdeen City Council.

New Council HQ


Let’s take an interesting example from Aberdeen’s own recent historical past shall we? Not that long ago Aberdeen City Council decided that their HQ just wasn’t up to snuff. They needed somewhere new and my goodness didn’t that happen quickly!

The old building was gone in record time, a new home was found across the road. It was renovated, cleaned inside and out, new offices fitted and oh look, some fancy lights. In fact the whole area was regenerated in a remarkably short time. Aberdeen City Council can move pretty damn fast when it’s their own comfort at stake.

And what happened to Virginia and Marischal Court? Where people actually have to live, while all this frenzied rebuilding was going on 500 yards away? Well they were left to rot.

Putting aside the hideous living conditions of the poor souls stuck here to one side for a moment. Something Aberdeen City Council seems to have little difficulty in doing. People are telling us that these buildings are in some way culturally important; they’re not but let’s play the game. That means they’ve been letting these highly important buildings crumble away. So even if you take the human element out of this equation, there is still some world class negligence going on here.

Where’s the rush to action that Aberdeen City Council are apparently capable of, given the right self serving conditions?

An important building like Virginia Court falling into complete disrepair? Who do we call about that? If it’s so important, where’s the money?

The Human Element


Except of course, it’s impossible to take the human element out of this discussion, at least not without being a complete sociopath, because real people have to live in these buildings and they need help. Lifts that open, safe balconies, insulation, a heating solution from this century, an absence of midges and rats, a measure of privacy, fewer mushrooms, you know, the little things.

Unfortunately, since being designated as culturally significant, there is now a delay in any major repair work going on in this area. So people, who live in considerably nicer accommodation than is available in Marischal Court, can argue at great length and in comfort, about the relative merits of Brutalist design concepts.

But the truth is that these Aberdeen high-rise buildings were never any good, interesting architecture aside,  and thanks to the inaction of Aberdeen City Council they’ve gone from bad to worse. Decades of simply looking the other way.

The people living in Virginia and Marischal Court need many things to be sure, but I can tell you what they don’t need, before some idiot turns up with a bucket of paint and a Council grant, they don’t need a mural.

Media Gallery


All photos owned by Mark Stirton.


TEDx Aberdeen ticket lottery launched

Organisers have announced a ticket lottery for their 31 July TEDx Aberdeen event. Applications are open from now until 5 July.

What is TEDx Aberdeen?

TEDx is a programme of local, self-organized events that bring people together to discuss big ideas. Held in the spirit of ideas worth spreading.

Aberdeen Art's Centre will be the venue this year's live event. It will feature ten speakers from the city and beyond. The series of live 18-minute talks will focus on the theme, New Ways of Seeing Old Things. It is hope the talks will inspire the 100 attendees. Especially in a year where we look to our future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

From unlocking secrets with forensic science, to using artificial intelligence to improve sustainability in the agri-food sector. Tackling climate change through the power of learning and challenging our consumption of news and the perception of truth. From reinvigorating forgotten and declining communities, to mastering moodset, to the Aberdonian habit using the word ‘fine’ - TEDx Aberdeen has curated a thought provoking line up.

How to be part of the audience

Ticket applications are open now. Organisers will ask applicants to explain in a couple of sentences why they would like to attend TEDx Aberdeen. As well as the number of tickets they wish to apply for. They will then email successful applicants a link to purchase their tickets. Tickets cost £30 each. This includes access to the full day event featuring 10 speakers from across the North East community, lunch and refreshments. Tickets can be purchased individually or up to four in ‘household bubbles’.

Audience Experience Coordinator, Nicole Chidester told us a little more about the event. She explained “TEDx events are unique in the way they are organised, curated and attended. TEDx event programmes comprise speakers and video content to inspire connections, conversations and the power of ideas to spark change. People leave TEDx events feeling inspired and motivated.

“We’re really excited about our speaker line up. I know they can’t wait to share their ideas on 31 July.

“We also can’t wait to hear more about the people who want to attend TEDxAberdeen. Our audience are the final element to the success of the event. As a result of their attendance and willingness to participate, TEDxAberdeen come alive.

A COVID safe event

Nicole explained that this will be a COVID safe event, telling us, “organising a face to face to event in the middle of a global pandemic has been a learning experience! We’d like to thank prospective TEDx attendees for their patience as we navigate the constantly changing situation. We have worked closely with our host venue Aberdeen Arts Centre. Together we'll ensure we adhere to Covid-19 guidance for events and host the maximum number for our event.

“We’re also working closely with student volunteers from the North East of Scotland College events course. The pandemic has curtailed their work experience. So we're now delighted to be in a position to provide some students with a chance to manage elements of the event process.”

Find Out More

The ticket portal will close at 10pm on Monday 5 July. Then, successful applicants will be notified by 9 July and supplied with a link to purchase tickets.

For more information on the speaker line up and ticket application form, visit tedxaberdeen.com or find TEDx Aberdeen on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


TEDx Aberdeen isn't the only big event happening in July. You can now take part in Nuart Aberdeen with your own paste-up artwork. You can now read all about it here.


Lauren Mitchell in her Northsound Radio studio

Temp Check - Lauren Mitchell from Northsound Radio

Lauren Mitchell's breakfast radio show with co-presenter Jeff Diack is a huge success. The presenters' positive disposition has has solidified their position as North East Scotland's most listened to breakfast show. In more normal times, you could also see them supporting community events in Aberdeen like Celebrate Aberdeen and Grampian Pride.

We thought it was time to catch up with Lauren to see how she's doing as Aberdeen on from lockdown to recovery.

https://youtu.be/UseLRzl8wGY

Hey Lauren. Our first question in Temp Check interviews is always the same. It’s a simple question, but the answer is often not so simple…how are you doing right now?

Hiya Chris! Certainly a BIG question… however, the first answer that comes to mind is absolutely fantastic thank you! The sun is shining in Aberdeen today and I bought myself a houseplant this week, saw my family, some friends and had a BBQ! What more can I need in my life?!

Can you tell us a little about your background, how old you were when you started in radio, and how you became a presenter at Northsound?

I grew up all over the place, as my parents were in the Royal Air Force, which meant I had to become used to talking to many different people from a young age. This is where I developed my passion for “communication” and talking to people. When I was younger, I used to listen to the radio and repeat the adverts (usually that’s everyone’s least favourite part…I just loved it!)

We do tend to stay positive in the morning because nobody wants to listen to a negative Nigel do they? I believe it is so important to put your issues aside, unless of course you're sharing part of your life that may help somebody else.
Lauren Mitchell

I knew I wanted to go into Media/Journalism, so I joined college and completed a HND in Radio. From there, I completed my undergraduate degree in Media at Robert Gordon University. I graduated in 2015, moved back to St Andrews and I sent a video of myself doing the travel for a competition Northsound were running called "The Chosen One." About 3 weeks later, I got a call from Northsound telling me I was the CHOSEN ONE! I don't think I've ever been more excited in my whole life. That was 6 years ago which would have made me…. 21! I then moved everything back to Aberdeen and started on the Homerun show as a Travel Reporter.

You and your co-presenter Jeff Diack have a reputation for being hugely positive. How did you manage to maintain that at the start of lockdown when the rest of the world felt very scary?

Hahaha!! I love this question. We do tend to stay positive in the morning because nobody wants to listen to a negative Nigel do they? Being a presenter, I believe, a huge part of it (if not all of it) is being there for your listener and making them smile and laugh in the morning. I believe it is so important to put your issues aside, unless of course you're sharing part of your life that may help somebody else. 99% of the time though, when I walk into the studio, I would leave my personal problems at the door.

Lauren Mitchell surrounded by daffodils, taking a photo of St Machar Cathedral in Aberdeen
Photo supplied by Lauren Mitchell

Has your outlook to the world changed over the past 12 months?

Absolutely! I’ve become someone who spends less money on clothes and I’m now investing in nice pillows and homely plants for my house… (Have I officially promoted myself to a sensible adult? Oh no!!!) In all seriousness though, I’ve always believed you should say YES to everything and worry about it later, do things that scare you, try new things, explore and make yourself as happy as you possibly can with whatever works for you… but now more than ever, I appreciate my family, my friends and the people around me. I am so grateful for the little things, just like everyone is I suppose. I feel like you will be nodding along there thinking, we definitely did take things for granted a bit, didn’t we?

It’s obvious to everyone that listens that you love your job. What is it about radio presenting that gets you up in the morning?

I really do feel lucky everyday to talk and play songs on the radio, it has its own little challenges like any job but I have to say, for me, it's the first laugh we have in the morning, the conversations we have with our listener, the funny things we talk about. Radio is very much a friend to most and it’s also a friend to me too… It is as much a comfort to me as it is to those who do turn to us in the morning.

Aside from your immediate colleagues, who inspires you professionally?

So many different people inspire me in different ways. My colleagues are great and I'm so thankful for them. My family of course are always driving themselves forward professionally which has always been an inspiration to me. Two people in particular though - 1. Kirstin Gove, who we all know is just an incredible person all round and 2. Pete McIntosh… the person who is always so positive, creative and pushing for his next challenge.

What is your favourite part of your working day?

I love the Win it Minute quiz that we do every morning. It's a really positive fun little way of interacting with every listener, no matter what age. I also reckon I’d be quite good at quizzes now after learning the most random facts from the Win it Minute over the last 5 years!

https://youtu.be/zHfwRZGL76Y

One aspect of your role at Northsound is to be part of the community they serve. How would you say Aberdeen has changed in the past 5 years?

I think Aberdeen has changed massively and I do believe we’ve become much more of a tight community, it feels like we are one city and we look after each other. When I think of Aberdeen, I think 'creative and innovative'. We have so many fantastic talented people in this city, I'm so proud to live here. Walking around the streets and seeing NUART, the SPECTRA festival, The beautiful Art Gallery and all the pop-up events with local producers and creatives - it is just a great place to be.

I’m determined to get a nugget of negativity from you today…so what pisses you off?

Bad drivers, I’d be a liar if I said I never get a little bit of inner road rage. Too scared to beep my horn though!

You seem to be a very determined and laser focused woman. What advice would you give to young girls who would like to follow in your footsteps.

I have three tips.

1.   Find your confidence and own it! You are beautifully unique and you should champion yourself.
2.   Don’t give up, get up and try again… If you fail, it is only a bigger lesson and better adventure.
3.   Work hard (get experience) but also treat yourself, enjoy the crazy ride that life brings us!

And before we go…my youngest would like to know what your favourite tune is right now?

OH!!! Good question….I know in years to come, I’ll see this and I’ll think “DID I REALLY LIKE THAT SONG?!” but right now, it HAS to be Ella Henderson & Tom Grennan – Let's go Home together!

Ha, she'll love that! She's also a big fan of that song. Your early morning influence is strong! ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ


Thanks very much to Lauren for her brilliant answers to our questions. We're positive that we'll have her back at some time in the future. You can hear her every weekday on Jeff and Lauren in the Morning. The show also has a positive presence on Twitter, and Facebook.

Our conversation with Gary Kemp, founder of Doric Skateboards is a great, follow-up read. The challenges he has faced in building a business from scratch are worth your time.


The Fittie, Aberdeen

Using art and culture to improve life in Aberdeen

Lesley Anne Rose is the co-founder of Open Road, a creative operation based in Aberdeen. They use art and culture to improve health and wellbeing and the local environment. Her work at the Fittie Community Development Trust recently caught our attention. We asked her about Open Road's background, her hopes for the development and how we can build a better future for communities.


At Open Road we believe that culture and creativity inspired by people and place transforms lives. 

The Covid-19 pandemic, movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, as well as the local and global impacts of climate change have sparked turmoil, disruption, re-evaluation and, at times, chaos. The stories we tell about ourselves about the world have been tested and re-written. Long-silent voices are being heard. The push to make the world, and all of our lives, more equitable and sustainable grows ever stronger.

The impacts of these times on the cultural sector have been seismic as social distancing prevents us coming together
Lesley Anne Rose

The motivation, means and momentum for innovation and unstoppable change are all in place. The impact of these times on the cultural sector have been seismic as social distancing prevents us coming together. New ways to distribute and show work open up and deep inequalities within organisational structures and privilege come under scrutiny. Within the drive for change the power of storytelling, the need for creativity and the role of culture in holding space to heal the past, connect in the present and vision for the future has been keenly felt. 

Owning our identity and history

We know that whoever owns our stories, news, art, and culture, also owns our identities and history. Our aspiration is to empower and enable individuals, communities, cities and countries to own their stories, give voice to their visions and take steps towards healthier and more sustainable futures for themselves and each other. 

Our place and believe that the North is a place of ‘other’ where we do things differently to the South. Extremes of light and dark, global oil and the closeness of Scandinavia influence us creatively, socially and economically. All of these factors, along with the need for compassion, have underpinned a new business plan we have spent the last six months creating. This plan is underpinned by our new mission to be a creative, entrepreneurial organisation rooted in North East Scotland (‘the North’), but with a global vision. We use arts, culture, heritage and the natural landscape which contributes towards health and wellbeing, tourism and environmental sustainability. 

When we saw the launch of Creative Scotland’s Culture Collective, we knew that we could use it to make a positive difference to Aberdeen. 

About Culture Collective

Culture Collective is a pilot programme from Creative Scotland. It aims to build a network of creative practitioners, organisations and communities. They'll work together to create a positive difference locally and nationally in response to COVID-19. The programme focuses on community engaged creative activity, supporting projects where creative practitioners and communities work collaboratively. Importantly they are responding to the impact of COVID-19, providing employment opportunities for creatives. They'll actively engage people in shaping the future cultural life of their community.

Photo by Glen Rankin

Open Road is working with the Fittie Community Development Trust (FCDT) a charity established to support the harbour-side community in Aberdeen. The people of Fittie set up the FCDT to buy an old Gospel Hall and develop it as a venue for the wellbeing of residents and benefit of visitors. Wider Trust aims include community development and partnership working. 

Fittie residents are both long-term and recent. In summer Fittie can receive up to 1,000 visitors a week which creates a complex relationships between locals and visitors. Fittie sits at the mouth of a global oil port. Complexity also exists between the heritage of the past. The current reality of a city pivoting away from an economy dependant on oil and gas. And, as a coastal community, the impacts of climate change on the future of the village.

Bringing on creatives to the project

With the aim of addressing the impacts of COVID-19 and wider social, economic and environmental influences on community and city, our project will contract three creative practitioners to each work in residence for up to a year. One will create a programme of creative initiatives and participatory events to bring the Hall and community connections back to life. Another will further a project focusing on stories of migration in Aberdeen, linking with visitors, other communities and Aberdeen harbour. The third will focus on the impacts of climate change for coastal communities and the transition to net-zero carbon emissions. 

Community cohesion, the movement of people and climate change are all inter-linked. Through collectively developed briefs the artists will reach across the generations of residents. Linking these aspects of community heritage with the impacts of the current pandemic and environmental issues with a vision for a new future. The project's focus will be The Hall.

Creatives are being encouraged to work across, but be respectful to the physical footprint of the community and consider practices such as community mapping. Planning will be responsive to on-going COVID-19 guidelines with digital spaces all part of the plan. We're also bringing on an early career creative producer on board to help us deliver the project. 

Telling the Story of Change

One of our aims is to help people, communities and organisations tell their stories and the story of change. Story telling helps us answer questions so we can tackle problems with courage, risk-taking and creativity. Stories connect people to their passions, to shared identify and hope. They bring re-conciliation and an understanding that we are not the same as before, as well as help re-build for a better future. This is needed on individual, collective, organisational and sector levels.

Through our Culture Collective project we aim to tell the story of change within our community and set this against a local, national and global narrative. This will include live events, podcasts, filmed content, story sharing and other creative outputs. We will link our activity with the wider Culture Collective network, Climate Reality Leadership, the road to COP26 and beyond. 

Granite Fittie Community Hall basking in the sunshine, with a blue bicycle in front of it. Markings on front show it was built in 1951.
Photo by Chris Sansbury

In doing so we aim to raise the profile of the cultural sector in Aberdeen and its potential to work with and make a difference to communities. We'll also provide much needed paid opportunities for freelancers within the sector. 

With recruitment in progress, we are right at the start of this journey. We're excited to see how it develops and are looking forward to sharing progress as we go. 


Find out more

Huge thanks to Lesley Ann for taking the time to share her thoughts. You can find out more about Open Road on their website, Twitter and Facebook. Art and culture in Aberdeen is one of the main focuses of POST and we'll check in on this project in the future.

Also, check out our conversation with Ica Headlam. He is an Aberdeen creative who shines a spotlight on the work of many others. His focus on Aberdeen’s artists, musicians and creative businesses put him at the centre of a renaissance of the city's creative scene.