Dublin’s spoken word scene is going from strength to strength, with established nights such as the previously featured Slam Sunday inspiring more writers to take to the mic. One such initiative is Flying South, a mental health-themed event that has met twice in Stoneybatter’s Jaja Studios since it was first set up in March. I caught up with co-founder, Trudie Gorman, to take a look at what makes Flying South stand out.
Gorman is forthcoming about the struggle with depression and anxiety that led her to feel there was a niche, even a need, for a dedicated spoken word group in Dublin. After years of experience with the public health service culminated in a somewhat temporary respite, Gorman, like many freshers, found the beginning of university to be a period of upheaval. [pullquote] some weeks I just can’t afford to go, but for the sake of my mental health, I also can’t afford to not go at all [/pullquote] Finding the sweet spot between available mental health services, reaching the top of the public waiting list and clicking with the right health professional, proved a struggle. Gorman eventually chose to circumvent the public system and avail of low cost counselling services; still, she admits that, ‘even at low cost they’re still pretty expensive and some weeks I just can’t afford to go, but for the sake of my mental health, I also can’t afford to not go at all.’
Spoken word events, she says, were a godsend and became a hugely beneficial outlet, both in terms of creativity and support.
I found they were such beautiful spaces. Seeing people voicing their very personal life experiences within this very understanding community, it was amazing. I noticed a lot of people would use spoken word to speak about their experiences of mental health issues and how brave that was and how supportive the spoken word community was of that…doing it has been a really empowering experience.
The idea for Flying South arose last December because Gorman, along with five friends, felt strongly that the stigma surrounding the mental health conversation in Ireland needed to be addressed.
We wanted to challenge the silencing and the stigmatisation of mental health issues in society in general…we wanted to create a space where it was okay to get up and talk about your mental health and the struggles you might have had with it, a space that felt safe and warm and inviting for people, where they felt valued.
Even the name, ‘Flying South’ comes ‘from the idea of birds flying south to a safe haven in the winter. This is our safe space to fly to, where it’s okay to talk about our mental health.’
Gorman is quick to stress the freedom afforded to all speakers, who are welcome to share ‘performance poetry, poetry, storytelling, comedy, song writing, and anecdotes. Basically if you have something to say about mental health, then Flying South is the space you can say it and feel safe to say it.’ Freedom of all kinds is thematic on the night: Flying South is alcohol-free and admission is free, though donations are welcome for the upkeep of the venue. Literature on available mental health services is also provided free to any interested attendees. In keeping with the spirit of fostering a warm and comfortable environment, baked goods are provided along with tea and coffee and the studio is dressed with candles and fairy lights.
In an area that is too often defined by seclusion and a ‘discourse of silence’, Gorman is ebullient in her praise for what nights like Flying South have done for her wellbeing.
Spoken word is such a personal and collective experience at once. You’re performing on your own, but there’s a room full of people in solidarity with you and they do this through laughter, woops of approval, finger clicking and the dialogue that you enter into after the performance. So having that forum to express myself and that sense of community around me, it’s such been such an experience of liberation.
Flying South is also run by Kate Quigley, Dave O’Hara, Shannon Rogers and Bonny Tsang. It takes place monthly from 7pm-9:30pm at Jaja Studios, Cowper Street, Stoneybatter. Entry is free and donations are welcomed. More information can be found on the Facebook page and Twitter.