Poet Patrick Jones works with Royal College of Psychiatrists

By Huw Thomas
BBC Wales arts and media correspondent

  • Published
Media caption,

Patrick Jones reads from a poem from a collection My Song, My Story, developed with people with dementia and their families

The poet and playwright Patrick Jones has been appointed artist-in-residence with the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales.

He has worked on projects with people with dementia in recent years but now is also teaming up with those treating mental health.

Jones said: "I suppose they come across as quite an academic organisation.

"When I had my first meeting I was a bit afraid, thinking I was going to be analysed, which again is a stereotype.

"But I think it is a great opportunity to mix really quite hard scientific facts with those great creative bursts."

Jones, the brother of Manic Street Preachers bass player Nicky Wire, has been working in recent months with the Forget-me-not Chorus - a music project with choirs made up of people with dementia and their families.

Previously, he wrote a play based on work with dementia choirs, Before I Leave, for National Theatre Wales.

Image caption,
Patrick Jones meeting with GPs and other writers

His work with the Royal College will involve encouraging psychiatrists and other clinicians to become involved in creative writing.

Tredegar-born Jones, 53, is convinced of the value which art therapy can bring alongside medicine, to support people with mental health issues build confidence and self-esteem.

Poetry and song can also open up a door to memories for people with dementia.

"I think people are waking up to the fact that it is a lot cheaper," said Jones.

"I think in this day and age, with austerity and public service cuts everywhere, people are looking for new ways to support people, vulnerable people, who would perhaps be pushed away by society."

"It goes back to my own first passion for writing. When I discovered Allen Ginsberg and the beat poets, it was almost like a light bulb went off.

"So I go back to those days and I think perhaps everyone should have the chance to be exposed to beautiful words and ideas. If you are in a nursing home, why not share beautiful music and poetry, because it takes some people back. I have read Wordsworth's Daffodils and the whole room has echoed it, and suddenly spoken about their schooldays."

Jones will be creating a series of spoken word features focusing on people's experiences through cycles of song.

He also wants to involve more artists in Wales in reaching out to people.

"Hopefully we are going to culminate next year with a mental health and arts festival," he said. "It would be great for Wales, building all these different parts that are already in Wales and bringing them all together. I think the time is right for this sort of post."

Prof Keith Lloyd, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales said: "I'm really delighted to welcome Patrick to the college. This work is both exciting and invaluable. Mental ill health can affect anyone of us, how we manage our mental health is so important and the arts have a part to play in promoting positive mental well-being."

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