showcase smoothieA trailblazing project which has supported a wide-range of black minority ethnic (BME) men in Leicester with mental health issues have brought together their service users through a poetry performance at their end-of-year show finale.

The award-winning group, Showcase Smoothie showcased its work to around 100 members of the public last Friday [28 November] at Embrace Arts in Leicester with a compelling evening of rhythmic wordplay and music.

Showcase Smoothie was set up in March 2008 by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) in partnership with a range of arts, health and educational organisations. It has a particular focus on young black men but is currently helping a group of men of diverse ages, ethnicities and cultures to tell their stories together and overcome mental health stigma in across communities.

Chief Executive of the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Dr Peter Miller attended the event and said: “It's an honour to be a champion of such important work, supporting and helping people reach their potential through the power of words and music. [Tonight] we were able to celebrate inspiring, powerful and moving stories of people recovering from mental health problems.”

Showcase Smoothie’s artistic programme of activities was launched in 2012 as a two-year pilot, after receiving major Arts Council England funding and has been selected by the Care Services Improvement Partnership as one of only 10 National Beacon Projects.

Challenging the stigma around mental health
The programme now includes regular workshops, group work and one-to-one mentoring while members have also joined together to create the ‘Showcase Collective’ of artists who put on public performances, some of which are based around their anthology of writing ‘Poems To Read - Before U Die’.

Internationally acclaimed Jamaican dub poet and Patron for Showcase Smoothie, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze was also present at the finale event while LPT’s Creative Arts Coordinator Lydia Towsey described the event as a ‘huge success’.

“The end of year finale demonstrated how the arts can clearly contribute to boosting wellbeing, opening a dialogue and challenging the stigma that can still sometimes surround mental health issues,” she added.

"The project has transformed so many people’s lives and has had such a positive impact. It’s been fantastic to have the support of Arts Council England for the last three years - their funding has been crucial in getting this ground breaking project off the ground. We’re now exploring further possibilities to make it sustainable - and looking forward to a bright future."

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