Real people / Radical Perspectives

Why we love Doll Hospital Journal

Doll Hospital Journal is important.
Bethany Lamont started the zine last year, when her tweets about suicide and depression started freaking her friends out. After speaking to them about it, Lamont, who was a PhD student at the time, used her Twitter to call for submissions for a mental health publication. It would serve as an outlet for her and others like her, who are plagued with mental health issues. She started a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, and Doll Hospital Journal was born.

This December, the art and literature journal about mental health published its second issue, featuring poetry, comics, illustrations and essays from a range of contributors. And they’re not just jaded shrinks and intellectuals positing theories about the study of sadness. They are people who suffer the day-to-day reality of having a mental disorder, while turning their pain into prose, poetry and paint.

Doll Hospital Journal has no precedent like it: it is created completely by and for people with mental health struggles, and we think that’s just how it should be. After all, who might understand the nuances of a sick psyche better than one who suffers it?

Screenshot (8)
Issue 1, Doll Hospital Journal

In an interview with Vice, Lamont says, “Some readers who have not experienced mental health struggles themselves can be surprised that not all the stories within our journal have a “happy ending” or perfect solution. But really, what does? There’s no point sugar coating this stuff. Mental health can be devastating – it can rip your world apart – and it can be affirming to just step back and be like, ‘Yeah, this really sucks’.”

And it really does suck. According to the Mental Health Foundation’s report, mental disorders contribute to 28% of the UK’s total burden of disease, with one in four people suffering from a mental health problem every year. Lamont, who studied at Oxford University, is just one of a multitude around the country who struggle with the same issues, often without the required help and support. What’s more – those afflicted seem to be getting younger and younger. It’s painfully obvious that mental health requires a space for clearer and more critical dialogue, and the stereotypical ‘manic pixie dream girls’ of mainstream movies just don’t cut it.

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In our corner of the world, a few mental health charities publish journals and reports about the topic, along with publications like Asylum, who cover it from a more academic perspective. But what we enjoy most about Doll Hospital Journal, and what sets it apart from other material in its genre, is its extremely personal, honest and creative exploration of the same issues. Speaking to Germ magazine, LaMont stated her idea was to set aside romanticised notions and stereotypes of mental illness, and use what remained to create a new standard, where its sufferers can speak on their own terms.

In our opinion, it is an idea that is both profound and necessary.

Get your copy of Doll Hospital here.



We are happening: Cardiff news and events round up for early January 2016

We Are Cardiff’s round-up for January includes us! So excited to be featured on a blog we follow regularly!

We Are Cardiff

HELLO CARDIFF! Helia here, wishing you a very happy new year! Enjoy yourselves a Cardiff based links and blog round up!

cardiff bay sunrise

We Are Cardiff Instagram

First up, podcaster and local footy fan Alex Feeney is looking after our Instagram account for January, so follow us on there: We Are Cardiff Instagram


Did I mention that Al’s podcast is called EatSleepFootyRepeat? It’s a podcast about Welsh football. I might be a future guest on that shiz, because hey – who else is more qualified to talk about football than me?? (clue: almost everyone else at this party). Listen to previous episodes of EatSleepFootyRepeat and join their EatSleepFootyRepeat Facebook page. Because sportz, okay?

The Oddball Blog

I recently came across a newly launched site called The Oddball Blog, which has a great alternative events guide for January: Alternative events guide

The Oddball Blog also has a great blog about Cardiff music in years…

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Running away with the Social Circus

[Featured image credit: Circus Eruption]

To most, the word ‘circus’ might conjure images of tigers leaping through rings, fire-eaters and freakshows. And yet entertainment is its most basic premise. Since its traditional beginnings under the big top, the artform has morphed from entertainment to altruism, helping thousands of disadvantaged people the world over.

Social circus not only helps children today to develop the physical literacy skills they severely lack, it also helps build motivation, concentration and social inclusiveness – all without the competitive hot-housing of sport. Today, social circus organisations pepper the globe, from Cambodia to Australia, Nepal to Afghanistan, the UK and Canada, where studies of its efficacy are proving that it has a lot more to offer than clowns
and pageantry.

Image credit: Organised Kaos

In Afghanistan’s wartorn landscape, the Mobile Mini Circus for Children is helping its young develop an appetite for education, while Circus Kathmandu takes trafficked children off the streets to build their self-esteem and erase the stigma of poverty. Closer to home, organisations like No Fit State, Circus Eruption, Newport Circus and Organised Kaos are doing wonders for their local communities, working with refugees, addicts, the elderly and the disabled.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it is the circus’ role in providing a safe haven for those on the fringes of society – and we’re not just talking gypsies, but those who suffer trauma, unstable environments and disabilities. The circus makes sure no one is left on the sidelines, including everyone– no matter their skills, past or experiences – in the making of culture.

Here’s is a link to the original article I wrote for Alt.Cardiff, on how and why the circus is helping local communities in Wales.

If you’re interested in circus culture, Katharine Kavanagh’s blog The Circus Diaries is a great resource for reviews, musings and research about the circus.

Below is an infographic we’ve created about the social circus:

Social Circus



Kick off 2016 by immersing yourself in Cardiff’s best offerings of theatre, art and music. Here is our pick of interesting, offbeat events around town this month:


WHAT: Live art exhibition + live music + popup market
WHERE: The Moon Club
WHEN: Jan 10
What better way to spend the day than watch a canvas go from zero to Banksy in a hot minute? Fugly Arts Society and Free For All Festival are hosting a live art extravaganza, featuring UK’s choicest illustrators, graffiti and tape artists, creating fresh pieces right before your eyes. And that’s not all. The event will also include a pop-up market and live music from acts around South Wales.
Find out more about it here

WHAT: ‘George Barber: Akula Dream’ exhibition 
WHERE: Chapter Arts Centre
WHEN: Till Jan 10
Back in the ‘80s, the scratch video movement emerged as a politically-driven outsider art that scoffed at broadcast television and traditional mass media. Up till January 10, George Barber –a frontrunner of the movement – is bringing his visual sorcery to Chapter, with a solo exhibition entitled ‘George Barber: Akula Dream’. His new piece of video art, Akula Dream, is about an eccentric captain aboard a Russian submarine, steering his crew to spiritual frontiers and strange new worlds. Alongside it, Barber will also exhibit selected works from his oeuvre.

Check out Akula Dream here

Image credit: The Other Room at Porter’s

WHAT: Play/Silence
WHERE: The Other Room at Porter’s
WHEN: Jan 19
The Other Room theatre opens its doors for a double bill by  20th century heavyweights, Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. In a first-of-its-kind presentation, both playwrights’ lovers collide onstage, in an evening that promises ‘love, heartbreak and hope’. We suggest you drag your partner along to this one.



Image credit: Kayla Painter

WHO: Kayla Painter
WHERE: Clwb Ifor Bach
WHEN: Jan 21
Three times more talented than you, musician, producer and visual artist Kayla Painter will bring her techno, garage and post-dub grub to Clwb Ifor Bach this month. The Bristol-based artist, who’s played Pulse, Simple Things and Supernormal, creates an immersive experience with a dual-screened visual show, put together in collaboration with Jason Baker of The Crisis Project.
More details about the gig here


Image credit: Gemma Collard Photography

WHO: Tendons
WHERE: Gwdiwh
WhEN: Jan 17
Gorgeous five-piece, indie folk band, Tendons, are fresh out of the recording studio with their brand new EP. The Cardiff-based band blend their five voices seamlessly to create sonic-soup for the soul. They will be playing at Gwdiwh, with support from Scottish artist David Grubb and other musicians.
More details here

Give them a listen:



WHAT: A course on writing short stories
WHERE:  Bute Park Educational Centre
WHEN: Jan 17
If you’ve always wanted to give up your desk-job to become a bestselling novelist, you can sign up for a 6-week creative writing course at Bute Park. Taught by author Jon Blake at a venue overlooking Bute park’s ambient nursery, the course focuses on writing short stories and is held every Sunday evening. Sign up here


Oddball Selects: Insta-laughs

Feeling the New Year blues?  Our favourite Instagram accounts for giggles might help cheer you up:


Here’s an account for anytime you find yourself taking life too seriously. Instachild of April Aileen Henry, it marries the millennial’s many existential problems with an incontrovertible sense of humour.


We have such a girlcrush on Maria Qamar. Her tongue-in-cheek pop art illustrations feature the trials and tribulations of first-gen Indian women living in the west.

Elliot Tebele started his instagram back in 2011, out of pure boredom. Today, his compilation of funny photos, memes and snippets off the internet makes sure his 7.5 million followers never have to suffer the boredom he did.

This account takes medieval art and paintings and contextualises them for the modern-day: it’s guaranteed to have you in splits, and make sure you never look at the curly-wigged, pantaloon-clad depictions of the yesteryears in the same way again.

When this gangster grandma first popped onto our phone screens a couple years ago, we thought she was too cool to be real. Today, the giggle-inducing nan we never had is partying with A-list celebrities, while showing us that age has got nothing on spirit.

It might be wedding season, but those who are single can revel in Tinder Nighmares, which perfectly highlights the hilarious and sometimes horrific experiences of shopping for companionship online.


Capturing the text exchanges between a hysterical mother and her 20-something daughter, Crazy Jewish Mom will make you cringe-laugh like only your mother can.


Voluntourism: Does it do more harm than good?

When voluntourism became a trend several years ago, it seemed like a win-win. The idea behind it was relatively straightforward: it gave people the opportunity to travel, experience and interact with a new culture, and do some good while they were at it. Since its beginnings – a little English tutoring here, a little brick-laying there – it has turned into a veritable industry, with companies taking thousands of pounds from teenagers and young adults who want to do something of perceived meaning with their lives. The refugee crisis has created a resurgence of voluntourism, reminding us of the debate around the topic: does it do more harm than good?

Cedar Rapids, Iowa / 8 MB

Recently, a friend of mine travelled to a refugee camp in Western Europe, and the ad hoc manner in which the volunteer programme was run made him feel as though his efforts to make a difference were futile. Unskilled volunteers did shoddy jobs that had to be redone – wasting resources and time that cost those they were trying to help more than it helped them. What’s more, a lot of people were just along for the ride, to partake in what’s become some sort of hippie culture where they mostly just “took drugs, lazed about and pontificated about the crisis.” Here’s the crux of the debate: people argue that the experience of voluntourism is largely superficial, most often involving people of privilege doing cameos in societies they do not understand, for the purpose of fluffing a CV or patting themselves on the back – and the companies that organise these experiences don’t really invest in the communities at all. There is no lack of skilled labour in developed countries, and volunteers often slow down the process and eat into the local economy by doing jobs – that too, shoddily – which could employ and sustain the locals. In an article for The Guardian, Ossob Mohamud – who describes the experience as “self-congratulatory and disenguous” says, “one begins to wonder if these trips are designed more for the spiritual fulfillment of the volunteer rather than the alleviation of poverty.”


On the other side of the coin, commentators argue that there is no such thing as “pure altruism” anyway, and just because volunteers gain a personal sense of validation does not take away from its benefit to communities. When implemented correctly, volunteer organisations have filled skill-gaps and helped the communities they have engaged with by offering training opportunities from skilled volunteers in order to create sustainable communities for the disenfranchised. For every volunteer who has a superficial mindset or experience of it, there are five who become deeply invested in the lives of people they deal with, some even continuing to build careers out of it. A deeper evaluation of the problem, through experience and subsequent study, might result in valuable solutions. According to this set, if those of better means stopped contributing altogether, thousands of charities would be denied donations crucial to the betterment of societies that suffer trauma and underdevelopment – so why discourage it?

We’d love to hear your opinions on the matter: Is voluntourism more harmful than beneficial?

If you have an experience or opinion you’d like to share, please do comment below!

Retrospect: Cardiff’s musical subculture of the 70s & 80s

We speak to pioneers of Cardiff’s musical scene in the 70s & 80s for a glimpse of the sepia-toned subculture we can only now glimpse in pictures:

Moira Morgan and Keith Murrell come from two different worlds, but they’re both legends with a shared legacy. Before Cardiff’s gentrification, it was a hotbed for sound – and all kinds of it. In the sweaty basement of the Great Western, audiences were moshing to the grimy, ‘f**k you’ firebrands of prog rock, post-punk and nasty pop, while the docks were quaking with soul, reggae and motown at the Casablanca Club. But what warp and weft in Cardiff’s fabric allowed for such a musical vibrancy?


Race and the rumble
As a major port, Cardiff saw large-scale immigration from British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, and Butetown’s identity, both socially and musically were borne of this. The race riots of 1919 solidified Butetown as an asylum for the black community. “The history of ‘black music’ over this time speaks of disconnection and exclusion from the mainstream”, says Keith Murrell, resident DJ and regular at the Casablanca, one of Cardiff’s most legendary clubs. “The music evolved under the same conditions as the community. During the Civil Rights era of the late ‘60s, the culture began to assert its values and conditions more dominantly through its music – and this spanned the spectrum from reggae and funk, calypso to jazz and rhythm and blues. Murrell mentions the integral role music played in the community, in the way of “maintaining cultural links and values.”


Riding feminism’s second wave
In the meanwhile, second-wave feminism had arrived in England and Wales with the release of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. Moira Morgan was a 15-year-old living in the valleys when she first read the book she credits with changing her life. Gender inequality was rife but women were finally sitting up and taking notice. Looking back, Moira says “It was a struggle of female identity and how you related to men. We had smashed the old rules, but we didn’t know what the new rules were. We were the generation that struggled with that.” The sum of these conflicts resulted in the angry, “monstered” Marxist woman who headlined Moira and The Mice and brought their post-punk rumble to The Lion’s Den and other clubs around town during the period between 1979 and 1981. The band, who produced singles like I Eat My Young and Heart Like A Whore, were frontrunners in the post-punk movement and made original music – a departure from the many cover bands that proliferated the scene. Even so, the idea of a woman in a rock band was peculiar at the time. Moira describes her songs as a way of “trying to be a woman in an alien landscape.” She harks back to some of her struggles as a woman rocker. “We showed up at a gig once, myself and two female bandmates and the manager said ‘The groupies are here,’ so I caught him by the collar, looked him dead in the eye and said ‘We’re the f*cking band, mate.”

The Great Western was a popular haunt for Cardiff bands to perform and mingle

Middle ground
Despite the obvious differences of roots and race, both movements were underpinned by a simmering anger at the injustices around them. It’s no surprise then that Moira and The Mice often found themselves in Butetown, performing and bonding with the ‘soul’diers and ska-heads. “Casa B welcomed us with open arms because they got it – it was the same anger,” says Moira, smiling nostalgically. “The club was sacred ground, where people got together for the music, no matter their race.”

But what’s missing from Cardiff’s musical fabric now?  Does it stem from a preoccupation with money and mainstream success? “In the context of an underground music culture, ‘getting a deal’ wasn’t automatically seen as a good thing, especially if it meant commercialisation or dilution of the music,” says Murrell. “Most of us played for the love of the music and some of us had something to say through it.” Moira agrees. “I think music become very commercial, and people want safety. For us, it was never about the money, it was about passion. We had a political will behind our music – we were trying to tell the truth about what was happening.”

You can’t deny the vast benefits of the internet – that a kid in some obscure pocket of the world can find catharsis in music produced halfway across the globe, that its dialogue can defeat the constraints of latitude and longitude. Still, you can’t help but wonder if Cardiff will ever see the  golden days again, as they were for the embattled musicians of the past. It’s hard to deny that the concept of a “subculture” no longer exists the way it once did at the Paddlesteamer or the Casablanca. But maybe that’s okay. Music still serves the same purpose – it brings people together, it plays shrink to our sorrows. Moira thinks there’s hope for us still. “I went to see the Scissor Sisters a few years ago and Ana Matronic said, ‘You Welsh guys – you’re so punk-rock. Everyone’s down on you and you just get in there.’” So perhaps, you can take the punk out of the Paddlesteamer and strip the soul out of Casa B, but music’s message endures: mainstream or underground, it’s the common ground that matters most.



Oddball selects

Here’s a round-up of the most interesting, appalling and inspiring things we’ve watched, read and reeled over in the last few weeks:

1) From cuddle cafes and the Yakuza Diaries to suicide forests and green-tea KitKat bars, there are a lot of weird and wonderful things about Japan that have put it on top of our bucket list. Damjan Cvetkov-Dimitrov‘s photo-essay about Tokyo only strengthens our case. Watch out for subtle, sultry animations that give the photos an even more ethereal dimension.

2) Fact: Natasha Khan, the raven-haired beauty better known as Bats for Lashes, is crazy cool. Fact: Pitchfork, who have recently announced that they’re being acquired by Conde Nast, are crazy cool too. Put those facts together, and you get this web wizardry.
[Bonus fact: Laura might be one of the most gratifying songs to wail along to while getting wine-drunk in your room with your cat and a tub of ice-cream (see:cry-eating). Thank us later.]

3) It’s been a long, painful wait since Synecdoche, New York and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Seven years later, Charlie Kaufman gets back in the director’s chair for Anomalisa, a breathtaking stop-motion romance that’s been sweeping accolades at film festivals around the world. If this trailer doesn’t excite you for its release later this month, you’re probably dead inside:


4) Hate crimes have gone alternative. Back in 2007, Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend were brutally attacked in Lancashire for identifying as goth. Today, Leicester has added ‘subculture abuse’ to its list of hate crimes. Read about it on Dazed.

5) AI, weapons of mass destruction and the unbearable loneliness of the great, big “interweb”. Is technology leading us to paradise or dystopia? This article on Huck magazine investigates (and might possibly spur an existential crisis).

6) Spanish production company, CANADA, has just created a hallucinogenic odyssey to go with Tame Impala’s groovy auditory stylings. We’ve had the song on repeat all day – eyes glued, ears plugged. Now that’s what we call a music video:

7) Creative people all need some encouraging and inspiring words of wisdom from time to time. Another mag serves as your proxy muse with a little mind-bending from the likes of Joan Didion, Noam Chomsky and Christopher Nolan.

8) Karley Sciortino has previously described pornstar Stoya as “the slutty feminist icon for the educated, sexually liberated masses.” That’s probably one of many reasons why the internet was shaken this week when she tweeted that she was raped by former boyfriend and co-star James Deen. Here’s an interesting opinion  on the fallen pornstar who was once hailed as a feminist icon.

9) We love M.I.A’s music, but we respect the singer’s fearless artistic vision more. Whether it’s a ginger genocide or drifting with a badass, hijab-clad Saudi girl gang, she’s always making bold political statements with her music videos. Last month, she dropped a stunning interpretation of the refugee crisis with her new song, Borders. Check it:


Have you seen/read anything that’s not on this list? Please feel free to share in the comments bar below!

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