What are we willing to tolerate to protect free speech? "Legal but harmful" - This isn’t protection from cancel culture, it’s child abuse.
Author: Liz Smith
How Resilient IS Gen Z?
In some ways, Gen Z is extremely resilient. I think we often underestimate how truly challenging it is to grow up in a world of 24/7 connectivity and social media. They are the guinea pig generation for the mobile digital technology age and thus they're having to develop their own version of resilience in a 'live' setting.
The rise of Illiberalism in Gen Z
We are seeing evidence of the rise of illiberalism across all age groups, it's just more difficult to unpack in the context of Gen Z because, in many ways, they seem far more accepting of difference than older cohorts.
What’s Going On In Your Head Christmas Special
The end of the year is upon us, and what a curious year it has been. As we look back on the ups, downs, and betweens, our talented performers and engaged audience stand out. What better way therefore than to end the year with a Christmas Special celebrating the performers and our Zoom audience from the 2020 … Continue reading What’s Going On In Your Head Christmas Special
Register for our September show
Registration now open for our show in September on the theme of neurodiversity
Loss – 19 June 2020
On 19th June 2020 our online jam was on the theme of loss. Loss is a bit of an immense subject and we were steered through many different aspects of it by a truly talented and engaging group of performers. If you want to watch back any of the performances head over to our Facebook page. And while you are there please give our page a quick “like”!
Liz opened the show with a skit on Dr & The Medics “Spirit In The Sky” dressed up in full costume, in a look that scared even herself.
The first performer of the night was Rachael Chadwick who read us some of the postcards sent to her from her inspiring and beautiful 60 postcards project.
Do you want to send your own postcard? All you need to do is grab an unused postcard or perhaps you could make one. Write about…
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Registration now open for our June show
On 19 May 2020 our show was on the theme of kindness and it was a night of firsts. If you couldn’t join us, or you want to watch parts of it again, head over to our Facebook page where you can relive the live stream.
The show was opened by ‘Dog’ who performed “Count On Me” by Bruno Mars. This was the first time we had had a sock puppet open a show.
Following Dog in the line up was human being Kenton Hall who debuted a song on kindness he wrote especially for the show. And guess what? He has just announced that he is recording it so we will be able to hear it in all its glory without the Zoom filter effect. The song will be released to support Mind and we will post about it on our blog when it is released.
Comedian Juliette Burton
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Registration now open for our next show
Hope – 19 April 2020
Our second online jam was on the theme of hope and 10 very special performers filled us with hope and connection through their poetry, music, comedy and live drawings. A silver lining of having to run our shows online is that people are able to join us from further afield and it was fantastic to see people in the chat room from not only the UK but France, Germany, Sweden and Canada as well: What’s Going On In Your Head? went global on 19th April 2020! We also streamed the show on Facebook for the first time.
The show was opened by our host Liz Smith who, accompanied by Imagination’s “Just An Illusion”, took us on a virtual snorkeling trip before opening up “The Bar of Hope” where in Club Tropicana style the virtual drinks were free all night.
Lisa Gornick had her ink and paper on hand throughout the…
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Join us for our next online jam
With Covid 19 halting our live shows, I'm not hosting them online. Come and join me live from my living room!
My next live show 24 March 2020
I'm hosting the next What's Going On In Your Head? show in London on 24 March 2020 and the theme we have chosen to explore is mania. What it is like to be on a creative high, to have boundless energy, heightened perceptions and to feel like you can do everything and anything? Do extreme … Continue reading My next live show 24 March 2020
“Let’s Talk About The Dangers of Social Media” Event – 12 November 2019
On 12th November 2019 I am hosting the monthly "Let's Talk About ..." event in London. We will be debating the dangers of social media. If you would like to attend click here to be added to the guest list. The panelists include Dr Paul Marsden, psychologist, Jonathan Garner founder of Mind Over Tech and … Continue reading “Let’s Talk About The Dangers of Social Media” Event – 12 November 2019
Calling all 15 to 22 year olds!
I am making a documentary and I want to understand what it is like to be young today and how screens and technology have made your life different from my own. This is why I am looking for 15 - 22 year olds to assist me in my research by helping me understand what it … Continue reading Calling all 15 to 22 year olds!
Why This Matters
Tech is advancing fast, our behaviours are already being modified by it, our privacy is being wholly undermined and our lives are being manipulated more and more by unaccountable forces.
“We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way it can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them” Jaron Lanier
Lanier is referring to the business models of the tech companies that are based on a currency of personal data that can be sold to advertisers and organisations who wish to manipulate our behaviour. Yet we’re hooked to the convenience all the apps on our tech offer us. Designers are using our own biochemistry against us to make their products even more addictive with dopamine hits and by tapping into our reward centres.The current cohort of teenagers are the most exposed, they have never known…
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The Podcast, Episode 4 – The Secret Inner Workings of the Mind
This episode is an edited recording of a live event The Secret Illness ran in November 2018 at London’s hClub. It features poetry and music performances from people living with OCD and some incredibly frank and open discussion about their experiences of the disorder.
Is Addiction to Tech Stifling Teens’ Creativity?
Have you found yourself marveling at how teens can produce videos and images with filters and effects at hyper-speed just with their smartphones? Tech has given this generation of teens an incredible suite of creative tools at their fingertips and they appear to have a genetic ability to learn how to use them with impressive ease. They’re leading the way when it comes to visual communication and creating a whole new aesthetic. But what is tech doing to their creative writing and thinking skills?
This video clip is from two contributors to Swipe Left For Addiction. Laura has been an English teacher in the UK for 13 years. In recent years she has seen a decline in creative writing skills and she suspects smartphones and mobile devices may have something to do with it.
“If you never look outside the window and just sit and daydream and soak up the…
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The Podcast, Episode 3 – OCD Feels Like
This episode came out of a creative experiment. At this year’s OCDAction conference in London we set up an audio booth and asked delegates to record, anonymously, what OCD feels like to them.
If you like our podcast series don’t forget to rate it on whatever platform you listen to it on as that will help us reach more people.
What does it portend when wifi trumps the beach?
I was lucky enough to find myself on a beautiful island in Thailand last winter and I remember being struck by the sight of a group of young backpackers sitting together at the local beach bar at sunset. Each of them were swiping and tapping their phones, they weren’t talking to each other and they certainly weren’t watching the sunset. The local hotelier told us he had nearly had a riot on his hands the previous week when the internet had been out for a couple of days due to a storm. This was paradise on earth but most of the guests weren’t there, they were somewhere else, they were in screen world. I hear similar stories all the time, it’s the new norm, so who can blame Kai featured in this video clip for preferring his room with a wifi connection over the beach without wifi? At least he…
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And that’s verbatim …
The Secret Illness is creating a verbatim theatre piece and you can be a part of it’s creation!
Verbatim theatre is a form of documented theatre in which plays are constructed from the precise words spoken by people interviewed about a particular event or topic.
We want to create our verbatim theatre piece from intrusive thoughts submitted by people living with OCD from The Secret Illness community.
To be a part of this all you need to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with one, or several, intrusive thoughts you battle with, or have battled with in the past. Single sentences please. We need a mix of the mundane and the unusual. All submissions will be kept anonymous.
Working with the intrusive thoughts you send us, and others taken from the Wall Posts, we will workshop them with actors and through that process produce a theatrical piece.
We will have our first opportunity…
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What Do You Think?
OCD Community Co-Creation, United Kingdom
At the 2018 OCDAction conference we put a call out to those attending to come to the Secret Illness Art Desk and take part in making a co-created collage. The contributors selected images and words from magazines and newspapers that were an expression of their OCD or intrusive thoughts. This was the outcome.
What happens when creativity and mental health get together?
The Secret Illness began in Summer 2015 with a simple aim, to explore the realities of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) through the creative arts. We did not know what would come out of it, if anything at all. It’s World Mental Health Day today so we wanted to share this video with you that takes a look back at what The Secret Illness community has achieved over the last 3 years and shows how incredibly powerful and empowering creativity can be.
The Wall Interactive Exhibition
In August 2015 the first post went live on The Secret Illness Wall. There are now 150 Wall Posts, each one a personal story of how OCD affects them.
Up until recently The Wall had only existed in an online space but at the OCD Action annual conference in March 2018, we were able to create the first ever interactive exhibition based on The Wall.
Here is a short video about The Wall Exhibition.
The Wall Exhibition consisted of 19 stories taken from The Wall, each one carefully written up in the form of a letter and displayed with a prop and picture frame. Here are the 19 exhibits:
James, 31, New Jersey, UK
“If I can’t remember the Jurassic Park theme music then our plane will crash”
Prop: inflatable dinosaur
Jonathan, 35, Kent, UK
Prop: clapper board
Jessica, 23, New…
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Silicon Valley’s Secret Sauce
“The short-term dopamine driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” Chamath Palihapitiya, Former Facebook Executive
Chamath’s now widely quoted statement presents a gloomy outlook for our future and dopamine has often been cited as Silicon Valley’s secret sauce so I thought it was time to find out why.
You may have noticed that dopamine has become the celebrity of brain chemicals in the media in recent years, being accused of causing a nation’s addiction to cupcakes or flaunted as a way to supercharge your sex drive (with the help of a watermelon), but what is dopamine really and why are dopamine loops triggered when we use our smartphones and connected devices?
Dopamine is one of about 20 major neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that carry urgent messages around our bodies. Without these neurotransmitters we would die.
It is at the basis of learning. It anticipates a reward when you do…
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What will today’s 14 year old be like when she is 34?
My first Facebook post about Swipe Left For Addiction has already created a conversation between people across six different countries. Parents are telling me about how their kids are able to make friends all over the world when they’re playing multi-user games. There’s no doubt that technology is enabling and there’s something special about being able to connect, and stay connected, with people from all over the world.
At the same time, I’m hearing a lot about the “indoor generation” who are living their social lives from their bedrooms thanks to this “enabling” technology. I am also reading a lot about the rise of anxiety, depression and even suicide in the post-millennial generation. An article in The Guardian was published recently about how important face-to-face relationships are to our health and well-being. Are we creating a society of super-connected but isolated, lonely people? Another Guardian article written in April cites…
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Be a Part of a Spoken Word Co-Creation at the OCDAction conference
On 3 March 2018 we will be getting creative at the OCDAction conference in the UK. If you are going to be at the conference you can take part in our co-creation project entitled #OCDFeelsLike.
How Can I get involved?
We will have an #OCDFeelsLike private audio recording booth set up during the day of the conference. Delegates will be able to anonymously record their experience of what OCD feels like to them in the booth.
If you’re interested in taking part come and find us at The Secret Illness desk on the main floor or head up to the booth directly and someone will be there to help you.
After the event we will edit those audio recordings into a Spoken Word piece called #OCDFeelsLike.
How will #OCDFeelsLike be used?
#OCDFeelsLike will be added to The Secret Illness Salon and shared with the community. We will also be…
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The Podcast, Episode 2: Mums& Daughters & OCD
In the second episode Becca explores how OCD affects relationships between mums and daughters.
Becca talks with a mum and daughter in New York who both have OCD, another mum and daughter in the UK whose daughter lives with contamination and POCD and then she compares her own experiences of growing up with a mum with OCD with the artist Leonie Hampton
The music is composed by Mitch Grussing from Minnesota. Here is a short audio piece that Mitch recorded for us about his experience of composing the music for The Secret Illness Podcast series.
Dimitri Scarlato to chair Q&A
On Tuesday 7 February there will be another screening of Rebel of the Keys at JW3. Following the screening there will be a Q&A with musicologist Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson and Mark Charles, pictured here while filming scenes for the documentary in Paris. We are now pleased to announce that the Q&A will be chaired by the composer and conductor Dimitri Scarlato.
Dimitri began studying the piano at the age of 5, and aged 6, the violin. At 18, he enrolled at the Conservatorio di Musica S.Cecilia in Rome, as well as also gaining a BA in philosophy at Università La Sapienza. He then worked as pianist, musical director and composer at prestigious Italian theatres: amongst them, Teatro Regio in Parma and Teatro Argentina in Rome. After a masters degree in composition at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he composed for many short films, including the 66th Venice Film…
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Rebel of the Keys screening at Pontio with BAFTA Cymru
On Wednesday 16th November Rebel of the Keys will be screening at Pontio as part of an event coordinated in partnership with The Welsh National Opera and Bafta Cymru.
In making the film it was a real journey of discovery uncovering the life of André Tchaikowsky, and we had the privilege of meeting and interviewing some of the world’s most renowned musicians. We weren’t the first people to go on that journey though, back in the 1980’s David Ferré went on a research journey of his own and he left us with a quite wonderful treasure trove of interviews he had made audio recordings of. David bequeathed those audio recordings to the André Tchaikowsky Archive at The University of Warsaw, and, as the photo above depicts, musicologist Anastasia Belina-Johnson was able to study all the transcripts and listen to the audio recordings as part of her research for the film and for the book A…
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The Podcast, Episode 1: Steph
In this first episode of The Secret Illness podcast we take a deep dive into Steph’s story of her OCD experiences. Steph, her significant other, employer/mentor and father take us on her journey from spiral to diagnosis, to current day.
Presented and produced by Liz Smith. Music composed by Mitch Grussing.
Rebel of the Keys Screening in Wales
As we count down the days to the UK premiere of André Tchaikowsky’s opera The Merchant of Venice at The Welsh National Opera we are delighted to announce that our documentary Rebel of the Keys will be screened in Wales at Chapter Cinema on 21 September. The film will be followed by a Q&A chaired by The Welsh National Opera’s dramaturg Hedd Thomas who will posing his questions to the film’s director Mark Charles and musicologist Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson who, in the film, takes us on the search to uncover André’s story.
In 2012 we were fortunate enough to be present at the play-through of The Merchant of Venice at The Welsh National Opera, which was one of the very first opportunities for those involved in bringing the production to the stage to start to get an idea of what the opera would sound like. Here is a video clip…
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The UK Premiere Screening at JW3
On Monday 11 July 2o16 the feature length version of Rebel Of The Keys was screened for the first time. There was a great buzz of excitement at JW3 as many of those who had been involved in the making of the documentary came together to see it for the first time.
The location of the screening in the cinema at London’s Jewish Community felt very fitting and, because it was a sell out, JW3 have confirmed they will be screening it again later on this year.
Here are some extracts from the Q&A that followed, with musicologist Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson and the film’s director Mark Charles on the panel:
How did you overcome the challenge that there is not a lot of archive footage of André?
MARK: We tried to create a balance between talking heads, stock footage and re-enactments – not overdo reenactments, not overdo stock footage so we still engage with the people that…
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UK Premiere of Rebel of the Keys
We are delighted to announce that tickets have just gone on sale for the UK premiere of Rebel of the Keys.
The screening will be taking place on 11 July at 8.15 pm at the Jewish Community and Arts Centre, JW3, in North London in their wonderful cinema. Tickets are available now from their box office.
There is limited seating, so we do encourage you to book as soon as possible. If this screening sells out quickly, we will be able to run it again at JW3 at a future date, so if you would like to come but can’t make this date do let us know.
The film is 90 minutes in length and will be followed by a Q&A with the director Mark Charles and musicologist Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson who features in the film. There is a lovely cafe/bar area by the cinema at JW3 so we will be there from 7…
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This Old Ghost
The Secret Illness is all about exploring the realities of living with OCD through the creative arts. “This Old Ghost” was developed from a poem written by James Lloyd. James is a writer and science journalist in the UK and has suffered with OCD since childhood. As it’s such a personal poem James chose to voice it himself. The animation is by filmmaker Liz Smith.
We asked him about his poem and experiences of living with OCD.
What has your experience of OCD been?
I’ve had obsessive thoughts for as long as I remember. As a child, my head would dream up all kinds of horrible scenarios. I used to lie awake thinking that the house was going to burn down, or that an intruder was tiptoeing around the place. I remember once becoming convinced that a stranger sitting behind me in church was going to kill me. As I…
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The last day of shooting
Shooting of Rebel of the Keys was completed with this final day of pick ups on Sunday. The shoot took place at the beautiful house of Lady Camilla Panufnik, the very place where Andre Tchaikowsky spent hours talking with his friend Andrzej Panufnik. Andrew read from Andre’s diaries and Nico de Villiers played Andre’s music on Panufnik’s grand piano. A truly enchanting day and a fitting place to end the filming of the documentary.
A big thank you to Camilla for letting us film at her home (for the third time!), and to Eve for bringing over Andre’s diaries and sharing them with us.
Andre Tchaikowsky Returns To Warsaw
Last summer (2013), in the stunning setting of The Bregenz Opera festival in Austria, Andre Tchaikowsky became current again. Some thirty years after his death, his opera composition of The Merchant Of Venice was performed for the very first time.
Our documentary team followed David Pountney, Keith Warner, Ashley Martin-Davis and the cast and crew of the opera as they bought Tchaikowsky’s Merchant Of Venice to the stage for the very first time. Taking on an opera that had never been performed before was a brave and challenging experience for all involved, but it was a risk worth taking. The opera was critically acclaimed, and many of the people we interviewed for our documentary, Rebel of the Keys, were amazed by how accomplished it was given that it was Tchaikowsky’s first opera – it begs the question of what could have been if he had…
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In the making of this documentary we met some extraordinary and fascinating characters, but one of the most precious moments was when we finally met Halinka Janowska, Andre’s closest friend for many years. Their relationship was tumultuous at times and much has been captured in their letters to one another. Sitting in her small flat in Warsaw, hearing her recount her memories of Andre, full of emotion and warmth, was a great privilege.