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I have been daydreaming about all the ways that I and my classmates on the Mad Studies course may bring our learning out of the academy and into the real world. Various plans for events and short courses are brewing up, but the one idea that keeps nudging at me is that of a mad cafe.
It's ridiculous really. I have no experience of running a cafe. Maybe this will fizzle out into nothing. But I'm trying to remain open to my intuition, and to pay attention to what arises for me in the way of inspiration and meaning-making.
A mad cafe would be a place where people could come and speak freely about their unusual experiences, whether it be hearing voices or psychosis or their treatment by the mental health service. It would be a place where madness is accepted and cherished, rather than contained and suppressed. Family and friends could come to discuss their experiences and ways to cope with the challenges they are facing with their loved ones. It could be a hub for activism, and community-building.
It could be based on the model of crisis cafes in England. These are welcoming spaces that are offered as alternatives to A&E, where those experiencing mental crises are invited to come for support.
We could host events such as open mic nights and film nights and talks on specific topics, and we could liaise with the Mad Studies course at QMU to host student presentations and work placements. We could encourage volunteers to join our efforts. We could host a lending library and have book groups and storytelling groups and journaling groups. The possibilities are endless, and the more I think about it, the more the fire burns under me to turn this into a real project.
I suppose right now, the stage we're at is to articulate the dream as far and wide as possible, to see what traction can be engaged. So if you have any ideas or experience that could be shared, please do get in touch.
You're reading it here, now: plans for a mad cafe are underway. Let’s see where this will lead, shall we?
(Photo by Nathan Dunlao on Unsplash)