by Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter
John Hegley will appear in Reading as part of Warning: May Contain Nuts
Breaking taboos and giving people something to smile about is the theme of a comedy night to launch a writing project in Reading.
BBC Radio Berkshire has teamed up with Company Paradiso to work on a project with people with direct experience of mental health services.
To launch the project, poet John Hegley will be making at South Street Arts Centre in the town on Tuesday, 11 May.
Throughout 2010 the company is running a series of creative writing workshops.
They are based at mental health centres around Berkshire.
The workshops have been put on in partnership with mental health service providers including East Berkshire Mind, the resource base in Reading, and the West Wing for 16-24 year olds.
The comedy launch night will see a collection of performances by people who are members of mental health drop-in centres in Reading and Slough.
Danny Savage, a performer from the Sunrise Centre in Slough said: "I'm fed up of going to meetings and saying I'm from a Mental Health User Group (I'm a MHUG) and it's worse when you're from Slough Users Group (I'm a SLUG) and I suggest we create a new name with a bit of dynamism - the Slough And Municipality Union for the Representation of Inerestingthinkers - SAMURAI.
"Over here I've got this sword. . . (produces Samurai sword), I want to go to that meeting and say: 'Hi I'm Joe Bloggs, SAMURAI'."
There will also be performances by professional comedians, some of whom have experienced mental health issues and others who have not.
Professional comedians include stand-up artist Mackenzie Taylor, Dave Thompson, Seaneen Molloy, and John Hoggett, as well as John Hegley.
Berkshire band Amy's Ghost will provide music, with one song written by a participant at one of the project's workshops.
Amy's Ghost will play at the comedy night at South Street Arts Centre
BBC Radio Berkshire's Andrew Peach says: "It's going to be a really funny evening, but I also think that people are going to find their perceptions about mental health are challenged.
"I'm really pleased that we're going to be featuring the best moments from the show on my programme later in the month. We're also going to be meeting the participants and hearing their stories in a lot more detail. It promises to be truly entertaining but thought provoking at the same time."
The focus for the Warning: May Contain Nuts is comedy and mental health, as well as supporting people, who may have had no previous experience of writing before, and helping them to express their thoughts and feelings through creative writing.
The work developed from these workshops will be presented on a week of broadcasting on BBC Berkshire beginning 24 May, 2010.
Company Paradiso works creatively with people to enable them to tell their stories. They use a variety of workshops to do this including poetry, storytelling and performance skills.
BBC Radio Berkshire worked with the company on the Ballads of Reading Jail a project which has been nominated for a Sony Award - the radio equivalent of the Oscars.
Warning: May contain Nuts, South Street Arts Centre, Tuesday, 11 May. Tickets cost £6, concessions £3. For more information call 0118 9606060 or go to
Tune in to BBC Radio Berkshire from 7am until 10am from Monday, 24 May to hear more about the project.