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Page last updated at 06:11 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 07:11 UK
Warning: May Contain Nuts hits BBC Radio Berkshire
by Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter

A performer at Warning: May Contain Nuts
A performer at the launch night

You might not naturally associate mental health and comedy, but that is what a new project is doing to try to break down taboos around the subject.

BBC Radio Berkshire has teamed up with Company Paradiso to work on a project with people with direct experience of mental health services.

The project was launched by poet John Hegley at South Street Arts Centre in Reading 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 work developed from these workshops will be presented in a week of broadcasting on BBC Berkshire beginning 24 May, 2010.

Topics on the show will include discussions about bipolar disorder, how mental health issues affect family and friends, advice on what to do about mental health and a debate on surviving the mental health service.

The comedy launch night saw a collection of performances by people who are members of mental health drop-in centres in Reading and Slough.

Comic writing

Danny Savage, a performer from the Sunrise Centre in Slough wrote this script.

"I shall now speak of the Mentalist Movement of Slough... Know ye now of times long past and shrouded in the mists of legendry... We had a user group called the Slough Mental Health User Group... SMUG.

John Hegley
John Hegley will appear in Reading as part of Warning: May Contain Nuts

"Now we could have gone for different names... We could have gone for the Mental User Group of Slough, MUGS... Or the Group of Users of Mental in Slough, GUMS... Or indeed, we could have been SLUGS... Now I've always thought the terms 'Service User' and 'User Group' are meaningless mealy-mouthed management speak designed to make us feel small and irrelevant.

"But we've come up with something better... The Slough and Municipal Union for the Representation and Advancement of Interesting...thinkers or SAMURAI for short... How much better for one's self-esteem to walk into a meeting and say 'Danny Savage, SAMURAI."

At the launch night, there were also performances by professional comedians, some of whom have experienced mental health issues and others who have not.

Professional comedians included stand-up artist Mackenzie Taylor, Dave Thompson, Seaneen Molloy, and John Hoggett, as well as John Hegley.

Music and comedy

Berkshire band Amy's Ghost provided the music, with one song written by a participant at one of the project's workshops.

Amy's Ghost
Reading band Amy's Ghost provided music at the event

BBC Radio Berkshire's Andrew Peach said: "I'm really pleased that we're going to be featuring the best moments from the launch night.

"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."

Company Paradiso

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.

Tune in to BBC Radio Berkshire from 7am until 10am from Monday, 24 May to hear more about the project. You can also listen online, go to the iPlayer

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