My ‘Meditation Mind’ poetry and song tour ended last night at the beautiful Sakya Buddhist Centre in Bristol, a gig that was possibly one of the highlights of my whole career. Thanks so much to everyone who came to see us play acoustic versions of my songs over the last month – we enjoyed it so much it may have changed the direction of my next album.

It is now 7 weeks until we get on a plane bound for Australia and move our lives back to the shack on a goat farm in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland where Shaktu Records began 15 years ago. After spending the last 10 years living in a first-floor, one-bedroom flat on an industrial main road in Bath, we can’t wait to be back in the Australian bush with space and sunshine, living in the beautiful wooden house that has replaced Shaktu (the tree trunks and potato sack walls were eaten by termites – only the roof remains).

We are going to make a new album there and then come back to the UK in 2020 to tour. I will keep you posted on dates and hopefully see you at a gig sometime then. In the meantime, if you would like any of my CDs and books, they are available from Amazon up until Christmas and afterwards, once we’re in Australia, will continue to be available to order through my website.

It’s been an incredible year. Thanks so much to all of you for supporting my music – we couldn’t do it without you. I will keep in touch and let you know how I’m getting on in Australia and whether I’ve managed to overcome my snake phobia :). You can follow me on Instagram and join my mailing list to receive the occasional email from me.

Wishing you all very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

xx

I’m very much looking forward to the start of my poetry & song tour in Taunton tomorrow night, celebrating the publication of my new book ‘Meditation Mind’.

The venues are mainly bookshops where I’ll be playing acoustic guitar and my husband Christian will play double-bass and we’ll be performing some rarely-heard songs from my old albums plus a brand new song I played for the first time at Gaunts House the other night.  I’ll read some poems from ‘Meditation Mind’ and there will be a chance for questions at the end.

On Saturday we’re doing one of these poetry & song gigs in Oxford as a fundraiser for the wonderful mental health charity Restore, of which I’m a patron.  They are a fantastic charity helping people recover from mental illness and transform their lives.  All support very welcome.

I was so delighted to get the award for public service and advocacy from the International Society For Bipolar Disorder.  They do such good work raising awareness of this illness and supporting the people who have it.

Now I’m off to the BBC in London to perform on Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ tonight…

Hope all’s well in your world.

xx

You can now watch videos of me reading from my new book ‘Meditation Mind’ at https://emilymaguire.com/videos/.  I’ll post more videos of poetry readings on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) over the coming weeks.  All these poems were stream-of-consciousness compositions written after meditating, and completely unedited.  I have no memory of writing any of them.  ‘Meditation Mind’ is available to order from my website or from Amazon (or you can order it in all good UK bookshops).

I’m really looking forward to my ‘Meditation Mind’ book tour starting next month.  I’ll be performing a special set of acoustic songs and poetry readings in Taunton (8 Nov), Oxford (10 Nov), Bridport (12 Nov), Cardiff (16 Nov), Manchester (17 Nov), Haslemere (22 Nov), Coventry (24 Nov), Frome (29 Nov), Bath (30 Nov), London (6 Dec) and Bristol (8 Dec). Click here for details and tickets.

Hope all’s well in your world.

xx

I am delighted to announce the publication of my third book ‘Meditation Mind’, a book of poetry inspired by my Buddhist practice.

‘Meditation Mind’ is a collection of short, stream-of-consciousness poems all written in 2015 while I was unable to play my musical instruments due to chronic tennis elbow. Struggling with depression, I was desperate to do something creative to distract my mind and so I started writing a poem each morning after meditating.

I’ve practised Tibetan Buddhism since 1999 and my morning practice is Sarasvati (who features on the cover of the book). I would finish my meditation, make a coffee and sit down to write a poem. All the poems in the book took less than a minute to write. They are unedited, exactly as they fell out of my head onto the page of my journal.  I have no memory of writing any of them.

To celebrate the launch of ‘Meditation Mind’, I am doing a series of very intimate gigs in bookshops and Buddhist centres across the country. These events will be a mix of poetry readings from the book and acoustic songs with me on guitar and my husband Christian Dunham on double-bass. It would be lovely to see you if you can make any of the dates.

Thur 8 Nov    Taunton – Brendon Books  book tickets
Sat 10 Nov     Oxford – Restore charity  book tickets
Mon 12 Nov   Bridport – The Book Shop  book tickets
Fri 16 Nov      Cardiff – Octavo’s Book Cafe & Wine Bar  book tickets
Sat 17 Nov     Manchester – Chapter One Books  register
Thur 22 Nov  Surrey – The Haslemere Bookshop  book tickets
Sat 24 Nov     Coventry – The Big Comfy Bookshop  book tickets
Thur 29 Nov  Frome – Hunting Raven Books  book tickets
Fri 30 Nov      Bath – St James Wine Vaults  book tickets
Thur 6 Dec     London – Sakya Buddhist Centre  book tickets
Sat 8 Dec        Bristol – Sakya Buddhist Centre  book tickets

‘Meditation Mind’ is available to order in all good bookshops, from Amazon and through my website.

It’s been such a glorious summer and I’ve absolutely loved singing my songs up and down the country on my UK tour. Thanks to all of you who came to support us.

Final dates left are Royston Folk Club on Friday 31 August and my London gig at The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell on Saturday 15 September supported by the brilliant acoustic guitarist Ben Walker. Ticket links and info are here.

On Saturday 27 October I’m doing a very special concert in the ballroom at Gaunts House, a wonderful country mansion in Dorset which is now used as a spiritual retreat. Tickets are on sale now – please book early if you would like to come.

My new book of poetry ‘Meditation Mind’ has just gone to print and to celebrate its publication we’re going to be doing an acoustic tour of bookshops and Buddhist centres later this year. This will be a very intimate mix of poetry readings and songs with me on acoustic guitar and Christian on double-bass. Dates and details will be announced soon.

Next month we’re in Germany performing at a conference in Hamburg for the German Bipolar Society (DGBS) and then in Holland in December for the Dutch Bipolar Society.

I hope all’s well in your world and hope to see you at a gig someday soon.

xx

They call this a garden but there’s no flowers here, just a dusty brown patch of grass surrounded by a high wall and an even higher fence. I’m standing with my guitar in the only square foot of shade. Staff stand and watch. I’ve been given an alarm.

I’m singing my song ‘Keep Walking’ and facing me, bouncing from foot to foot is a patient, rapping. And he’s brilliant.   Other patients surround us, calling out song names ‘do you know this, do you know this’. Everyone wants to sing. This is the intensive care unit at Callington Road Hospital in Bristol.

A care worker appears from the other side of the fence. He and two other workers are supervising one patient. He is built like a brick shithouse with the voice of an angel. We sing ‘One Love’ together, the patients silently listening.

I say goodbye and follow the staff over to the women’s unit. There is the same bare backyard, no trees, no flowers. One woman sits on a bench in a daze, raw patches on her head where the hair came out. She tells me she’d been institutionalised for 18 years and when they finally let her out she couldn’t cope.

Another patient tries to sing to me and then wanders off to sit on the ground and cry. I play another song, terrified that every word and every note is causing her pain. But she looked so much brighter afterwards, says my friend Kirsty, like she needed it.

We go back to the garden with flowers and sit with the patients who are allowed to come off the wards. They’ve been drumming, and eating ice-cream. The air is hot and drowsy. Everyone’s relaxed, sitting in the sunshine. This is as close as you get to happiness in a mental health hospital.

I sing ‘Back Home’ and another Bob Marley song.   Then ‘Start Over Again’, looking round at the faces of these people who have seen and suffered so much. I stand under the banner and smile for the camera. The NHS is 70 today. We have so much to be grateful for.

And then we leave, back out into the real world.

  

I’m a passionate believer in the benefits of music for mental health.  Here is an article I wrote after returning to sing my songs at the hospital where I was first sectioned and diagnosed with bipolar disorder:

MUSIC FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Emily Maguire

I’m in the music room at Fulbourn Hospital in Cambridge. Today a group of patients and staff have come to hear me sing my songs. This is the hospital where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder nearly 20 years ago, where my mum remembers visiting me when I was still high as a kite and I had everyone in the dayroom all playing musical instruments in some crazy jam session.

Coming back to Fulbourn and the scene of a psychosis is surreal and unsettling, and yet this room and the arts therapists who work here are just wonderful. There’s a grand piano, amps, and instruments everywhere. This music room, and the Arts Therapies Service that runs it, is a vital part of the hope and recovery process for those with lived experience of mental health that is provided by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT). Sadly, such provision of arts therapies is increasingly rare in our mental health hospitals.

I’m a singer-songwriter now, travelling the country doing gigs. In 2010, I risked my music career to publish a book called ‘Start Over Again’, a highly personal account of my own experiences of living with bipolar disorder, which was launched on Radio 2 on World Mental Health Day. From then on, I started doing gigs in mental health hospitals. I was nervous, not knowing how the patients would react: some of the songs I was singing were pretty close to the bone.

I played on wards where the furniture was weighted down, where handing out CDs to patients was not allowed, where you have to wear an alarm at all times.   I never once felt threatened or afraid. These patients were people just like me. I needn’t have worried about the songs: the response was overwhelmingly positive and they were some of the most moving and rewarding gigs I’ve ever done. One nurse commented, “We should have this more often, the effect on the SUs [service users] is amazing.”

I played on intensive care wards, rehab units, wards for people over 65, wards for people living with dementia, adolescent wards, and medium-secure units for young people with serious mental health problems who had been through the criminal justice system. I played for Mind groups, community groups, NHS staff conferences and AGMs. In 2014, I did a tour of mental health facilities for Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. Of those 17 places, only 2 had any music provision.

At one of my gigs at a hospital in Bath, I was introduced to one of the patients, a young woman. She looked catatonically depressed and withdrawn, not speaking to anyone. Told that she used to sing in a gospel choir, I got out my guitar, asked her if she knew any Bob Marley and we started singing. We sang ‘Three Little Birds’ and ‘No Woman No Cry’ and by this time she was smiling, looking me right in the eye, and singing her heart out. This didn’t cost the NHS anything.

Music seems to connect to a part of the brain that responds so deeply not even dementia can destroy it. I’ve done gigs in dementia wards where all the patients sang along to ‘Bicycle Built For Two’, knowing every word, despite having no idea of what they’d had for breakfast.

The benefits of music are well-documented: the effect on our brainwaves, the effect on our mood. But we all know for ourselves how beneficial music is; we don’t need scientists to tell us. We play music when we’re happy, when we’re sad, when we’re celebrating, when we’re grieving. Some people can’t think of going anywhere without their headphones on.   If music is so vital for us, fit and healthy in mind, how much more so for people in desperate states of depression and anxiety?

Last year I played in a hospital in north Manchester where they used to have a music therapist, an art therapist and a drama therapist. All gone now. The arts in this context isn’t about entertainment, it’s about recovery. It’s about thousands of people who are suffering a crisis of mental health and need more than just medication and talking therapies to recover their lives.

It’s pretty grim being stuck in a hospital with a lot of very unwell patients, where meals and meds become the focal point of the day. Isn’t that a time when a guitar or other musical instrument as a vehicle for self-expression and as a tool for wellbeing might come in handy? Or even the possibility of communication and emotional connection through song?

Music is an opportunity to learn, to be stimulated, to find a creative way to distract ourselves from our minds, and to express the emotions that sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. All these things would be of benefit to everyone, but most of all to people at the rock bottom of their lives.

I know NHS budgets can only stretch so far. But charitable support can also make a difference; like at Fulbourn Hospital where the Arts Therapies Service is supported by Head to Toe – the NHS charity for CPFT – to enable more musical and arts events that will enhance wellbeing and inspire hope and recovery.

The last time I was sectioned, I was in a hospital in London where they let me keep my guitar on the acute ward. Aside from singing endless Bob Marley songs with the other patients, I wrote a song called ‘Falling On My Feet’. I scrawled the lyrics over and over in my book trying to make sense of them. The song turned out to be a premonition. Four years later, I would stand on my own on stage at the Royal Albert Hall and sing it to 4,000 people.

I write songs about my own experience. I’ve known psychosis, I‘ve known acute clinical depression, I still take anti-psychotics day and night. Patients can relate to what I’m saying. And what I’m saying is, “it is possible to recover, you can come back from this, just look at me”. As one of the patients from the eating disorders unit in Bristol wrote, “Emily didn’t only just give us music but also hope, to show that things can get better. It’s an experience that will stay with me for a long time.”

With every gig I do, whether it’s in a hospital dayroom or a concert hall, my wish is to uplift, comfort and inspire the people listening. Because that is the power of music: it is therapy in its purest form, able to engage and connect with minds that have seen and suffered so much.

For the past six years, my song ‘Keep Walking’ has been used as the anthem for the Defeat Depression campaign in Canada. I would love to see a campaign here in the UK to persuade the Government to spend a small part of their £1.3bn mental health budget on providing music in our schools, our communities and in mental health hospitals. It would be money well spent.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

To find out more about Emily’s work in mental health, please visit.https://emilymaguire.com/music-for-mental-health/