Author Archives: madcaff

We’ve moved…

Please join us at our new home on the self-hosted web. Our new domain is

We’re grateful to for hosting us while we got ourselves together and now we understand wordpress more, we’ve taken the opportunity to move into self-hosting, along with some of Disability Art’s Cymru’s sister sites. Particularly relevant to this is the new website for Walls:Muriau, the Welsh Mental Health Arts Festival, which the next MaDCaff will be part of – on the 22nd October. Visit or more.

Another site to keep an eye on is, Disability Arts Cymru’s Blog. And the latest site to come online is – the site for a new mentoring and support programme, brought online to gather information from artists who would like to be part of the programme as well as possible mentors or other forms of support that may be offered.

We hope you like our new site and visit any of the other site that might interest you.

Goodnight and thanks for all the fish.



MaDCaff at L;ttle Sparks, Part 1 and Part 2

MaDCaff was delighted to be asked to be part of L;ttle Sparks, the first ever Welsh Mental Health Arts Festival. The Festival saw events across Wales from Cardiff to Caernarfon and many places in between.

MaDCaff put on two events, one at Theatr Soar in Merthyr Tydfil and another at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales. Both were new venues for MaDCaff, Theatr Soar provided an amazing backdrop with its beautiful organ and the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales is a venue that is hard to surpass in terms of the splendor o the architecture and the flora and fauna are just amazing from the exotic planting to the flock of native sparrows that have made the glasshouse their home.

The other thing that was very different at these two events was the lack of Miranda. This is the reality o living with a mental illness. Bi-polar disorder is not an easy thing to live with and whilst MaDCaff celebrates the creativity of people with mental health conditions we also have to live with the not such fun aspects and in this case, Miranda had been unwell for months, so unwell that there was no way she was able to face being in a public stage, never mind M.C.’ing an event so that part was left to me, despite the protestations of certain people who didn’t really think I could do it… well, surprise, surprise, I did do it and it wasn’t too awful. So, lets see what happened at the two events.

Theatr Soar, Merthyr Tydfil

So, this was the first event MaDCaff had done outside Ceredigion and having never been to this venue, it took me some time to find it and then be escorted through the various lifts and corridors to reach the theatr itself. It’s not a big auditorium but it certainly is perfectly formed with a historic look despite it being opened in 2011. The organ has to be seen to be believed – this image is courtesy of Theatr Soar’s website


So, once we had all arrived and set up we realised that this was going to be a rather different MaDCaff with many more spoken word performers than musicians. I think this was due to the new location and also to Miranda not being able to round up all the musicians, as she would normally have done. We did, however, have one stalwart of the MaDCaff scene, Mr Dai Sharkey, always a vey popular performer, not just with the MaDCaff audience. Dai was with his gorgeous daughter, Sophie who accompanied him on several of his songs and a few solos. Sophie and Dai singing together are a delight to listen to, harmonising together in a way that only family singing together seem to be able to achieve. Sophie is going to be a great singer in her own right one day and being able to sing with her Dad is a great grounding for her.

Amongst the spoken word artists we had everything from “A Poem about Pain, Death and Loneliness” (yes, ok, that was me) to the antics of Fit Rich’s stand-up comedy. Richard Newnham is a really funny guy, whether he is on or off the stage and we were regaled with stories about dinosaurs as well as his trademark – tell me the name of an animal and I’ll tell you a joke about it. I think he must have a wealth of animal jokes in his head because he always has something funny in response. We had poetry rom Maggie Hampton and Sara Mackay, Disability Arts Cymru’s Directors who were let out of the office for the weekend. We heard Beth Mackay on the piano, pretending she couldn’t play it then secretly tickling the ivories when she thought we were all clearing up. The prize or best newcomer though, had to be given to Michael Breeze, and his poetry. Any poem that can incorporate Mobius bands is a winner as far as I’m concerned and we all really hoped to see Michael again.

The gallery below shows, in order of appearance, Sara Mackay, Maggie Hampton, Richard Newnham, Michael Breeze, Beth Mackay, Dai Sharkey and Sophie.

The Great Glasshouse, National Botanic Gardens of Wales

Despite being without Miranda again, this was a successful event, though weighted rather towards the spoken word artist again – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Ruth Cooke and her guitar provided us with both songs and poems, all delivered in her inimitable style. Michael Breeze, who we discovered at Theatr Soar, came along and gave us some more of his poems. We think he probably has quite a collection and he’s good, really good, someone should be hammering on his door begging to publish his poetry (if they haven’t already).

Would you believe that in a small nice in Cardiff there are 2 Sara Mackays (one we know as Sara Beer for the sake of confusion avoidance) and both were in attendance and provided us with spoken word entertainment. There’s so much talent in that once it’s amazing that any real work gets done.

It was my Birthday – completely by co-incidence and having spent the previous year’s Birthday in agony with a newly prolapsed disc, on my own, it was rather nice to be with company and doing something rather more cheerful. So, to celebrate, I did a completely improvised monologue about suicide, forgetting that I was being broadcast to the whole of the Great Glasshouse, not just the MaDCaff audience, but it turned out ok and I had a complete stranger tell me that she had been moved to tears – I think it was a compliment, or at least I’m going to take it that way.

The Gallery below shows, in order of appearance, Sara Beer, Ruth Cooke, Rob, Michael Breeze (these two seem to have colluded on the pink trousers) and Sara Mackay.


Whilst both events went well, despite a smaller audience than MaDCaff  is used to, at least we trod some new ground, having always wanted to extend MaDCaff  beyond Ceredigion, so we certainly achieved that. There was just one thing that was not quite right, the lack of Miranda and all I can say is that we missed her and both MaDCaff  and I want our Miranda back… get well soon, we need you.

MaDCaff and the L;ttle Sparks


So MaDCaff have a couple of events coming up that we’d really like our existing audiences to come along to and meet some new performers and experience MaDCaff in some great settings.

First, we are at Theatr Soar (NB not the Soar Centre) on the 10th October, this is a free event, you do not need to register but will have the opportunity to chip in via our ‘Magic Hat’

Then, on the 14th October we will be in the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, in the Great Glasshouse. It’s an extraordinary venue to play in and to hear music in so we are really fortunate to have been offered a deal whereby anyone coming to MaDCaff get have free entry to the gardens simply for registering for a free ticket.

The MaDCaffers travel to MediaCityUk

Apologies for the lateness of this entry. Both of us have been dealing with health issues since we got back from Salford (nothing to do with the trip). It’s shocking how fast time passes when you’re not having fun. But I really want to share with you, dear reader, the trip we went on. It’s mainly a pictorial record.

So this was all about The Epic Awards, an annual awards ceremony to celebrate the best in voluntary arts. Each country had a winner, plus there was a people’s choice category, an award for organisations working with young people and another for disability organisations. MaDCaff was the winner of the Wales category, with the Cardiff Photomarathon as runners up. But I was pretending that I didn’t know this because I wanted Miranda to have a surprise on the night.

So Salford seems like a long way from Wales – and it is, not just in miles but the whole experience could not be further from rural Wales unless we went to Vegas.


Getting ready to leave Wales – with our new Hoodies

So we arrived on Thursday evening and I certainly did not have in mind for MediaCityUK what it actually turned out to be. I thought it was going to be a big building in the middle of Salford. Google maps was not a lot of help as it made the whole place look like a building site – you can even see cranes…

MediaCityUK building site

MediaCityUK building site

What I should have done is look at Apple Maps which gives a much better impression of what’s actually there.

MediaCityUK in 3D mapping

MediaCityUK in 3D mapping

So it turns out that once you’re inside MediaCityUK it’s a bit like a gated community, in a literal way, so if you try to drive into the complex you will come up against a rising road blocker – you can just see it at the end of the street, below…


Driving into MediaCityUK


See the rising road blocker?

So, the interesting thing (you can try it for yourself (Opens in new window)) if you try to drive (using Google street maps, not a car) you are shown this…


Nope, you’re not driving in there

So, anyway, there we were in a mini city, admiring the view from the Holiday Inn

IMG_0057 - Version 2

View from Hotel

And being amazed at the green lighting in the hotel bathrooms

Green lighting in bathroom

No, it’s not a creepy mortuary scene from a horror film, it’s an accessible bathroom

So we treated ourselves to posh pizza at Marco’s and crashed out for the night.

The next morning we had a bit of time to explore,

beach bar

Some of the strange things we encountered, including huge outdoor TVs

strangely shaped benches

Curly wurly benches

Miranda pointing to MaDCaff on hoodie

Miranda shows off the brand

The afternoon was given over to a series of seminars in the Salford University building. The seminars were hosted by Sheila McClennon, and included various local starts of the voluntary arts, some very impressive people. (See our Tweets from the event if you are interested).


Sheila Mcclendon chairs the session

After the seminars we had a break to go back to the hotel and prepare ourselves for the evening. We chose to get ourselves hoodies printed up so that we wouldn’t have to worry about getting dressed up, though I wasn’t prepared for quite how hot the hoodies were to wear which meant I had to keep taking mine off and on again.

Holiday Inn as the sun sets

Holiday Inn as the sun sets

The evening session was held at one of the BBC buildings and we were given an escort for the evening who was very attentive indeed. We were offered a choice of two tables towards the back of the room and having chosen one we saw the people from the Kent Society for the blind, including a blind woman with her guide dog. None of the other parties were escorted to tables – is this positive discrimination?? I’m not complaining. I certainly wasn’t complaining on my second glass of champagne. The ‘nibbles’ were absolutely delicious as well and we ate enough of them that we didn’t need any dinner afterwards.

Miranda holds 2 glasses of champagne

Miranda says “Cheers”

Epic Cake

Epic Cake

So by this time Miranda has started to spot that we might be there as winners so it was probably just as well that Wales was the first category to be announced and guess what… we won. What we didn’t know was what we were going to win.

Miranda holding glass plate and Rachel holding framed certificate

MaDCaff winners

Miranda with glass plate

Miranda with glass plate

It’s a really beautiful plate and here’s my best attempt at getting a picture that does it justice.

Glass Plate

Glass Plate

So, we sat and clapped everyone else, each of the winning groups had a short video compilation of the work they do and it was great to see what the voluntary arts in the UK are doing, the difference that their work makes and the ingenuity and creativity that goes into it. Knitted Knockers were the group that won the People’s Choice award and it seems to have captured people’s attention as they were featured on breakfast TV the next morning. But it was Quazar the Guide Dog that was the star of the show if you ask me. He wasn’t content with all the attention being on his human and made sure that everyone knew he was there – without the slightest bit of misbehaviour.

Kinitted Knockers - showing what they do

Kinitted Knockers – showing what they do

Quasar the guide dog, accepting his prize

Quasar the guide dog, accepting his prize

By the time it was all over were just about ready for bed, but I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos of the amazing, surreal place that is MediaCityUk.

Media City panorama 1

Media City panorama 1

Media City panorama 2

Media City panorama 2

Media City pavement lighting

Media City pavement lighting

The next morning we did a little bit of exploring, including a trip on the tram – which was not what I thought it would be at all – it’s very modern and new as well as completely accessible, no portable ramps. So we were heading for a particular shopping venue, all because I had spotted that there was a particular shop that I absolutely had to visit, a shop that I have never come across before. I’ve bought items from the brand but never seen a whole shop dedicated to it.


Lowry Outlet – map

So here’s where it went a bit wonky. Thinking we needed to take a tram to get to this place was the first mistake, but I was confused by the fact that a lot of shopping centres are called ‘The Quays” or “xxx Quays” so we headed for the stop called “Anchorage Quay” but the Quay in this instance was nothing to do with the place we were heading to. What we didn’t know what that we had taken ourselves about a mile from our destination, which was probably no more than 100m from where we started. Not only that but it was starting to rain. We kept thinking that it would be just round this corner, then that corner and when we finally came up it….

Lowry Outlet Centre - steps, steps and more steps

Lowry Outlet Centre – steps, steps and more steps

Yep, steps forever.

But at least we had found the building. After which I left Miranda to recover with a cuppa while I went off to find the shop I was looking for.

This Mall, it turns out, does not have a very good rating and perhaps I should have read before setting out but I didn’t really care as where else am was I going to find and entire shop dedicated to … have you guessed it yet?

Outside Dickies shop in the Lowry outlet


So I will now publicly apologise to Miranda for dragging her through the rain to a place she didn’t have the slightest interest in, but I just couldn’t give up the chance to see a whole shop dedicated to utilitarian workwear. It’s unlikely I’ll ever be in Salford again so it was a case of seize the opportunity.

So after I had satisfied my lust for waterproof trousers, we left the mall and went back to the car the short way, passing through MediaCityUK central to catch a farewell picture.

Miranda waves farewell to Goodbye MediaCityUK

Goodbye MediaCityUK

So goodbye MediaCityUK, it was nice knowing you.

The Victoria Hall gig for Voluntary Arts Week

Well, back at Victoria Hall in Lampeter for a small but very diverse and interesting lineup, including Many Treasures, a Buddhist choir who sing songs in many languages with relish and gusto, a great way to kick off the gig.

This was followed by some spoken word by Maj Ikle

Next up Dai Sharkey, a regular performer at MaDCaff, surprised us all by bringing his beautiful daughter to sing with him – good move Dai, it sounded great.

Then we were treated to the venerable Dr. Vole with some songs from the early days of disability activism, just what we need right now.

Jo Couzens was on next, nursing a sore throat from the night before (musicians… what are they like?) but we wouldn’t have known…

After a few more poems from Kate Field…


We then heard from Miranda with a brand new song


Followed by Maggie Nichols, who never fails to astound us all with the athleticism of her voice, here mourning her Mother’s recent death, she was just even more astonishing.

Marc Gordon followed with some very amazing instruments and some very virtuoso playing (apologies if I’ve used that term before, but it just fits)

We finish the evening with more spoken word performances, from Ruth, Rodger and Kali.

And I’m going to finish up by saying thank you to all those men and women dressed in black, who we know only by the name “Tech guy”. Thanks, Tech guy.


MaDCaff back at Victoria Hall as part of Voluntary Arts Week – Hooray

MaDCaff returns to the Victoria Hall, Lampeter on Saturday 16th May, from 4.30pm til 7pm with what promises to be an eclectic and diverse line up of musicians, singers, poets and dancers.

MaDCaff, Music and Dance Cafe is an open mic, and showcase cafe event with a difference. All of the event organisers and performers have all been affected by mental illness.

MaDCaff was set up by Miranda Betts, singer songwriter and choreographer, and Rachel Stelmach of Disability Arts Cymru in 2014, with funding from Time to Change Wales, the national charity which aims to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.

Co-founder, Miranda Betts explains the main reasons behind setting up MaDCaff.

Miranda Betts Co-Founder

Miranda Betts Co-Founder

‘As a performer living with a long term mental health condition, I was finding it increasingly difficult to find good quality performance opportunities. I also noticed that, I was not alone in this. There were many other talented and creative people out there who simply weren’t getting the opportunities to perform.’

MaDCaff provides performers with a safe, pressure-free opportunity to perform at what is broadly a music and dance program. MaDCaff is open to anyone with an interest in music and dance, or for anyone wishing to go to a lively and friendly drop in cafe event. The tea and cake is second to none!

This event also coincides with Voluntary Arts week and MaDCaff have been given some funding to run another event. This has come at a good time as we have finished our Time to Change Wales funding and are running on tea and cake money plus our Magic Hat so it’s great to know we can have a big celebration in Lampeter and welcome as many people as we can get into the Hall. We might even do something a bit special.


MaDCaff in New Quay, having a Birthday party

MaDCaff celebrated its first birthday last Saturday in Newquay. MaDCaff is a monthly open mic, open cafe event happening across Ceredigion, which aims to raise awareness of mental health. Funded last year by Time To Change Wales, MaDCaff  raises awareness of the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
time to change wales logo

Thanks Time to Change Wales, you really helped us get going

Performers included Tom and Mark from the Tom Gray Band, Ceri and Ailse who performed a beautiful A Capella duet, Miranda Betts, and poet Jane Wilkins.
This month our usual photographs was not in attendance after giving a Mental Health First Aid course the two days preceding (and being absolutely knackered to be honest) so we are grateful to Lynda Read for allowing us to use her photos from the day. As this month’s write has been done a bit err… quickly we will share these in the gallery below, enjoy…
Performers have all been affected by mental illness but MaDCaff is free and open to all. MaDCaff  runs these free monthly events across the county to bring together the community to raise awarenes in a fun and informal way, and is currently solely funded by donations.
Don’t forget to check out the Media page for more photos and the Events Diary for upcoming events

MaDCaff at Small World – yep, we’re back

It was great to be back at Small World one year on from the start of MaDCaff. The event was well attended, with a diverse range of performers and performances.
The Tom Gray Band opened the event with some lovely jazz covers, followed by Iain and Dixey, a fantastic and visual music and dance duet.
Rachel then read out a poem she had written on the subject of depression and isolation. It was very powerful. Miranda Betts then sang a couple of numbers on her ukulele, including a song called, Bluebells.
We then heard from the wonderful Maggie Nicols singing Joni Mitchell’s Blue and a duet between Maggie’s voice and Miranda’s dance.
The highlight of this event for me was definitely the sublime and extraordinary 13 minute jam that went on between performers at the end. Jamming with others is a rare treat for me these days and it was wonderful to play with so many talented musicians.
And to finish off, here’s that Tom Gray Gif again
Remember to check out our Media page with even more photos and our Events Diary for Upcoming Events

The Tom Gray Gif

Facebook said NO to animated gifs, so here it it, WordPress said YES.

The Tom Gray Gif

More Photos and writeup from our March 2015 event at Small World Theatre will be up here, soon.

… and we’re back

Last minute Jam

Last minute Jam at a previous event at Small World Theatre

We’re still here, in fact we’re at Small World Theatre, Cardigan on Saturday March 14th

MaDCaff is returning after a winter hiatus with more music and dance from their pool of talented artists, all of whom have been affected by mental illness and, of course, the usual cake and chat breaks. This will be MaDCaff’s third appearance at Small World Theatre and we expect the usual eclectic mix of performances. MaDCaff never bills its performers, preferring to opt for a stress-free attitude and trusting that plenty of musicians will turn up on the day and so far this has worked very well.

MaDCaff was formed last year as a project funded by Time to Change Wales and the project was so successful that we are now starting to look for other ways to keep it going. As well as and our Magic Hat that we pass round at the end of the event, we will be looking for other funders, maybe doing some crowd-sourcing online or just doing things on a smaller, cheaper scale to self-fund which would make it much more easily sustained. We will be asking the attendees at the March event what they think about this as the ethos of MaDCaff is very much about doing the best thing for our performers, attendees and behind the scenes volunteers.

Previous events have showcased an amazing range of talent, we’ve had several choirs and drumming groups, we’ve had a solo singer-songwriter who layers his voice and instruments as he goes along, becoming a 21st century one man band, we’ve even had a (clothes on) pole-dancing demonstration. MaDCaff has also spawned several spin-off bands and collaborations, which was exactly what we wanted it to do.

We want to take MaDCaff beyond Ceredigion and have been in talks with existing arts and Mental Health organisations in other counties to find different ways of ‘franchising’ the concept. Just because we’ve found a way to make it work in Ceredigion doesn’t mean that it would work in exactly the same way in Powys or Pembrokeshire so we’re very open to hearing ideas from artists and musicians outside Ceredigion too.

So, it’s going to be a very special MaDCaff this time, marking the end of our Time to Change Wales funding and the start of whatever will be coming next. So come along, bring a friend, bring a friend of a friend as we welcome anyone who has an interest in music, dance, Mental Health and cake. Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people in any year; it could be you, someone in your family, a friend or colleague. Time to Change Wales is the first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems in Wales. For further information contact us on Or look us on Facebook

By Saturday we hope to have firm dates available for you to book our Mental Health First Aid course, normally costing £120 per head, we aim to be able to offer this at costs-only pricing (around £15-20). Places are limited so if you’re interested in this, get in early.

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