Category Archives: Event

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.


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.

MaDCaff at the Victoria Hall

At last, here’s the event report from our Lampeter MaDCaff – one day before the next event – see Facebook for details of that, but first enjoy the memories of our evening in the Victoria Hall, Lampeter.

We had a great time at the Victoria Hall in Lampeter last month. It was a quieter MaDCaff than previous events but this was very welcome, with relaxed atmosphere.

Chilled out MaDCaffers

Chilled Out MaDCaffers

We heard songs from Dai Sharkey, Marc Gordon, and my band, Wifi Banana.

Dai, singing it and telling it like it is

Dai, singing it and telling it like it is

Marc Gordon on guitar

Marc Gordon on guitar

One Wi-Fi Banana

One Wif-Fi Banana

And another Wi-Fi Banana

And another Wi-Fi Banana

There was also poetry from Kate Field and from Shirley.

Kate Field reads poetry

Kate Field reads poetry


Shirley does a bit of poetry too

Shirley does a bit of poetry too

I also did some improvised dance theatre with Maggie Nicols which was a real delight. MaDCaff is proving to be a fantastic platform for trying out new ideas.

iranda and Maggie improvise

Miranda and Maggie improvise

Miranda and Maggie at the end of the improvisation

Miranda and Maggie at the end of the improvisation

Some of our regular artists are also beginning to work together on unique collaborations which is very exciting. Watch this space…

Marc Gordon and Tom Grey

Marc Gordon and Tom Grey

Maggie Nichols

Maggie Nichols

We very much look forward to tomorrow’s event at Small World, Cardigan (19th July), our 5th and what was to be final event.


We are pleased to announce that due to the success and popularity of MaDCaff we will now be continuing on into the autumn! Watch this space for our upcoming autumn dates.

More Trumpet Face to come... hooray

More Trumpet Face to come… hooray

Big thanks to everyone who gave us Feedback at the event. If you’d like to give us more detailed feedback, see our Event Feedback Page and leave us your comments there – anonymously or not, it’s up to you.

For even more pictures see our Media page.

Remember, our next event is in Cardigan at Small World Theatre, on 19th July 2014. Remember to also like our Faccebook page too and check out the Event Page for the next MaDCaff

Yes, we are being noticed, and getting some interesting questions…..

Last week Miranda and Rachel had a chat with Katherine Landergan who is a Graduate Journalism Student at City University, London, although she is actually from the other side of the pond. Katherine is writing about people with mental health conditions who have found unexpected  artistic benefits from seeing the world in a different way. She would very much like to talk to anyone who has experienced this personally. We are trying to persuade her to come down to the next MaDCaff as we think she will meet plenty people to talk to there, but it would help if she knew for sure that somebody would be up for talking to her.  She has written this introduction for us to share:

“I’m pursing a project about people who have channeled their mental illness to do positive things. In the past, I have interviewed a number of people with a variety of mental illnesses and I found most had one thing in common; they found their illness had some unexpected good sides to it. One man I interviewed was a talented musician, and he said having bipolar disorder has immensely helped him make beautiful music. Another woman, who also had bipolar disorder, said her illness helped her design creative sets for her university’s musicals.

“I’m hoping to find someone who has a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and feels that the disorder has
helped them with their music or art. If someone is on the fence and would like to learn more about my project, I’d be happy to answer any additional questions they might have. My email is:, – if you would like Katherine’s phone number, email us at MaDCaff and we’ll pass it on.

“Here is a story I wrote in the United States:

A little bit of MaDCaff made it to Cardiff


MaDCaff at Small World

MaDCaff are really happy about the successful event we held last Saturday at Small World Theatre, Cardigan. More than fifty people came out to enjoy an eclectic variety of music and dance acts, performed by people living with mental illness.

We were really delighted that there were so many performers eager to get on stage and showcase such a diversity of talents and styles.

MaDCaff_ pete_kbd
Pete on the Balafon

On arrival MaDCaff guests were treated to Rachel Hargrave on djembe (drum) and Peter Stacey on Balafon, a wooden xylophone with gourds underneath to carry the sound out.

Miranda Opens the Event
Miranda Opens the Event

After getting settled in with tea and cake, the event was opened by Miranda Betts, MaDCaff founder.

Dai Sharkey
Dai Sharkey

Then we heard from singer-songwriter and guitarist, Dai Sharkey. Dai’s songs were an eclectic mix of original material, and included songs from his recent album ‘Schizophrenic’.

Lucy and Hannah - Crazy Beaches
Lucy and Hannah – Crazy Beaches
Miranda – more Crazy Beaches

Next up were the Crazy Beaches, MaDCaff’s very own ‘house-band’ featuring Miranda Betts on ukulele, Lucy Edwards on guitar, and Hannah Schafer on bass. They performed an entertaining cover of the standard, ‘All of Me’, followed by two of Miranda’s own songs, ‘Bluebells’ & ‘Country Girl’.

Helen - performance poetry
Zulie Stenson – performance poetry

Then we heard some amazing spoken word poetry from Zulie Stenson, a London-based performance poet, about her experience of depression. This was followed by an endearing poem about her first kiss.

Tom Gray – Jazz Guitarist

Next up we were treated to the guitar of Tom Gray. Tom played us a couple of stunning arrangements of jazz standards.

Maggie Nichols – holding on

Maggie Nicols, jazz vocalist from Drefach Felindre then wowed the audience with her haunting rendition of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’, as well as playing us a couple of her own self-penned songs, ‘Vivid Black’, a love song to the dark, and ‘Change’ a song about holding on when things get tough.

Rachel's Drum Group
Rachel’s Drum Group
Up and Dancing

Rachel Hargrave’s drum group who meet weekly at Small World then played for us. People were up and dancing immediately!

Mark Gordon - guitar improvisation
Marc Gordon – guitar improvisation
Miranda - dance improvisation
Miranda – dance improvisation

This was followed by a music and dance improvisation from Marc Gordon and Miranda Betts. Miranda explained that she was heavier/fatter than usual due to the mental health medication she takes, but that this did not deter her from performing a short improvisation with guitarist Marc Gordon.

Steve Acworth - one half of the WiFi Banana
Steve Acworth – one half of the WiFi Banana
Lucy Edwards - the other half of the WiFi Banana
Lucy Edwards – the other half of the WiFi Banana

Last, but by no means least were Wi-fi Banana, Steve Acworth and Lucy Edwards with their thrilling version of Fever, and Careless love.

Last minute Jam
Last minute Jam

At the end of the evening there was still time for all the musicians to jam together. ‘This was one of the highlights of the event’, said Miranda Betts, founder as ‘people were actually playing together for the first time, and all this was happening as volunteers were packing up the event.

MaDCaff is funded by Time to Change Wales, the first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. Programme Manager Ant Metcalfe said: “MaDCaff has been a huge success! It’s great to see people using music, dance and creativity to start conversations about mental health. After all, you don’t have to be an expert to be a good friend – just asking someone how they’re feeling can make a real difference. MaDCaff is a really fun way of starting those conversations and getting people together, but it hopefully also gives people the confidence to talk about mental health in their day to day lives. If you missed it, make sure you get to the next event!”

We are very excited about our next event which takes place at the Morlan Centre, Aberystwyth, on Friday May 16th, from 4.30pm-7pm. Everyone welcome.

MaDCaff gets people talking

The feedback we received was great, so thanks to everyone who stuck stickers on the feedback sheets. There will be more ways than ever to give us your feedback at the next MaDCaff. Alternatively, use the feedback form, right here on our blog to leave us your comments.  All in all a good time was had by all.

For the full set of photos, see our Media page.

Launch Event Report

We at MaDCaff are really happy about the successful launch event we held last Friday at Aberystwyth University, Students’ Union. More than fifty people came out to enjoy an eclectic variety of music and dance acts, performed by people living with mental illness.

Ceri and Elsa

Ceri and Elsa – harp and violin

On arrival MaDCaff guests were treated to Ceri and Elsa with their beautiful harp and violin duo. After getting settled in with tea and cake, the event was opened by Miranda Betts, MaDCaff founder and then Côr Gobaith, Aberystwyth’s very own Hope Choir, sang us some lovely songs.

MaDCaff Conversations

MaDCaff Conversations – time to talk



Côr Gobiath – a selection of views

Next up was Xen Storey who played us some classical piano music on a borrowed keyboard. Unfortunately it was about half the size of the one he is used to playing on, so it was a bit of a challenge for him, but beautiful none-the-less.


Xen Storey – with a very small keyboard

Joy Harris sang us some very lovely, self-penned songs and performed a poem too. Joy managed to get the audience to join in on her chorus, Aberystwyth Sunset.


Joy Harris – singing ‘Aberystwyth Sunset’ while the sun set in Aberystwyth

 Ruth Hogg provided us with the only non musical act, with her performance piece featuring projected film, spoken statements, movement and shapes.


Ruth Hogg – Performance Art

Mike Farah then played us a couple of songs on his guitar.


Mike Farrah – and his guitar

 Next up were the Crazy Beaches, MaDCaff’s very own ‘house-band’ featuring Miranda Betts on ukulele, Lucy Edwards on guitar, and Hannah Schafer on bass. They performed an entertaining cover of the standard, ‘All of Me’, followed by one of Miranda’s own songs, ‘Country Girl’.


The Crazy Beaches – Miranda, Hannah, Lucy

 Then we heard from singer-songwriter and guitarist, Dai Sharkey. Dai’s songs were an eclectic mix of original material, and included songs from his recent album ‘Schizophrenic’. You can buy it from his wesbite if you missed it on the night.


Dai Sharkey – not just a pretty faced ‘Schizophrenic’

 Lucy Edwards then sang us her song about obsession, followed by Steve Acworth who played us his Jacuzzi Blues.


Lucy Edwards – obsessing


Steve Acworth – he’s got the Jacuzzi Blues

As it was our launch event, we were really delighted that there were so many performers eager to get on stage and showcase such a diversity of talents and styles. We had almost filled the two and half hours with people asking to perform in advance so we had very few opportunities for impromptu acts and not very much time for just talking either. So, we want to re-assure anyone that wants to come to MaDCaff for the chance to talk, our future events will definitely leave spaces for talking and unbooked, open-mic performers.

Magic Hat

MaDCaff Magic Hat – events are free entry and guests are asked to donate into the Magic Hat if they have enjoyed themselves

The feedback we have received so far has been really positive and encouraging, so thanks to everyone who stuck stickers on the flip chart paper. There will be more ways than ever to give us your feedback at the next MaDCaff. Alternatively, go to our Event Feedback Page and leave us your comments there.  All in all a good time was had by all.

For even more pictures see our Media page.

Remember, our next event is in Cardigan at Small World Theatre, on 12th April 2014. Free Tickets, from Eventbrite and do like our Faccebook page too and check out the Event Page for the next MaDCaff

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