The Baggage Handlers is a city-centre based drop in writers’ group for people living with mental health distress. We believe that mental health is a continuum and that we, as human beings, live on a spectrum regarding mental health; for us, experience of mental health distress is part of life and is part of what it is to be human. Life places challenges in our pathways such as grief, bereavement, loss and loneliness and part of life is finding the strategies to navigate these life experiences. The Baggage Handlers utilises creative writing and the spoken word as tools for positive mental health.
We are extremely grateful to Arts @ Trinity and Trinity Church for being home to the Baggage Handlers for the last 5 years of our existence. Home is the operative word. For many people living with mental health distress, there aren’t many places in Leeds’ busy city centre, where people can, and do, feel at home: Trinity is such a place. It is a refuge for the group; providing a calm, safe, known, warm, clean, bright, well-lit, accessible, friendly, open, central and positive space in which we can – be.
That Trinity is central, well-lit, accessible by wheelchair and on a main bus route, as well as just around the corner from the train station, is crucial for group members, many of whom feel vulnerable, at night, in the busy city centre. In terms of mental health, and working with writers living with mental health distress, as you’ll know, safe places to be in busy city centre towns is often a very missing piece of life. Trinity is, therefore, invaluable to us.
Our affinity with, and gratitude to, Arts@ Trinity and Trinity Church, is not solely due to being offered a free physical space to meet; though this is critical to The Baggage Handlers’ survival. Connection with Arts@Trinity and Trinity offers us a positive creative and aesthetic connection with Trinity, which espouses sister values of community and kinship. The Baggage Handlers, is a warm, welcoming and non-judgemental group; Trinity is a warm, welcoming and non-judgemental space which has, and continues to foster a culture of self-acceptance, friendship and kindness, including through its arts programme, Arts@Trinity.
Due to cuts, The Baggage Handlers is currently unfunded. We continue to run, but on a voluntary basis, and so, again, in this context, the support of Arts@Trinity is imperative. Housed by Arts@Trinity, The Baggage Handlers continues to function as a safe space where creatives living with mental health issues, can meet. We work together, to use creative writing as a tool for positive mental health; gaining the creative resources to support our creative expression and thus, our positive mental health. Each session, we write brand new work and share our writing, sharing thoughts and feelings in the process.
We look forward to deepening our relationship with Trinity and Arts@Trinity through playing an increasingly visible role in the Arts@Trinity cultural calendar.