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The Black Dawg Launch - Aiding Emotional Wellbeing

Over the past year I have been involved fully in The Black Dawg project. It started off simply, writing down late at night my thoughts and feelings in the wake of a debilitating depressive episode in my life.

Johnny Nash in 1972 plaintively wrote "I can see clearly now the rain has gone

I can see all obstacles in my way

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshine-y day

Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone

All of the bad feelings have disappeared

Here is that rainbow I've been praying for

It's going to be a bright, bright, sunshine-y day"

Was Mr Nash just coming out of depression when he wrote this? He could have been, couldn't he? After reading these lyrics most people can relate to the powerful sentiment. In the 70's I bopped to the jaunty tune, singing along as we all did with the potency of the lyrics barely registering. Moby called it "one of the saddest songs ever written". I guess we all wish that the "dark clouds that had me blind" would beggar off, but it doesn't quite work like that does it? Which neatly brings me to my project of this past year, as I segue into the link between 70's reggae, depression and The Black Dawg Project Our aim with this illustrated poem is to give an insight into those "dark clouds" and show a way forward, and you can help by donating to the cause, but first who am I and what is my motivation?

I have been a globetrotting chef, DJ, promoter, counsellor, writer, singer, songwriter, and a dad. They all deserve 100% of my commitment, energy and enthusiasm. Then they cease to be just work. They all feed my passion. Over the past year I have been involved fully in The Black Dawg project. It started off simply, writing down late at night my thoughts and feelings in the wake of a debilitating depressive episode in my life. The words flowed as the tea went cold, the rhymes felt right, the touch light and I found the process cathartic and strangely invigorating. I showed the poem to friends and family and was a little anxious regarding reaction to it. Because I am known and liked for my outgoing, bright side, would I be accepted after showing such vulnerability? I was slightly surprised, as not only was response a resounding YES but it enabled others to open up to me, very willingly. I am no Wordsworth but I feel there is worth in my words: I write honestly with a certain rhythm and style whilst a thread of levity is woven into the seriousness of the subject. After sharing the poem with an illustrator Kathryn Hockey friend of mine, it seemed logical to take things a stage further to make an illustrated book. Kath, at this stage, did not realise that over a year later she would still be fine-tuning the work. With passion engaged, strong committment and support from encouraging friends to "get it out there" we are now the proud producers of The Black Dawg and ready to publish.

Why is The Black Dawg needed? Well, lets have a look at the latest breaking news from Mind "Almost half of people living with mental health problems have felt suicidal because of housing, debt and benefits issues. What's even worse, the services that support them to cope with these issues are under threat due to financial cuts". A damning statistic in our so called caring society, not to mention poor mental health in prisons and amongst students (at least supported by the charity Student Minds We aim to donate a healthy percentage of The Black Dawg books to those organisations who offer advice, guidance and support to those in desperate need of it. We can all make a difference, this is our attempt. Some worthy and factual books on Depression fail to take into account that when depressed one can hardly read a postcard. The Black Dawg resonates with potent words, rhythm and striking illustrations and ...gets to the point...THIS is what it is like.

After an early round of promotion, pre-publishing, we have garnered a great response from charities, individuals, health bloggers and organisations. We are hugely grateful for the positive feedback such as these:

Lilac comments " It's extremely uplifting and it takes everyone I've shown it to to a place where they can smile no matter the circumstances."

Healthwatch Bristol says "At Healthwatch Bristol we hear about how much depression can affect people. This project is a great way of creating awareness for mental health issues."

David Milward, the founder of Workaway, a worldwide volunteering and cultural exchange initiative with thousands of members around the globe, says " A great concept and a useful communication tool to help understand how the acknowledgment of depression can go a long way to acceptance and the next important steps of being able to control the demons we are all susceptible to suffer"

Angela Brightwell- writer (Funny Matters) adds "I think this is such a great idea...balancing the grit & honesty of the subject matter with the eloquence and beauty of the poem and illustrations. There's that touch of's not a heavy, over-earnest book about depression."

For those who do not know, to properly self-publish takes an enormous amount of risk-taking, dedication and comittment to follow through on your initial dream. It is not a happy accident when a book becomes successful, it needs dogged (s'cuse the pun) attention to every detail. We want to retain full control of our book and artwork so we will be the publishers and pay professional firms to print, publicise, promote and distribute.

This does not come cheap. Hence, we are taking the a crowdfunding route and have our Kickstarter campaign approved and ready to fly from 12 April (brought forward from the 14th due to momentum of the campaign).

As you may or not know with Kickstarter you set your target figure reasonably taking into account all costs, taxes and suchlike. If you do NOT reach your target you receive nothing, nada, zilch so it's imperative we get core support at the early stages to get those wheels rolling. Friends and family can only do so much. I'm sending out an SOS, (Speaking Out against Stigma) to anyone who can get behind our project, give us a little push to get over the line so we can get printing asap and place The Black Dawg in the hands of those who need it most. It could be an invaluable aid (as well as an insight for families) to those whose life feels decimated by poor Mental Health. All they wish for, all they hope for and all they need, in the last words of the poem, is to " Be Whole, Be Whole". This is for them.

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