The question of ‘normality’ and what it is has cropped up again in relation to this weekend’s Bonkerfest. I read about it in The Times at the weekend in an article which explains the ‘Mad Pride’ movement which has made its way over here, unsurprisingly, from the States.
The Times article refers to the growing movement of people who initially in the States but increasingly here
‘are gathering to fight the stigma of “the mad woman in the attic” and show they can live successful lives.’
Liz Spikol , a US journalist with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, is seen as a torch-bearer for the movement which is growing – and her blog is one of the keystones of the movement. It is and has been spreading though.
The Times announces that
In London, a group of people who self-consciously refer to themselves as “mad” are getting together for a day-long festival on Saturday, aptly named Bonkersfest. It bills itself as a celebration of madness, creativity, individuality and eccentricity, “bonkers celebrations for everyone — bonkers or not”.
So Dolly Sen, 37, an artist and writer, will spend the day trying to screw a light bulb into the sky because “the world is dark enough as it is”. There will also be a moving padded cell, a de-normalisation programme, and performance art by Bobby Baker featuring seven adults dressed as frozen peas.
I have to say the adults dressed as frozen peas actually sounds interesting!
It certainly seems like there could be a lot of fun to be had on the day.
Bonkersfest is organised by Creative Routes who say
This year’s theme of ‘De-normalisation’ sets the physical staging of the festival into zones of perceived ‘normality’ which get madder, sillier and more intense as they go! Festival-goers will experiences their own understanding of the mad reality via a sensory, colourful kaleidoscope of environment, image and sound. In addition to live art and visual installations, BF08 will host the Big Top outdoor music stage and the Red Star will host The Muses Café, a mad programme of theatre, poetry and performance.
The theme being ‘de-normalisation’ makes you challenge what you regard as normal.
I like having assumptions challenged – and I think that a new way of communicating and distributing information has been borne with the growth of ‘new media’ sources.
Anyone can start writing and an audience can and does follow. Self-expression and creativity are, I think things that can often promote positive mental health for those both for those who have diagnoses and those who don’t.
I’ve always felt that definitions and diagnoses can sometimes be about thin lines drawn arbitrarily in the sand on the basis of risk.
Eccentricity has a general acceptance in our culture but when it becomes ‘madness’ it becomes unacceptable? Society makes decisions about where the lines are drawn sometimes. What is an acceptable idiosyncrasy and what is risky behaviour?
There’s no answer really. Sometimes the side of the line on which we stand depends on who the person is that is judging and where there own experiences, prejudices and attitudes have taken them.. but sometimes it is not.
To be honest, I’d never really thought about equating sanity with normality. I think everyone experiences differing mental states to some extent through their own lives but society – or rather Western societies like to classify.
You are one thing – or the other
You are good – or bad
You are sane – or insane
You are black – or white
An optimist or a pessimist.
You are normal – or unusual.
The difficulties come though if people start to either self-diagnose or associate mental illness with being creative necessarily or being ‘cool’. It isn’t. Accepting what you are is one thing but trying to ‘fit in’ is something different.