Bristol Hearing Voices Network

Bristol Hearing Voices Network: History

NB - January 2001 - First Hearing Voices Group started in Bristol at Our Chance (Rethink), facilitated by Don Swift.

2002 - 2006

The Bristol Hearing Voices Network Self-Help Group was established following a number of local consultation meetings, organised and chaired by Tim Dowling (Co-Founder & Community Psychiatric Nurse - Grove Rd). We officially launched at an open event on 29th May 2002, introduced by Keith Hall (Member), and marked by a guest speech from Ron Coleman. The group met weekly at Methodist Church Hall in Redcliffe, and was facilitated on a rotated basis by mental health professionals from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) and Rethink. However, a few members did occasionally insist on "no professionals" being present during this time!

The Network was awarded a grant from the Service User Reference Group (SURG) Challenge Fund in 2002, which resulted in members setting up a community bank account to administer the monies. This was utilised for purchasing Voice Hearing books, joining the National Hearing Voices Network, funding Claire Barnard's (Co-Founder & Member) attendance at National AGM Manchester in 2003, as well as, inviting Exeter Voices Group (Joan of Arc Project) for lunch. This meeting established a link with Andrew Barkla (Facilitator of Exeter Voices Group) in co delivering two training sessions for psychology trainees in Bristol, organised by Lucy Johnstone.

We changed venue, relocating to Bristol Mind, Cheltenham Road in February 2004, with the support of Jeff Walker (Director of Bristol Mind). He continued to provide much welcomed advice and assistance towards our development, until he left Bristol Mind in March 2008.

During the spring/summer of 2005 people attending the Self-Help group significantly dropped, and as a consequence, a few remaining members and facilitators reached a decision to suspend the weekly group from the 1st of December 2005. The new aim and objective was to try and secure sufficient funding to pay for a self-employed facilitator, who would offer members consistency and continuity of contact. There was a feeling too that the Network wasn’t going in the right direction. We had aspirations of becoming User-Led, but for one reason or another we hadn't been able to achieve it. However, recruiting a paid facilitator who was accountable to members of the Network seemed a step in the right direction.

Members and allies set up a Steering Group to fundraise, and begin planning the re-launch in 2006. We were successful in being awarded two grants, one of which was from the Service User Reference Group (SURG), again, a big thank you for their support. We then advertised for the facilitator's job and members recruited a dedicated person, Don Swift, to help run the weekly Self-Help group. The Steering Group continues to meet regularly to oversee how the Self-Help Group is running, fundraise, and discuss ways to develop the Network in Bristol. Any member of Self-Help Group is welcome to get involved in the Steering Group if they choose to.

2007 - 2013

In 2007, Tehseen Noorani, from the University of Bristol, offered help in developing publicity materials for the Self-Help group. This included setting up the Network's website by using the skills of local website designer Tim Maughan. From 2009, Tehseen began his PhD research with the Network that included having ongoing conversations with members about their Voice Hearing experiences. Tehseen has said "The research documented how Self-Help groups offer spaces for experimenting with creative solutions to mental distress, connecting this to the broader goals of the recovery movement in challenging narrowly biomedical frameworks for understanding mental distress". Tehseen's PhD research was successfully completed in 2012, and he has stated "This was only possible due to the generosity of the Bristol Hearing Voices Network, and key members of the local mental health user movement".

Between 2008 - 2013, we received invaluable guidance and support from Amanda Boyd-McLaughlin (Project Manager - Cherry D) in developing a set of policies and procedures, identifying role descriptions used for appointing officers in the Steering Group, and on going fundraising to keep the Self-Help Group running. A big thank you goes out to all of Amanda's help during this time. Sadly, Cherry D closed down in December 2013.

The Network has been awarded the following grants from Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in 2008, 2013; Quartet Community Foundation in 2008, 2010, 2011; Allen Lane Foundation in 2011, and Bristol City Council Prevention Fund in 2013. Glenn Townsend (User Involvement Worker for AWP until 2009 / User Monitoring and Development Co-ordinator - Mental Health Commissioning NHS Bristol since 2009) is a member of Steering Group, and has been instrumental in advising and assisting us in obtaining all of these grants. We have valued and appreciated his knowledge and expertise over the years.

On 15th November 2010 we held our first Annual General Meeting. Errol Hewitt was elected Chair, Nick Redman - Secretary, and Martin Williams - Treasurer.

Bristol Hearing Voices Network is a member of Intervoice (The International Hearing Voices Network), and has committed funds towards enabling members to attend World Congresses in Maastricht, Netherlands in 2009; Nottingham in 2010, and Cardiff in 2012. The congresses were attended by Voice Hearers and allies from across the world to share messages of hope and positive action. A number of members also attended Asylum's Conference and Festival in Manchester, September 2008.

Members have designed an 'expert by experience' training package. As a result, workshops have been provided for 'The use of anti-psychotic medication' conference 30th March 2011 in Bristol; Second Step / North Somerset Floating Support on 15th September 2011, and Psychiatry Trainees Forum on 1st November 2013.

We invited Jacqui Dillon (Chair of National Hearing Voices Network) on 25th May 2011 to speak about the Hearing Voices Movement at an open event in Bristol. This occasion was funded by SURG.

Tim Dowling (Co-Founder) retired from Steering Group in 2012.

In February 2013, we started a new Voices Self-Help Group at Callington Road Hospital (AWP), which is facilitated by two members of Bristol Hearing Voices Network. We are confident that this weekly group will provide a safe space for people on the wards, offering hope and Peer support. (The Steering Group is currently linking with AWP to try and set up more inpatient groups).

Simon Downer (Consultant Psychiatrist and member of Critical Psychiatry Network) joined Steering Group in September 2013.

2014 - 2016

The community Self-Help Group changed venue again, moving from Bristol Mind, Old Market to Broadmead Baptist Church in January 2014.

BBC Radio 4 aired 'The Shining Heart', a semi biographical drama about Errol Hewitt (Chair and Peer facilitator) on 21st May 2014

We were awarded further grants from Allen Lane Foundation, and Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for 2014/15.

During July 2014, Jacqui Dillon provided BHVN with 3 days of developmental training, based on the philosophy and ethos of the Hearing Voices Network (HVN). This was funded by Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Our Network funded 4 places on "Recovery from Psychosis" course on 12th November 2014, and "Working & Talking with Voices" on 15th December 2014, both organised by Working To Recovery Ltd.

On the 3rd February 2015, BHVN launched 'Information Sharing' events about Voice Hearing & Self-Help, every first Tuesday of the month for mental health professionals, relatives and friends.

For the past 3 years independent filmmaker Conor McCormack has been documenting the Bristol Hearing Voices Network. The result of this collaboration is the observational documentary 'In the Real', a complex and insightful study of the phenomenology of voice hearing. The film charts the interweaving lives of group members with a diverse variety of experiences and beliefs as they support each other through the trials of life on the medicated margins of society. It was shown to the public at our AGM on 26th February 2015. ('In The Real' was supported creatively and financially by Durham University's 'Hearing The Voice', an interdisciplinary research project, led by Charles Fernyhough and Angela Woods, which aims to provide a better understanding of what it is like to hear Voices when no one is speaking).

Additionally, training sessions were provided by members to Juniper Ward (Long Fox Unit), Weston General Hospital in July 2015, Off The Record - September 2015, and Supported Independence - October 2015.

The official UK launch of 'In The Real' happened at Tyneside cinema in Newcastle Upon Tyne on 14th July 2015. An audience of over 50 attended, which included a Q&A session with members of the film.

Grants were awarded from Allen Lane Foundation and Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for 2015/16, and Quartet Community Foundation/Mayors Fund and CCG for 2016/17.

'In The Real' documentary was shown to MH professionals at Callington Road Hospital (AWP) on 30th September 2015, organised by BHVN.

Members provided a training session to Social Work trainees at Bath University on 6th April 2016.

Nick Redman (Co-Founder & Secretary) retired from Steering Group in June 2016.