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Brightsparks Comedy Asylum

Brightsparks Comedy Asylum uses comedy to support people with severe and enduring mental health problems. Improvisation, creative writing and performance workshops are delivered in psychiatric hospitals and community settings throughout the East Midlands. Managed by Leicestershire NHS Partnership Trust with support from volunteers, participants perform their work in local venues and at public events.

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Brightsparks Comedy Asylum uses comedy to support people with severe and enduring mental health problems. Improvisation, creative writing and performance workshops are delivered in psychiatric hospitals and community settings throughout the East Midlands. Managed by Leicestershire NHS Partnership Trust with support from volunteers, participants perform their work in local venues and at public events.

They say laughter is the best medicine and BrightSparks Comedy Asylum is proving this to be true. The project uses comedy to support recovery from mental illness with workshops for mental health patients. The Comedy Asylum started in 2007 in response to a request from mental health patients and has run a 12-week course culminating in a show at Leicester Comedy Festival every February. Led by psychiatric nurse turned award-winning stand up poet Rob Gee, the group use improvisation to create the show and people who aren’t confident enough to perform on stage can get involved in other areas, such as props and costumes, or directing.

Thanks to National Lottery funding in 2016, the project has expanded, enabling Rob and a team of professional comics to deliver workshops in psychiatric units across the region, as well as enabling the Leicester group to perform at pubs, arts venues and public events throughout the year.

The Comedy Asylum has been a massive success each year, and with our five-year Reaching Communities grant, we've been able to extend the reach and breadth of the project to new and existing participants in Leicestershire and across the East Midlands."

Project manager Sallie Varnam

“The process of creating and performing your own comedy - whether it's stand up, songs or sketches – is enormously empowering. Participants consistently report improvements in self-esteem and teamwork skills. People tell us they wouldn’t be alive without it. For some of the most socially isolated, it may be one of the only reasons they have for leaving the house all week. It also works on a satirical level, by laughing at some of the more disquieting aspects of the mental health system. Because the group regularly performs to general audiences it also helps to break down some of the preconceptions people can sometimes have about those with long term mental health problems.”

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