'SPLITTING IN TWO: Mad Pride and Punk Rock Oblivion' by Robert Dellar / 21 August 2014
In this book Robert Dellar traces his life journey from his childhood in a working class area of Watford, through Sussex University and the London squatting community, to what he calls the ‘murky waters of mental health’.
Of special importance is the pioneering work Robert did in Hackney Hospital, setting up a patients’ council and advocacy department. At the time of the hospital’s closure in the mid-90s, Robert organised some lively gigs, which he describes here in colourful detail.
He subsequently worked at Southwark MIND, (the first user-run MIND group), before joining Mad Pride, an organisation which linked mental health to rock and roll through the gigs it produced. Dellar and his friend Peter Shaughnessy also turned mental health demonstrations into theatre.
The title of this book is taken from a song by punk legends Alternative TV. They make several appearances here, as do Nikki Sudden and two survivor punk bands, the Ceramic Hobbs and Rudimentary Peni.
Lesser-known but equally talented artists like Dave Russell and the Astronauts also make a number of appearances here. While Mad Pride is associated with punk rock, a number of folk musicians and poets also took part in their gigs.
Some parts of this book deal with grim and tragic topics, but it is also shot through with a sense of humour and a deep compassion. There are also flashes of anarchy. The titles for a lot of the chapters come from songs, many of which are those relating to the Punk and new wave years.
This was a period of great importance to Robert, during which he also produced many fanzines. His fanzine influence continued with the Southwark MIND newsletter, which was always an inspiring magazine to read. The book also exposes some little-known capitalist scandals like the exploitation carried out by drug companies.
It also shows how charities like SANE (Schizophrenia a National Emergency), whilst appearing to be respectable, do a lot to demonise people with that label, contributing to schizophrenic people’s negative experiences of such things as heavy medication, stigma, and locked wards.
The book highlights the demonstration Mad Pride organised against SANE in the late 1990s which forced SANE’s founder, Marjory Wallace, out to face the protesters.
This book is an enjoyable, entertaining read. Robert’s journey has been an uphill struggle, but there have been proud achievements along the way. I have a lot of respect for the good work that Robert Dellar has done over the years.
Keywords: mad pride,mental health,schizophrenia