Leeds Hosts National Conference on 'Suffering'

Amidst Global Human Misery, Leeds Hosts Conference on ‘Suffering

Our daily digest of news on the current human anguish across Europe gives this forthcoming conference more relevance than we may wish.  The Leeds based Orchard Health & Wellbeing Clinic and Phoenix Dance Theatre, in collaboration with the Harry Guntrip Psychotherapy Trust, are hosting a unique conference in Leeds on 3 October on ‘Suffering’. 

The ‘Mindbody’ conference at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, uses performance art, presentations and poetry to examine the relationship between the physical and the psychological.   This year the conference, which is open to all, is presented within the context of understanding movement, mind and body, and led by renowned opinion formers and practitioners in psychoanalysis, including Mike Brearley, former English Cricket Captain and Chair of the MCC, now a writer and leading light in the field of psychoanalysis. 

The conference will include an extraordinary performance by the Phoenix Dance Theatre to expand the Mindbody theme and speakers will encourage dialogue between themselves, the dancers and audience, exploring this theme.  Speakers also include Michelle Scally Clarke – author and poet; Caroline Owens – Executive Director Orchard Health & Wellbeing Clinic, Sharon Watson – Artistic Director, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Andrea White – Secretary, Harry Guntrip Psychotherapy Trust.

Chaired by the Harry Guntrip Psychotherapy Trust (the national organisation and charity that serves to promote education and training in psychotherapy), the conference panel will draw out the themes of ‘personal power and personal ability'; ‘personal suffering and disability’ and examine how they are expressed within the ‘mindbody’.   Mike Brearley presents his paper ‘Suffering; a turning point towards growth and creativity, a source of grievance, or simply too much to bear?’  with the conference centring on a performance of Phoenix Dance Theatre’s ‘Document’ – a powerful, relentless and hard hitting dance, choreographed by exciting duo Ivgi & Greben. Sharon Watson, Artistic Director of the Phoenix Dance Theatre says: ‘We work hard to communicate with a diverse audience and this collaboration epitomises how a performance can contribute towards a discussion on the cause and effect of such a difficult subject, in this case suffering.  I like to think that all modes of dance move people but this dance is the antithesis of what many consider traditional performance dance.  It encapsulates how the mind is a catalyst for the body and vice versa, and if through our performance we make a contribution to this global conversation and open people’s minds in any way, then we have achieved our aim.  It’s a privilege to be working with such a high calibre panel of presenters, through the Orchard and the Harry Guntrip Psychotherapy Trust, and we are looking forward to the response on the day.’

The collaboration was spearheaded by Caroline Owens, Director of The Orchard Health & Wellbeing Clinic and former Secretary of the Harry Guntrip Psychotherapy Trust.  The Orchard is one of the country’s foremost independent, and longest established therapy providers offering a bespoke service from therapists who are qualified to provide effective practice based and evidence based treatments.   The clinic has recently benefited from a major investment and refurbishment in its facilities, befitting its position as a centre of excellence in its field and marking its 15th year anniversary.

Says Caroline Owens: ‘I had approached the Phoenix Dance Theatre in 2011 in order to explore our understanding of movement, mind and body – in the hope of putting a conference together. We very soon realised that we were talking a similar language and we recognised many themes in common albeit our perspective was different. We talked about the ways in which emotions and feelings are rooted in and inextricably linked to bodily expression and indeed how physical ailments and illness are liked to painful psychological and emotional distress and suffering.’ ‘The link between mind and body is somehow obvious yet elusive.  Following the success of the first conference – we agreed that we would work together again. The theme of suffering emerged from the ‘Mindbody’ work at the Orchard where I recognised that psychotherapists – myself included, counsellors and body therapists were witnessing and working with so much personal suffering in their work with clients.’ ‘Suffering is both personal and political, it is individual and societal, it is cultural and universal, and it is felt in the mind and body. We all suffer one way or another. How much suffering one can tolerate/ feel and actually bear is dependent on what support structures are around us, as well as our own personalities and states of mind at any given time.’ ‘When we set out to do this conference we could not have expected that the Social / Domestic and International Policy and Political landscape would be so replete with matters of profound human suffering. This conference is unfortunately a timely reminder that we avoid suffering at our peril and yet - there is only so much suffering that can be tolerated. 
‘We are now flooded with images of the desperate plight of refugees washing up on our shores. At home, our eyes and ears are being opened to the previously hidden suffering of the many school children who are routinely bullied resulting in deep psychological distress, low self esteem and sometimes self harm and suicide. We are waking up to the extent of childhood sexual abuse and its effects on the child and adult sufferer. There is often excruciating suffering resulting from relationship breakdown, family conflict, and / or the death of a loved one where one may feel compelled to suffer in silence.’ Mike Brearley adds: 'I met Caroline at a talk and we found we shared a passion for openness about a subject that is often taboo but affects everyone at some time in their life. Often unexpected, always handled differently, we agreed that our management of suffering and its aftermath provides a clear platform for discussion.  This conference is that platform and I am confident everyone, including me, will leave with a fresh insight on such a timely subject.’ The conference welcomes a varied audience, such as people working within the health sector, including social services, social science, sports and dance, as well as those who share a general interest in matters of the mind and body, to hear and share thoughts on ‘suffering’.  Those who require some space to assess the impact that the constant scenes of tragedy have on their feelings of wellbeing are also welcome. The event runs from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 3 October. Tickets cost £60 pp and include tea and coffee in the two intervals – lunch is not provided but kindly subsidised for delegates by Hotel Chocolate.  Funds raised will go towards the Phoenix Dance Theatre, Harry Guntrip Psychotherapy Trust and charitable causes nominated by the Orchard clinic.  Tickets are available from the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre www.theatreleeds.com or telephone the Box Office 0113 2208008  Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7PA.


Notes to Editors

For interview opportunities with Caroline Owens and speakers at the conference, please contact Kendra Grahame-Clarke or Corrie Staniforth at Kendra PR on 07910 214474 or email Kendra@kendrapr.co.uk  corrie@kendrapr.co.uk for all media information.

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For more information on The Orchard Health & Wellbeing Clinic visit www.orchardleeds.co.uk or telephone 0113 281 9493