Mental health awareness gig in Harrogate

A Harrogate musician who has battled against his own mental health issues is hosting an all-day rock music event to raise awareness and charity funds this weekend.

Friday, 19th January 2018, 3:07 pm
Updated Friday, 19th January 2018, 3:25 pm
Starring in Harrogate's Reach Out gig - Blues duo Hell Fire Jack.

Richard Blackburn, who is best known for being lead singer in Sweetcorn, said the idea for the all-day event on Saturday, January 20 had been inspired by reading of the death of a friend on Facebook.But, as someone who suffers from General Anxiety Disorder himself, he says he was also keen to do something positive as part of his 40th birthday celebrations.Richard, who is also a martial arts teacher, said: "Mental health issues in one way or another have effected so many people I know."If we can raise enough money to help save the life of just one person, it will be worth it."The condition means that, despite working holding his own martial arts classes successfully, Richard is stressed by almost anything and suffers from communication difficulties at times.Featuring a host of local acts including The Nirvana band, Hell Fire Jack and a Sweetcorn reunion, Reach Out will begin this Saturdayat the Blues Bar at 12.30pm before moving on to The Empress from 8pm.The Sweetcorn reunion will be the first time Richard has led a rock band on stage properly since his last band Peace Through Superior Firepower finished in 2008.

Having experienced death, divorce and tragedy in his own life, Richard recently returned to his hometown after a breakdown in a relationship.He said: “I talked to a lot of old friends when I came back and was amazed to see how many people suffered from depression or had thought about suicide.“I realised I only feel myself when I’m doing classes or doing music. I feel better in front of a crowd.”Although Richard has only got back into live music recently in a tentative fashion, performing at the Blues Bar's jam sessions.But he now hopes to form a new rock band Yakuza No Kamae along with local musicians Liam Sullivan, Martin Rose and Lucas Maith.Charities to benefit from this Saturday's two-venue event will include Wellspring, a counselling and training centre in Starbeck offering psychological support to people in distress, as well as Papyrus, the UK charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide, and CALM or Campaign Against Living Miserably, which works to preventing male suicide.Entry to the Reach Out music festival is free, though a £5 donation is recommended.Richard said he was grateful for the support of many people in organising Reach Out, especially Simon Colgan, the owner of the Blues Bar and The Empress, who had been "brilliant."Others donating their time and skills for free this charity event include sound systems owner Rik Lawson, music coordinator Adam Westerman, AdBell who provided the banners, Enid Taylor's who printed the posters, Linda Rollins, Liam Sullivan, Katie Edwards and Nik Ashworth.If successful, Richard aims to hold another similar event this summer and, perhaps, turn transform it into an annual event highlighting mental health issues.

Reach Out organiser Harrogate musician Richard Blackburn pictured in Harrogate's Blues Bar.
Reach Out organiser Harrogate musician Richard Blackburn pictured in Harrogate's Blues Bar.