We Love Life – Beija Flo

6 months ago   |   Words: Georgia Woollett   |   Photography: Darina Mohammed

We chatted to Beija Flo for our ‘We Love Life’ exhibition which continues through mental health awareness week at Constellations in Liverpool.


What are your plans for today?

I’m going to go and get some pizza and go to the Clockwork Orange social thing.

What are you working at the moment in addition to being in the band?

I am yes. I’m a life model, which means I get paid to stand naked for artists to draw me and paint me. It’s a lot fun. And I meet loads of people.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Well today has been really sunny so I’ve been listening to the Shrek soundtrack, because that’s a necessity, but I’m still in love with Brock Hampton, I’m still riding that wave and all my new friends of this year like Jo Mary and the Wild Fruit Art Collective, all the good ones.

And what are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading The Undeparted by Timothy Watkinson, which is a really really new book. It’s really really good, I know the author and it’s really cool. It’s about a guy who has OCD and it’s really really interesting.

That sounds really interesting. So what have you taken from that?

Well I really like words in general anyway. It’s quite, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone as it’s really good, but it’s quite dark. Well my mum thinks it’s dark; she really likes it as well. And again its really really cool, really interesting choice of words, and the characters quite peculiar. You feel sort of sorry for him at times and then sometimes you’re a bit like ‘hm I’m not sure?, that’s interesting’. It’s good it’s very true.

Are you watching anything at the moment?

Bake off! Bake off. Bake off. Thank you Netflix. And RuPaul as always. And loads of Jacques Tati films. He was French and he was a rugby player, he retired and famously went bankrupt for building a replica of Paris. He has this character called Mr Hulot, he’s a bit, he’s like the French Mr Bean. He’s a lot cooler and he really likes noises and has loads of nice films. And he has this film called Mr Hulot’s holiday, which is my favourite and it’s just brilliant. Yeah, there’s some really really good films.

And what would constitute a perfect day for you?

A perfect day? A lie in, because I never get to sleep really. And, I don’t know, because I really like all the weather. I really like it when it rains, I get really happy because I can know that the plants and stuff are getting fed which is really nice. Also its really really nice when it’s sunny. But I quite like really really cold sunny days on the beach. There we go, nailed it.

Cold, sunny days on the beach?

Yeah, you know when it’s like freezing and your all wrapped up and your so determined to have a picnic and you’ve got all these big rocks holding the blanket down and your just a little bit miserable, but it’s also brilliant, and just sand covering everything. It’s good.

And for what in life do you feel most grateful for?

Lots really. I love a good moan but also I know I’m just sort of grateful that I have a bed to sleep in and food to eat everyday. Not everyone has that. I think that’s pretty cool. I mean my mum as well. My parents, they’re good ones.

What does good mental health mean for you?

Not drinking and smoking too much. I struggle with my mental health a lot, which is no secret. But, I suppose, I don’t know.

What makes you feel good mentally?

Performing and singing and shouting at people. Telling people, I really feel like I have to tell everyone exactly what I’m thinking all the time. So I sort of just blab and blab and blab. I’m a big talker. Unless I’ve told someone about this, done a painting, written a song about it, then it’s not out of my system, so I’m sort of all or nothing.

Is that your main coping mechanism of how you stay mentally well? To be creative and expressive?

Yeah. But I also do things like smoke and drink too much as well, which is really not good. I have really really bad days. But, I try and not do that all the time.

So you try and have balance in your life?

Yeah. I think it’s important.

Is there anything else you do? Try and implement to try and stay mentally well to help your mental health?

I talk to my tarot cards a lot. I like tarot card readings, they give me hope. They help me sort of figure things out as well, not just hope. Sometimes you get bad bad ones and your like oh okay. Yeah things like that. Counseling. I think counseling is mega underrated. I think having someone you can go and talk to that is separate from the situation. I think there’s like lots of things. Being creative. I feel sorry for people who aren’t creative, or even the people who don’t think they’re creative and you’re like ‘everyone can do it, everyone should express in some way’.

And is there anyone who inspires you?

Yeah, loads of people. Like all the people that I surround myself with. I wouldn’t be around people that are annoying and stuff like that. I find that in everyday situations and yeah, just sort of little things. Like hearing about amazing things someone has done and how selfless some people can be. I can’t really think of anything in particular. Even just things like when you see teenagers helping an old person in Aldi pack up their bags. That’s what gets me. Gives me hope.

The real life stuff.

Yeah. Like the other day I stupidly bought a ticket to go see ‘Goat Girl’ of the Internet and through some stranger quite naively and obviously it was a hoax and it was nothing. And then I asked this stranger who had been talking to the same guy that fucked me over, and he was like oh I didn’t end up doing it because his location kept changing and I will message him and ask him if he’s still selling the tickets and just mugging you off essentially. And he was and this lovely guy was like I’m really really sorry. And then two minutes later he was like I’ve messaged the band and they’ve put you on the guest list. And I was like that’s so nice. Because he could have gone as well and been like can I come as well because I’ve been a nice person, but it was just a totally selfless act. Lost my faith in humanity and then it came back an hour later.

Skinny Pelembe – Going Through The Emotions

1 week ago   |   Words: Mark Taylor   |   Photography: Auriane Defert

The successful pursuit of artistic endeavour has afforded Skinny Pelembe some well-earned lie-in’s, but don’t confuse a late start with laziness. The singer-guitarist-producer has been burning the midnight oil working on music that has featured on 6 Music and Radio 1 Xtra. After recently finishing a UK tour supporting the release of his single ‘I Just Wanna Be Your Prisoner’, Doncaster-raised Skinny offers The Mind Map his varied insight into accepting personal loss, and how best to navigate the London Underground with musical equipment in tow.

What are you working on at the moment?

Album 1 tracks, beats for other folks, a choral arrangement, album 2 demos, ideas for a special super cool science project, and since painting the new EP cover I’m trying to get my brush game up again!

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Honestly, just trying to keep it together since losing my old man (as in passing on, not like losing him in one of those mega Sainsburys stores that do bedding and stuff, too). I guess you don’t overcome, more accept, having music / art as an outlet is so massively underrated.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

I might have had the perfect day in Nottingham last weekend, the city that just gives! City centre paddling pool, fairground, artificial beach, a Universal Works store, we played a show at Rough Trade, Yazmin Lacey and the Running Circle crew came out to hang. The only thing more that I wanted was a 99 flake, and when I finally got one I think I felt my pancreas bend upwards to form a smile shape.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m very quickly becoming obsessed with Aldous Harding’s voice and singing faces, so I’m listening and watching her A LOT. Reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami again, the whole mood of the book just feels so familiar, it’s the comforting literary equivalent of pie and mash for me.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I’m most grateful that for at least most of my working week I don’t have to wake up before 9am anymore. That sounds lazy, but I’ll happily work till 4am, so get off my back, man!

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

…being the salmon that can swim upstream, and not necessarily make it up the river, but still smile as you push through the current.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

As little sugar and “bad” carbs as possible. Apart from the obnoxious amount of Rubicon passion fruit, and Maoam, and Nata cakes I consume.

I have the Juan Manuel Fangio of metabolisms, so until it slows down I’m just gonna continue to read loads about nutrition and be that wanker talks the talk but doesn’t walk it.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

Running everywhere with my guitar, amp and pedals. I’m working with transport for London on a system that incorporates the kettlebell “functional movement” style into the “late musician lugging loads of gear around” routine, I think it’s just going to be a game changer…

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

SJC. Standing Jump Crew. A rag tag group of young, dedicated mavericks with one goal – to push the limits of the standing-start long jump. I left the game as Doncaster Metropolitan Borough’s under 12’s Long Jump champ. The group disbanded shortly after. I’d hit the wall. Literally.

What three songs lift your spirits?

Oh Yoko – John Lennon

Show Me What You Got – Busta Rhymes

Just One Second – London Elektricity

What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?

Those that matter don’t mind.

Those that mind don’t matter.

Mind over matter.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

Paul McKenna’s Deep Relaxation Guided Hypnosis tape. Sounds ridiculous. Is ridiculous. But it works…

You can find Skinny Pelembe’s latest tour dates and releases here.

Nia Wyn – Going Through The Emotions

2 weeks ago   |   Words: Rebecca Durband

Nia Wyn is an inspiring young woman – using her own mental health experiences to help others.  Growing up in a small town in North Wales, Nia found comfort in old soul and blues records. Her latest release ‘Turnstiles’ was produced by Paul Weller. We caught up with the socially conscious storyteller to discuss her work, music and how she stays well.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’ve been digging up 1960s and 70s Aretha Franklin releases. Early Nas. Trojan compilations too and the new Internet album. I haven’t found time to read for quite a while now. I’ve been watching a lot of UK crime dramas lately, including the Unforgotten. Plus Matt Groening’s new show Disenchantment.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Giving up alcohol. I’ve been four years sober. I had to draw on the support of my loved ones, throw myself into music and take my time. One of the best decisions I ever made.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

That I need to give myself a break now and again as I’m way too hard on myself – still working on it.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Spending the daytime with my loved ones, including my two cats Bobo and Homer, and then finishing the night off with a banging show with my band.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

That I’m still alive, and for the love and compassion I receive from those closest to me.

Could you tell us more about your work within mental health?

At the moment I work a couple days a week in a voluntary-sector mental health service in South London. I use my lived experience of mental illness to support others, and co-run a peer support project there. It’s rewarding and pays the bills to do music.

How have your personal experiences helped you develop empathy towards mental illness?

I think we are experts by experience. The best placed people to understand people experiencing mental illness are the ones who have been there themselves and can support someone by validating them and being there for them. It’s not about being ‘I know exactly how you feel’ cos that’s not true, no one knows exactly how you feel. But my experiences help me to relate and know what it’s like to be stigmatised in society.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

Having time to be creative, feeling grounded, clear-headed and having good awareness of what I need in that moment.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

Try to get a good range of different vegetables, fish, meat. Most healthy days I’ll have a balanced diet with REASONABLE portions…

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

I used to be really slack with this – when I was a kid I was a proper little footballer, playing games every week. I had a long period of not exercising at all but as of late I’m pushing myself to go 2-3 times a week, half cardio half strength work. I do what I feel like on the day as long as I go, cos it’s not just about the affect on my body, it’s more about my mental wellbeing.

What three songs lift your spirits?

Marvin Gaye – How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You
Princess Nokia – GOAT
Buddy – Hey Up There

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

To give yourself time – and to know it’s okay to feel that way, and that the feeling will pass because all feelings are temporary.

Finally, what was it like working with Paul Weller? What did you learn from his approach?

It was the dopest. He is a real dude, proper down to earth and wise as hell. I learnt a lot from working with him, and we talk fairly often – he gives me a lot of tips and I’ve been sending him more material I’ve been writing. The biggest thing I take away from working with him is to not be afraid to try something new, push boundaries and be comfortable shapeshifting genres – if it sounds good it sounds good.

Chris Kirkland – Going Through The Emotions

1 month ago   |   Words: Caoimhe O'Neill

Former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland walked away from professional football in 2016, having spent 17 seasons at clubs including Coventry City, Liverpool, Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday. He has since spoken publicly on his decision to retire from the game due to anxiety. In turn Chris has become one of the leading voices of mental health and wellbeing in football. Kirkland hasn’t altogether hung up his gloves – now coaching for Liverpool F.C Women as well as running his own academy for young goalkeepers. We caught up with Chris to ask about his favourite save, advice for goalies under pressure, his perfect day and more.

Hi Chris, you’ve just become the new goalkeeping coach for Liverpool Ladies, how are you getting on in your new role?

I’m loving the new role at Liverpool F.C Women. I was waiting for the right opportunity to come up and as I do a lot with Liverpool Football Club already, being a supporter and former player, this was perfect for me.

In 2001 you signed for Liverpool from Coventry City. Looking back, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self to help stay in a good frame of mind?

When I was younger it wasn’t an issue, all I wanted to do was play football. It wasn’t until I got into my 30s that I started to struggle mentally. So, I wish there was help around back then at the clubs I was at because no doubt I would have sought professional help.

Who was your sporting idol when you were growing up?

My sporting idol was Steve Ogrizovic at Coventry City. Just seeing the way he trained and how he handled himself on and off the pitch, I learnt a lot from him and we still speak regularly to this day.

What was the most memorable save you made?

My most memorable save was against Nicolas Anelka at Chelsea for Wigan. I managed to scramble and lean back to tip a header over the bar at an important time of the game.

Goalkeepers can be highly scrutinised by fans and the media for their performances. Loris Karius being a recent example. Porto’s Iker Casillas defended the young German by uploading a highlights reel of his own mistakes in solidarity. What is the best advice you received during your playing days?

Keepers will make mistakes, always have, always will, just forget about it and save the next one.

What would you say to any goalkeeper playing under this level of pressure?

You have to try and switch off away from football. Family life is vitally important and the most important thing is if you are happy off the pitch you are happy on it and vice-versa.

As an ex-professional footballer physical activity was obviously a big part of your daily routine. What does your exercise regime consist of today?

I’m still very active. I power walk with my dog most days for 6 miles, I go the gym 3-4 times a week, play golf and obviously the GK training at Liverpool and my academy keeps me very active.

What are you listening to or watching at the moment?

I listen to all chart music and country music. We are watching Shooter on Netflix at the minute.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

I’ve learnt that times can seem unbelievably hard but if you talk through your problems there is a way out if you want it enough and obviously how important my wife, daughter, friends and dog are to me.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Perfect day would be an early morning walk with my dog, a nice bacon butty for breakfast, go out somewhere with my family and then cook a big roast for tea.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I’m most grateful for still being here and having a great family and friends.

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