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Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Fund raising campaign for North Herts & Stevenage Samaritans

A few months ago I got a very excited call from my good friend and internationally renowned artist Sarah Graham. We've been friends a long time, I've seen her struggle with her bipolar disorder, all the ups and downs, the darkness and the light and I knew that Samaritans provided a lifeline for her. She called to share a fundraising idea she'd had and to see if I'd like to take part.

Inspired by a fellow fundraiser Background Bob and his fundraising campaign, Sarah wondered if she could creatively raise money for charity. Sarah has been painting camper van stencils for years and decided to ask all the artists and creatives she knew to create their own version, have a pop-up exhibition and auction them online to raise some much needed cash. Samarivans was born!

Since May, Sarah and her team have been raising sponsorship, sending stencils out to artists, signing up celebrities as well as fitting in a few radio interviews. The exhibition takes place at Arkley Fine Art, Hitchin between 22-29 September, followed by the online auction with all proceeds going to North Herts & Stevenage Samaritans. If you want to donate without bidding for an artwork, you can do so here.

When I received the stencil, I let it sit on my desk for a while - I had to wait to connect to the Universe, for the creativity to find me. When it did, the message was loud and clear, I needed to show some light and shade, to reflect the ups and downs of mental health. For me, what better way to do that than through my muse Baba Yaga, the Eastern European goddess of women, healer, crone, wise woman, benevolent to all. To have such a position in a community was a threat to the men in power. They demonised her, she was rewritten as an evil witch who tested folk who sought her advice, and if they failed the test, she killed them, putting their skulls on sticks in her garden. She took to the skies in a flying mortar, dwelling in a house on chicken legs deep in a dark forest. Behave children, or Baba Yaga will get you!

Ink and digital illustration of Baba Yaga, depicting the duality of this wonderful Eastern European supernatural being.
The duality of Baba Yaga

As I journeyed through my menopause, at times I thought I was going crazy. I didn't recognise myself anymore, I felt lost and desperate. Society favours the young, fit and beautiful - I was none of those things - I felt worthless. Now my hormones have settled, I am through the other side, reborn like a phoenix from the flames (of hot flushes). My experience and wisdom is valuable in the world, my hair is greying, my wrinkles show a life of love and laughter. Ageing is a privilege and will not sit in the corner, wearing beige and staying quiet.

I am imaging that freedom for Baba Yaga, so her house is now a camper van, she can ditch the mortar and take to the road, emerging from her dark forest to share her healing powers, her magic and her wisdom.

Baba Yaga Van illustration for Sarah Graham's Samarivans fundraiser
Baba Yaga Van

Thank you Sarah for the opportunity to take part in this amazing project, I can't wait to see the grand total raised. X

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