A gallery in the Lake District is put on show just bright and sunny paintings on the most depressing day of the year.
The Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere plans to mark “Blue Monday” with an exhibition of sunshine and colour on the third Monday this month (18th).
The show will include a rarely-seen painting of Les Calanques in Provence by William Heaton Cooper, the grandfather of the gallery’s director Becky Heaton Cooper who is arranging the event to raise money for MIND, the mental health charity.
“It is the gloomiest time of the year and if there’s anything we can do to brighten people’s lives for a day, then it has to be worthwhile,” said Becky. “We have many works of art that we can’t put on display so it’s a very good excuse to choose some of the brightest featuring the most sunshine.”
Blue Monday was initially identified according to a formula devised by happiness and motivation expert, Cliff Arnall, then a lecturer at Cardiff University. His “equation”, taking into account distance from Christmas, debts and the weather, is now being used by mental health charities to highlight the need to change our routines and give our psychological well-being some attention.
It’s said to be the peak day for couples consulting divorce lawyers; when the post-Christmas blues set in; when people have spent up at Christmas but not yet been paid in January; when it’s still dark in spite of the shortest day having passed.
But an annual campaign to “beat Blue Monday” was established by Andy Green, a leading expert in brand storytelling, creativity and PR strategy. An author and Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures & Commerce and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Andy has previously marked Blue Monday by filling his office with sand, decorating it with sun umbrellas and asking staff to come to work in Hawaiian shorts.
One year he arranged for a Brazilian drummer, Claudio Kron, to teach a group of university students the rudiments of making rhythm in just an hour. Kron said: “I believe if your heart beats you can play the drums. In Brazil the carnival has proved time and time again to be the greatest event for making people happy. It was the perfect way to help brighten up the most depressing day of the year.”
The Heaton Cooper initiative has been hailed by Andy Green who said: “This wonderful exhibition shows that you can transform the symbolically most depressing day of the year into a celebration of life, and all that there is to enjoy.”
The exhibition is free but visitors will have the chance to donate to MIND, the mental health charity and to pick up leaflets about dealing with SAD – seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that recurs in the winter months.
MIND South Lakeland chief officer Jonathan Ingram said: “We are delighted that the studio is doing this to raise awareness of the work of South Lakeland Mind. Good mental health is so important, and our local provision for those people who need support can only continue if other people keep supporting our work.
“’The past few weeks have been harrowing for many people, with the floods bringing headline news to our own doors. The impact of this will last for a long time to come, and it looks like being a much harder January than usual for many people.”
William Heaton Cooper said of Les Calanques: “The brilliant light of Provence was a revelation to me. I was intoxicated with the light and colour tones, and painted all hours, even at night on the quay, with a more highly-pitched range of colours than I had ever used for landscape”. It is a noticeably different style and subject for the famous Lakes artist. Painted at just 22 years of age, and shortly after he had left the R.A. Schools, it is almost a homage to Paul Cezanne, one of his favourite painters, looking at the shapes and tones of the hills surrounding the sunlit harbour.
Meanwhile, a Kendal businessman is also aiming to raise funds for the mental health charity MIND on Blue Monday this month.
Neil Corrigan has offered £100 to the South Lakes branch of the charity if he can get 100 people to read his news blog about fighting depression with cheerful blues music – especially after the recent floods.
“At this time of the year you might know someone struggling with depression. And you will know businesses who are struggling to see the light and move forward,” said Neil who is owner and managing director of Creative Lakes, the marketing and branding specialists based in Kendal.
Blue Monday is now being used by mental health charities to highlight the need to change our routines and give our psychological well-being some attention. Working with MIND, Neil wants to show that blue is actually far from being a sad colour, and he has a list of “blues” songs that are uplifting. “What’s the one thing that will make you feel instantly happier at this time of the year? A bit of blue in the sky. We long for summer when both the sky and the sea are blue. And the lakes. Why else did we choose blue for our Creative Lakes brand colour.
“Heard some unexpected good news? It came “out of the blue”, as do exciting new ideas. When we want to get away from it all we head to the wide blue yonder. Our top performing companies are described as “blue chip”. And think how we all get excited when there’s a Blue moon to give extra light in the night sky.”
South Lakeland Mind provide information and signposting on a wide range of mental health issues – including depression and SAD – along with a range of support to help people understand and cope with problems. Jonathan Ingram said: “We are delighted that Creative Lakes are doing this to raise awareness of our work.”
You can read Neil’s uplifting message, see his list of cheering blues songs, and help raise money for MIND here: Bright words for Blue Monday