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Bobby Baker wins Mind Book of the Year
The performance artist Bobby Baker has won the mental health charity Mind’s Book of the Year Award for her Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me. The work, which is a collection of drawings created over a decade of her life, is a poignant visual documentary of Bobby's experiences of mental, and later physical, ill-health as well as her eventual recovery.
Diary Drawings is a collection of 158 drawings from a total of 711 which Bobby produced between 1997 and 2008, and the first book of its kind to win the Award in its 30 year history. The combination of drawings and writing provides a graphic, often darkly comic insight into the life of an artist grappling with huge internal upheavals. As well as an introductory essay by author Marina Warner, Diary Drawings also includes essays both by Bobby and by her daughter Dora Whittuck, a clinical psychologist.
Mind Book of the Year judges, Fay Weldon, Blake Morrison and Michele Roberts chose Diary Drawings from over 100 entries as this year's greatest literary contribution to increasing understanding of mental health issues. Runner-up Emma Henderson was also given a Highly Commended award for her debut novel Grace Williams Says it Loud, a passionate and honest portrayal of life and love in a psychiatric hospital.
Fay Weldon, one of the judges, said of Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me:
"This is the first graphic autobiography we've ever had in Mind's Book of the Year - and it was very graphic! She's such an energetic and lively person and this just shows through in her honest view of herself and people around her. You can't help but respond to it. I think there's a sea change with this year's entries into a kind of acceptance about the possibilities and the future people with mental health problems can have."
On winning Bobby Baker said:
"I've scarcely ever won anything in my life! I can't imagine anything I'd be more proud to win in my whole life than the Mind Book of the Year Award. I'm beyond pleased and it means an awful lot to people like me who've had experience of mental illness and for my family too."
The Mind Book of the Year Award, now in its 30th year, celebrates outstanding works of fact or fiction that heighten understanding of mental health issues. John Marzillier, a member of the Society, was shortlisted this year for his The Gossamer Thread.
Earlier this week, writing in the Guardian, John O’Donoghue looked back over the shortlists from the 30 years of the award, discussing how much people’s understanding of mental health issues has changed over the period.