Playlist: Dolly Sen’s Being Mental and Magnificent


A playlist by Dolly Sen as part of her guest editorship on DAO.


The theme is being mental and magnificent. Being mad is painful, that is true, but if you are mad, your life isn’t necessarily over. It can also give you permission to live a life true to yourself, because being normal is not usually a life of authenticity. Being normal is a social construct that suits the powers that be, that advantages those who control us. Those of us who are not normal are conditioned to hate ourselves.

For most of my early madness I was alone and self-hating. When I had my first book launch with my memoir ‘The World is Full of Laugher’ I had no friends. My publisher invited most of the people who attended the event. There was Robert Dellar and a few others from Mad Pride. I hadn’t heard of them before. Robert Dellar showed me utter kindness and encouragement. More than any mental health professional had done. Maybe there was something in this Mad Pride lark. Anything that takes away the feeling of shame, that is based on action and creativity, was good enough for me.

Subvertise film stillUnfortunately there is no early Mad Pride stuff on video, but I found this video, playing the Restarts’ ‘Outsider’, and subverting the government funded ‘Time to Change’ advert, asking what is so great about being normal anyway. What Mad Pride shows there is an alternative way to being expectedly meek and subservient due to mental health issues. My connection to Mad Pride led me work with a community arts project called Creative Routes, which hosted Bonkersfest, a free festival celebrating madness and creativity. Here is a clip, starting at 1.08 and ending at 2.12, of what it was like. You see me trying to add more light to the world.

One person that has helped me for the long haul is Henry Rollins. He is a punk musician, actor, writer, television and radio host, and comedian. He said one thing that has always stayed with me. “If you hate your parents, the man or the establishment, don’t show them up by getting wasted and wrapping your car around a tree. If you really want to rebel against your parents, out-learn them, outlive them, and know more than they do.” Be more beautiful than the ugliness that is trying to define you, is what I have learnt from him. You might be driven mad, but don’t collapse in on yourself, that’s what they want.

I don’t have to look beyond the UK for people who contribute to my energy and passion for art. James Leadbitter, aka the Vacuum Cleaner, uses his work to disrupt concentrations of power in wonderfully subversive ways. It recounts his views on activism, art, how to go mad in a safe and creative way, and breaking and making laws. He says “Art can change things. It can change cultural and social norms.” It can change the belief into that you can be both mad and magnificent. Fuck those who say otherwise.