Jay Harrison, a Suicide Prevention Facilitator at Norfolk and Waveney Mind, has just completed 24 gigs in 24 hours to raise money for the charity. Yes, you read that right. Here, he reflects on an unforgettable day and night
Playing 24 gigs in 24 hours sounds challenging enough. But if you factor in travelling from venue to venue when the thermometer in your van is saying minus five degrees, then it becomes even more impressive! And yet this is exactly what Jay Harrison, a Suicide Prevention Facilitator at Norfolk and Waveney Mind, has achieved over the weekend. Jay is new to the world of mental health and working within a mental health charity, having run a carpentry business before becoming a Suicide Prevention Facilitator. Lived experience has led to this positive career change – and the opportunity to help where it is most needed.
Away from the day job he is a musician, as part of function band, Bear Club, and is a radio host for KL1 Radio. He decided to merge his interests by played an impressive 24 gigs in 24 hours (and almost 24 locations) for Norfolk and Waveney Mind, beginning with Alive Corn Exchange in King’s Lynn on Friday evening.
Jay set out to raise the money in honour of Jon Seymour, John Brindle and anyone else that has lost their battle with mental health. This year saw the tragic loss of Jon, a local photographer and pillar of the West Norfolk music scene. Jay says: ‘A vision of enthusiasm and joy, Jon was a kind-hearted soul brimming with a love and passion for music which shone through above all else. He was part of the furniture and everybody’s friend. Jon was loved more than he will ever know but sadly this love wasn’t enough. Personally, I only ever saw the happy, so when I received the news that he had taken his life I was filled with grief, sadness, regret. I’m heartbroken and can’t comprehend the gaping hole Jon will leave in the press pit of every gig.’
Jay adds: ‘It seems more poignant to me a decade removed from the loss of someone dear to me, John Brindle. Again, I had no idea John was struggling and he’d always been a hero and role model who I admired beyond words. The call to say he was gone was the worst day of my life and it’s something that has stayed with me and never really heals.’
Jay makes the point that they are just two of the 84 men who each week lose their fight. ‘That statistic is shocking, staggering and absolutely should not be the case! In 2022 I feel everyone, any gender, race, sexuality, demographic should be able to access help and support for mental health and this starts with us! Friends, family, the people most likely to notice the signs and be able to react. This can save a life. Just think about that for a moment – being an ear, making a cuppa, sending a text, just being present could be the difference between life and death. Nobody should feel ashamed to say they are struggling or too proud to seek help. Unfortunately, this is often the case in the male population with suicide being the leading cause of death for men under 50 years old in the UK.’
The challenge was Jay’s way of raising money for Norfolk and Waveney Mind. So how did it all go? Jay says: ‘The idea to play 24 gigs in 24 hours was certainly more glamorous than the feat itself and I think I gravely underestimated this. I also should have booked the Friday off work to avoid 40 hours of being awake, an oversight on my behalf. Having said that there were a lot of positives that kept me going to the end. The interest and engagement were off the scale and the opportunity to talk so openly and candidly about mental health to such positive response highlighted exactly why I was doing the challenge in the first place: to raise awareness and start conversations that continue long after I had finished the stint – in that respect I’d say it is mission accomplished.
He adds: ‘People have asked me what the most memorable part has been. I would love to be able to say that it was playing at the oldest working theatre in the UK on the same stage that Shakespeare allegedly appeared on, or perhaps the world renowned Captain Fawcett’s Emporium, or maybe even the camper van owned by the incredible Ian and Ali who welcomed me with open arms, lifting me up after one of the tougher gigs at the Tuesday Market Place Christmas Fair where I had battled with boom-box carrying elves, accordion players and a complete momentary inability to remember any words to any songs. I would love to say any of those things, but the answer has to be the cold! At times I was battling -5 temperatures to point where my thermometer in the van read 0 degrees and my mind went “oh… it’s getting mild out!” The whole experience has given me newfound appreciation for anyone that finds themselves out in these conditions with no choice. Maybe there’s a challenge in the future for that issue but not until I’ve caught up on some well needed sleep.’
Featured image of Jay Harrison, at the Tuesday Market Place Christmas Fair in King’s Lynn