The project is led by Tommy White and Emer McLaughlin in memory of Emmette Dillon, the driving force behind the LegenDerry Naked charity calendars, where locals stripped down for a calendar in aid of cancer research. Emmette died by suicide last year, so makeup artist Emer and Emmette’s good friend Tommy, a photographer, teamed up to create a fundraiser that would stem from Emmette’s work while raising awareness of health issues. mental.
Emer said: I didn’t know Emmette personally, but a friend put me in touch with Tommy in January and we met for coffee and to discuss what he had in mind to remember his friend and carry on his legacy. Eight months later and a lot of hard work, we have 30 beautiful photographs and we are almost ready for the exhibition.
“On the first day of filming, we had about seven or eight people, so Shipquay House gave us the space for free, which saved our lives. After that, people heard about the project or saw it online and many people got in touch to say they would like to be involved. Tommy has a studio at home, so I would do the makeup, if anyone wanted, and we would sit down for tea or coffee and talk for about half an hour. People were really nervous when they came in and then they would open up and tell us their personal stories and their reasons for participating and it was just beautiful. The process was amazing and sometimes sad too, but it just showed that there was a need for more awareness and funding for mental health services.
“I think it’s important to point out that the images are all suggestive. You can’t see anything and the photos are all so beautiful. We also asked everyone involved to write down what mental health means to them or their reason for participating. I understand that not everyone is ready, but some people have really opened up. Everyone has their own reasons, some people have participated because they know someone with poor mental health or have lost someone to suicide. Taking a picture isn’t so bad, but digging deep and telling the world how you feel is very difficult.
“This event is open to the public, as there is no point in having conversations about mental health without raising awareness of the charities that can help. Aware NI, Arc Fitness, Foyle Search and Rescue, Men’s Action Network, First Housing and Foyle Haven will all be in attendance. We tried to invite charities that would have been relevant to Emmette and her situation. The Mayor, Councilor Sandra Duffy, has been brilliant, providing space in the Guildhall and supporting her. She will say a few words in the night, as well as Mark H Durkan, the SDLP mental health advocate. We have Spar sponsored tea and coffee in Ballymagroarty and Doherty will send buns.
“It’s a free event with free entry. The night’s fundraiser is for Foyle Search and Rescue. It’s going to be a great night, so everyone is invited to come see the project and talk about mental health.