Centre for New Writing lecturer Beth Underdown talks to acclaimed travel and nature writer, memoirist, broadcaster and children’s author Horatio Clare about his recovery from a catastrophic mental breakdown at the end of 2018, as told in his new book, Heavy Light.
Two years ago, following a series of increasingly deranged psychotic episodes and delusional fantasies, Horatio Clare suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown, recounted in Heavy Light, just out with Chatto & Windus.
Previously a producer on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and Radio 3’s The Verb, the Welsh-British author has written two memoirs, Running For The Hills and Truant: Notes From The Slippery Slope, a novella, The Prince’s Pen, various pieces of travel and nature writing, including A Single Swallow, Orison For A Curlew and Icebreaker – A Voyage Far North, and two children’s books. Aubrey And The Terrible Yoot and Aubrey And The Terrible Ladybirds, which were longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
Two years ago, following a series of increasingly deranged psychotic episodes and delusional fantasies, Horatio Clare suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown, recounted in Heavy Light, just out with Chatto & Windus. He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and spent several weeks in a secure psychiatric hospital in Wakefield, not far from where he lives with his family in West Yorkshire. Diagnosed bipolar, brought on by cannabis use, he was prescribed strong anti-psychotic drugs, but his subsequent journey to recovery, he says, has seen him reject almost everything his doctors told him.
Join Horatio as he chats about the book, rich with incident, oral history, reportage and investigation into how brain processes change from normal functioning to mania, to psychosis and back to normality, and into the philosophy and treatment of critical mental disorders, ranging from the pharmalocological to the radical post-psychiatry movement offering challenging agendas for the delivery and future of treatment. It asks urgent questions about mental health that affect each and every one of us: the story of how we experience, treat and regard madness is also the story of us and of our society. With admission rates to mental hospitals on the rise, and ever wider sections of society facing mental health issues, the book’s blurb suggests that Heavy Light has come at a critical time, telling “a moving human story of one writer’s experiences of the strangest reaches of the mind and the most searching thinking about its treatment”.
Beth Underdown is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing. Listed as one to watch in The Observer‘s New Faces of Fiction 2017 feature, her debut novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister, is based on the witch-hunts orchestrated by Matthew Hopkins in seventeenth-century Essex, and was described by The Girl On The Train author Paula Hawkins as “vivid and terrifying”.
The event is organised by Creative Manchester, a platform bringing together educators, civic leaders and employers to collaborate and help the next generation of innovators reach their true potential. Their programme of events includes Novel Voices, a regular literary series featuring Ellah P Wakatama in conversation with 10 debut authors.