In this regular feature we meet long-term Barnet resident and social entrepreneur Amanda Lyddon who runs mental health charity Heart Reach ‘transforming the blues’ through arts, crafts and creativity.
My name is Amanda Lyddon and I have lived in Barnet for over 25 years. I call myself a Bipolar Grannie as I now have a seven year old grandson Dylan who lives in Australia. How did that happen? This has given my life an exciting new dimension and a new country to inspire me and visit. Australia is way ahead of us in craft and innovative quirky design and is a great place to develop ideas.
Originally I grew up in Hendon and went to Henrietta Barnet School before studying at Manchester University, joining Selfridges as a graduate trainee. I soon married and started a family and lived in Brighton and Leamington Spa before coming back to London to Barnet, working in retail for Principles and Laura Ashley (in the old branch in The Spires). Firstly we lived in Richmond Road, then The Drive and now I live in East Barnet Road having remarried. Something I love about Barnet is its village feel. You can always pop into Waitrose or down the High Street and bump into some familiar faces and stop and have a chat. Best of all it’s wonderful to see the small children that came to play with my children from Foulds School, all grown up and doing amazing things with their lives. The Victorian architecture, the green spaces, the closeness to the woods, the easy access to central London, the Buddhist Temple in Henry Road, loads of yoga and my new haunt Boyden’s Kitchen in Potters Road. These are all my favourite things about where I live.
Hopping on the overground, it’s so easy to get to my favourite London haunts. I love small quirky shops. Marylebone High Street, Broadway Market and Columbia Road are some of my best days out. They always inspire me to develop new products for the Heart Reach range. And I cannot end my day without making a detour to St Pancras station which is awesome.
Apart from shopping there are galleries galore in London. This month I will be going to see Yayoi Kusama and her pumpkins at the Victoria Miro gallery and Georgia O’Keefe who is coming to the wonderful Tate Modern. Great places to go with my Heart Reach Angel friends.
Healthy eating is a big part of my life and keeps me well. I endorse it at Heart Reach and try to walk my talk. London is full of farmers markets and shops like Whole Foods Market which I love to explore for new inspirations to eat. I also love the café culture of London which is getting more exciting all the time. One of my passions is to sit in a cafe with my laptop and work drinking my favourite herbal tea. Work doesn’t get much better!
Having struggled for most of my life with Bipolar, especially after losing a child to SIDS, I am now proud to say that I have started a wonderful charity that is helping creative people recovering from mental health problems. I have researched the subject widely and art and creativity can help lift you out of depression. I have found this to be true personally and it’s inspired me to become increasingly involved with mental health charities and art therapy. After a period with the Richmond Fellowship (now Eclipse, part of Mind charity), I gained valuable experience being heavily involved with the running of the social enterprise Arts 89 established with Barnet and Southgate College which had stalls in Grand Arcade in Finchley and Barnet Market. Setting up Heart Reach was a natural progression as what we do is make original crafts that we then sell to the community at fairs and events. We launched as a registered charity in January 2015 and have gone from strength to strength.
We meet on Mondays and Thursdays at ‘The Angel Factory’ at the Insight School of Art in New Barnet and we make, learn, teach and develop our products. Like all social enterprises there is always lots to do so we are also busy book keeping, working on our website and posting on social media. On Tuesday afternoons we go out into the real world and hang out at Boyden’s Kitchen where we knit and crochet and teach others.
If you want to know more please see our website (that we created ourselves!). Alternatively you can contact us directly on 07905 128545.