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Artist Bobby Baker wins Mind Book of the Year 2011

14 September 2011

Bobby Baker drawing
Mental health charity Mind today presented performance artist Bobby Baker with its prestigious Book of the Year Award for her ‘Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me’. The work, which is a collection of drawings created over a decade of her life, is a poignant visual documentary of Bobby’s experiences of mental (and later physical) ill-health, as well as her eventual recovery. Originally intended to be private, these drawings were shown in a hugely popular exhibition at Wellcome Collection in 2009.

'Diary Drawings' is a collection of 158 drawings from a total of 711 that Bobby produced between 1997 and 2008, and it is the first book of its kind to win the Award in its 30-year history. The combination of drawings and writing provides a graphic, often darkly comic insight into the life of an artist grappling with huge internal upheavals. As well as an introductory essay by author Marina Warner, 'Diary Drawings' includes essays by Bobby and by her daughter Dora Whittuck, a clinical psychologist.

Mind Book of the Year judges Fay Weldon, Blake Morrison and Michele Roberts chose 'Diary Drawings' from more than 100 entries as this year's greatest literary contribution to increasing understanding of mental health issues. Runner-up Emma Henderson was given a Highly Commended award for her debut novel 'Grace Williams says it loud', a passionate and honest portrayal of life and love in a psychiatric hospital.

Judge Fay Weldon said of 'Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me': "This is the first graphic autobiography we've ever had in Mind's Book of the Year - and it was very graphic! She's such an energetic and lively person and this just shows through in her honest view of herself and people around her.

"You can't help but respond to it. I think there's a sea change with this year's entries into a kind of acceptance about the possibilities and the future people with mental health problems can have."

On winning, Bobby Baker said: "I've scarcely ever won anything in my life! I can't imagine anything I'd be more proud to win in my whole life than the Mind Book of the Year Award. I'm beyond pleased and it means an awful lot to people like me who've had experience of mental illness and for my family too."

The annual Mind Book of the Year Award, now in its 30th year, celebrates outstanding works of fact or fiction that heighten understanding of mental health issues. Nominated alongside Bobby Baker for 'Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me' were Emma Henderson for 'Grace Williams says it out loud', Joanne Limburg for 'The Woman who Thought too Much', John Marzillier for 'The Gossamer Thread', Candia McWilliam for 'What to Look for in Winter', Tim Parks for 'Teach us to Sit Still', Wendy Perriam for 'Broken Places' and Rupert Thomson for 'The Party's Got to Stop'.

'Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me' was published in 2010 by Profile Books in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust.

Image ‘Day 400’. Image © Bobby Baker; photograph © Andrew Whittuck.

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