Luke Bitmead Foundation update

We have linked with The James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund which has been set up in the memory of another much loved son who ended his life when he was just 21.  We seem to share many of the thoughts and ideas that we feel are important to pursue, to help people become more compassionate, and so diffuse the stigma that has been attached for far too long to suicide.  Clare Milford-Haven - James's Mother - arranged a meeting in London which I attended, to discuss with six other Mothers, how best to influence the medical profession to improve care and understanding so that these tragedies may be prevented.  It is a huge comfort to us all to know that we are succeeding in raising awareness, and thank you for your support.
The BBC's new online mental health campaign, Headroom is fronted by Ruby Wax.  Her contribution is Ruby's Room, a seven-minute weekly slot in which she applies her trademark humour to a series of films covering such issues as depression, self-esteem, bipolar disorder and OCD.  
Ruby talks about her striking career turn in an article by John Daniel in Therapy Today.  In it she says she is grateful for the opportunity to combine her talent to entertain with the new knowledge she's acquired in psychotherapy and neuroscience and is pleased that there currently seems to be a renaissance of more 'civilized' programming in the UK media.  'People say, "Should the BBC be doing this kind of stuff?"  And I say that's exactly what the BBC should be doing.  That's their responsibility - to reflect where culture is now.  And culture ain't so well now, so they'd better reflect that."
Visit Ruby's Room at www.bbc.co.uk/headroom
I was shocked when I realised we had put our news and comments about mental health down at the bottom of this page reflecting what has been going on in society for far too long.  It will now be woven in with other plans, events and news that we feel are relevant to us developing into a memorial fund that is worthy of your continued support and the name Luke Bitmead.
The winner of the first Luke Bitmead Writers Bursary is ANDREW BLACKMAN.
He proved to be a difficult man to seek out and none of us had met him before he was presented with his cheque and received our congratulations.  Later, in the early hours of the morning he wrote about how he felt.  With Andrew's permission we quote from:
"It's past four in the morning and I can't sleep.  Haven't slept all night.  I tried reading for a while, but that didn't work - I couldn't focus for more than a few seconds at a time.  All that I have been able to do is lie in bed for five hours with my eyes wide open, staring into the darkness while Genie sleeps beside me, only waking up every hour or so to mumble "You OK, sweetheart?"
Am I OK??  I'm fantastic !  I just won the Luke Bitmead Writers Bursary.  The prize £2,500 and a publishing contract with Legend Press !!!   After years of writing with no prospect of success, I have a publishing contract for my first novel.  I can call myself a writer without having to qualify or justify it.
I think that is why I can't sleep.  It's mostly pure, uncut, grade A adrenalin of course, but I think my brain is also buzzing so much because it's trying to process the enormous change that has occurred in a single evening."
Thank you Andrew that is just what we hoped to achieve with Luke's Fund.  For those of you that would like to read more of how Andrew felt go to http://www.andrewblackman.wordpress.com/
James Higgerson who won second prize has been asked by Tom Chalmers to let him see his full manuscript so exciting step for James and we will let you know how that progresses.
James has written to us saying how he felt and with his permission we share some of it with you:  
My entire experience with the Luke Bitmead Bursary has exceeded my expectations.  It was a pleasure to meet you and the other people involved with the process.  I read a large part of "White Summer" on the coach home yesterday, and I am heading into the garden shortly to read the rest.  It's an excellent book, with much more depth than I perhaps initially expected.  There are some amazing lines in there and it's a story that invites you to read the next part as soon as possible.  I can see why you're so proud.  I would love to help the bursary in the future, as I am indebted to you all for everything you've done for me.  To have some validation from the industry has given me the confidence to believe that I will be published, which is absolutely invaluable.    
James has also given us an idea for raising funds that we are working on and will give more news about in due course.                                                                                                                        
Andrew Kirby who took a very close third place gave us his thoughts to share with you:
It's hard to put into words what it meant to be a recipient of the first Luke Bitmead Writers' Bursaries, but seeing as though I'm supposed to be a writer, and words are supposed to be my tools, I'll give it a go.  When I first heard about the bursary, and the reasons why it was being made available, I was in the middle of a slump which almost convinced me that I should give it all up.  All I could think of were the difficulties, the rejections, and the loneliness of trying to become a writer.  But just by entering, I made myself do at least something in order to get myself going again. That being said, I never expected to be a winner.
Being invited to the award evening at the Yorkshire Grey pub, along with Luke's family and his publishers, Legend Press was an absolute bolt from the blue.  It was a white hot summer night reminiscent of one of the nights in his novel, White Summer.  Everything felt surreally brilliant.  Suddenly I hoped.  When my name was read out as the third prize winner.  I had to pinch myself to believe it was true, and grinning like a loon, I collected my cheque and a copy of Luke's book as my prize.  The award is both validation of my continuing toil to be a writer and also a reward - my prize money almost doubled in the envelope.  I was sure there was magic in the air!
But the whole night was about more than that.  It was about the opportunity to meet so many like-minded people, a chance to meet representatives from perhaps the UK's most innovative publishing houses, and also, of course, a chance to speak to Luke's brilliant family.  I can only express my awe at Luke's family.  The way they have tried to make something positive out of such a terrible loss is simply remarkable.  They will be my inspiration as I continue my quest to be a writer.  I'm not going to feel sorry for myself or wallow in self-pity when things don't go my way.
And if ever I do feel down, then I'll pick up my copy of White Summer and I'll suddenly remember what it is like to laugh like a loon.  Because that's Luke's book, painfully honest, painfully funny and an inspiration.'                                                                                                                                      
For us it is truly awe-inspiring to read what our first three prize winners have had to say.  It is validation from them that we are on the right road to achieve what Luke intended.  I would just like to remind you of the words of Ben Sweetland:
More information will follow about the other writers on the short list.
Please keep scrolling down to read the up date with regard to mental health.
Writer's Bursary 2008
Entries for the first Luke Bitmead bursary to support fledgling novel writers closed on 1st March 2008. The winner was announced on 24th July 2008. The bursary presented a cash award of £2,500 for the winner and a publishing contract from Legend Press. Additional prizes of £500 for second place, £400 for third place and £100 to each of the eight runners-up were made at the celebration ceremony in London.
The judging panel comprised Legend Press MD Tom Chalmers and Luke's family together with top Swiss fiction writer Zoe Jenny and UK novelist Sam Mills.
We will be continuing to work with Legend Press to ensure that Luke's name and memory lives on - not only through his work, but through this wonderful bursary too.  For those of you lucky enough to have met Luke you will know that he was hugely compassionate and it was his idea to help set up a bursary to assist struggling talented writers.  after the success of the first bursary we all feel inspired to raise funds to try and provide another Writers Bursary in 2009. Watch this space!
Luke's publisher Legend Press has been a huge support since Luke's death and it is fantastic that the winner will not only get a lump sum of £2,500 but also the 'Holy Grail' of a publishing deal.  They will ensure that, as with all their new authors, they give our winner of the bursary Andrew Blackman as much support as they can, and offer him the most effective creative platform from which to showcase his talent.
Guidelines and criteria will be reviewed for 2009. For 2008 they were: 
Submissions from writers will be accepted between 1st January 2008 and 1st March 2008, with the winner being announced in July 2008.  
Only adult fiction is eligble for this bursary, no children's books or non-fiction.  
The judging panel will consist of Luke's mother and sister, Legend Press and also two best-selling authors; top Swiss fiction writer Zoe Jenny and UK novelist Sam Mills.  
Entrants must be aged 16 or over. There is no upper age restriction for entry but all submissions must be from first-time, non-published authors - particularly those who are talented but whose personal or financial circumstances are making it especially hard for them to focus on writing as a career.  
Novels must be already completed before entry. Unfinished manuscripts will not be accepted. Please submit 3-4 sample chapters initially by email to bitmeadbursary@legendpress.co.uk 
Writers must also submit a personal statement outlining why they would particularly benefit from the bursary. This will form a key part of the judging process.
For all enquiries please email bitmeadbursary@legendpress.co.uk 
You can find out more about Legend Press and its other published titles at http://www.legendpress.co.uk/
Leading mental health charities Rethink and Mind have joined forces with the Institute of Psychiatry and Mental Health Media to form a new coalition.  Moving people, to devise an anti-stigma marketing campaign aimed at challenging public attitudes towards mental health in England.
The coalition has been formed in response to a Department of Health survey that shows that mental health stigma is still rife.  Research for Moving People carried out by Rethink has found that nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems has been affected by stigma and discrimination, with two thirds saying they have stopped doind things because of the stigma they face.  The anti-stigma marketing campaign will be launched in January 2009.
We feel tremedously heartened to have heard this news.  It means there is an opportunity for us all to think and behave differently and learn how to manage mental health problems compassionately.  To read more about this go to movingpeople.org.uk
Another interesting fact is that in 2007   276.1million was spent on GPs writing prescriptions for antidepressants.  Societies ability to change how we value and relate to each other might be more affective than taking medication.  Medication cannot filll the void we feel we have inside when we have depressive feelings.  Medication has its place but perhaps we have allowed it to have too significant  a place 

Mental health research
The second strand to the Memorial Fund is now taking shape. We have learned that the UK has the highest suicide rate in Europe, with young men being particularly vulnerable. This is a tragic statistic in what is supposed to be a civilised society. We have heard from many families now who have suffered similar losses of  sons and daughters in such and tragic way and we want to help stop this terrible cycle perpetuating.
The Coroner's inquest  into Luke's death will help to reveal the short comings in his treatment. This will give us a clearer indication of what we need to focus on and where the money we have raised - and with your continued generosity will continue to raise - can have the most effect. We hope to prevent our tragedy being repeated. We have already heard from other families who have suffered similar trauma. Changes will be made. Understanding will grow. Our love for Luke and your support will keep us strong and determined.

Thank you so much to all those who have sent in donations and bought Luke's books. We will ensure your generosity is put to good use and Luke's hard graft, patience and determination over many years in reaching his goal of becoming a published writer will be remembered.

How to contribute to Luke's Memorial Fund
For those who wish to contribute to the Fund please send cheques made payable to LUKE BITMEAD MEMORIAL FUND, c/o Chris Hanson at The Hanson Partnership LLP Chartered Accountants, Unit 9 Cirencester Business Park, Tetbury Road, Cirencester, Glos, GL7 6JJ.

Please do provide us with a contact name and address when making a donation so we can invite you to future launches and gatherings. We extend our deepest thanks to those who have already pledged their support. Further information about the Fund and other works written by Luke will continue to be posted here and on the Legend Press website in due course.