Skip to main content

‘Fantastic’ day filled with live performances as Tonic Music for Mental Health opens its new Southsea headquarters

A UNIQUE Southsea-based charity that helps hundreds of people across the country with their mental health through the medium of music has ‘finally’ found a new home.

The team behind Tonic Music for Mental Health said it was ‘amazing’ to set up shop at the Frank Sorrell Centre, in Prince Albert Road, after almost two years operating online.

At an official opening event on Saturday (March 5) Tonic patron and Dub Pistols frontman Barry Ashworth cut the ribbon to the delight of those Watching

The ska choir performing at the opening of the new Tonic Music for Mental Health HQ in Southsea on March 5, 2022. Picture: Paul Windsor

This was then followed by a day of live music – featuring performances by the Tonic ska choir, Hannah Reem and Dominic Elton – and speeches from team members and supporters, including MP Stephen Morgan and TV actress Denise Black.

Musician Barry Ashworth has been involved with Tonic for nine years. He said: ‘It’s fantastic to see that they can finally get back to doing what they wanted to do before the pandemic.

‘It’s something that during Covid became even more relevant. Mental health has always been an issue but people who had never experienced it before suddenly were – whether anxiety or depression.’

The ethos of Tonic is to provide a ‘recovery-led’ music programme to help people overcome any mental health problems they are facing.

Barry Ashworth cutting the ribbon on the new Tonic Music for Mental Health HQ on March 5, 2022. Picture: Paul Windsor

Participants can attend group sessions and music workshops for free. Through the Tonic Rider programme professionals can also access free mental health training and support.

Coronation Street and Emmerdale star Denise Black became an ambassador for Tonic after facing her own mental health issues.

The 63-year-old from Southsea said: ‘It’s more than just nice, it’s necessary.

‘As a performer who couldn’t perform during lockdown I felt very uncertain and my mental health deteriorated with all the pressures – just worrying about the pandemic and everything.

I was asked to take part in a charity skydive for Tonic last year and that basically re-booted my mental health.

‘Music is a universal language for all of us. Coming out of lockdown I think people have realised how important music and the arts are.’

A large chunk of money allowing Tonic to run from the centre for the next year came from an incredible £10,000 raised following the death of former Duran Duran tour manager Craig Duffy, who was a huge supporter of the charity.

Craig and his partner Sue Parmiter, who used to live in Southsea, were killed in a car accident in May last year.

His son Marcus Duffy, 26, said: ‘It feels pretty amazing that even after his death we have been able to do something positive.

‘He was really passionate about Tonic.’

Tonic founder Steph Langan added: ‘From a personal point of view music and art allow us to express ourselves when we can’t express ourselves in other ways such as verbally.

‘It’s great for us to be here finally – it’s been a long time coming, we’ve been desperate for it to happen.’

Prior to the lockdowns Tonic was operating from a ‘small’ venue in Highland Road.

To find out more visit