Performers – we need you too

Every MaDCaff we have held so far has been a perfect mixture of volunteers and performers. Sometimes our volunteers also perform and sometimes our performers also volunteer, so just because you want to volunteer that doesn’t preclude you from performing as well.

MaDCaff is a platform for anybody that has been affected by mental illness. That can include almost anyone, whether you have your own lived experience of being mentally unwell, even if it’s in the past, or whether you have supported a family member, a loved one, a friend, through their own mental illness, you are all welcome. We don’t expect people to get up and talk about their experience of mental illness or recovery from it, but you are welcome to do so if you want to and we encourage people to be open about it because that’s how we go about breaking down the unnecessary stigma that is attached to mental illness. We would also never question a performer about why they are choosing to perform at MaDCaff, that’s entirely up to you.

Right from the start we have made it a vital principle that nobody gets pressurised to perform, that’s what MaDCaff is all about. We want to provide a safe and supportive platform so that anyone who wants to perform can, and anyone that thought they might want to but doesn’t when they get there is at liberty to say say ‘not today, maybe another time’ but if they change their mind half way through, that’s fine too. We also never ever put a performer’s name on our posters because that is an automatic anxiety inducer for many people.

To encourage any budding performs out there, here are some of the great performers that have been coming to MaDCaff over the last few years.

If you feel inspired to perform at an upcoming MaDCaff, let us know – jump to the contact form at the bottom of the page. or email

This is Dai Sharkey. His mental health condition often makes it very hard for him to even leave the house, never mind perform in front of an audience. But when he comes to MaDCaff  he knows that it’s optional and nobody will lean on him to perform if he doesn’t feel like it and that he will be hugely appreciated when he does perform. And he’s a great performer too.

And Dai surprised us all when he brought his lovely daughter to perform with him when we were at Theatr Soar in Merthyr Tidfyl. That was a real treat, there’s nothing quite like a family connection to create beautiful harmonies and having her along helps Dai to know he has support if he needs it.

This is Cameron Watson, a man of many looks, but more importantly an extraordinary song-writer and a performer with a very distinctive voice. I was so impressed with one of his songs I asked if I could record it. Fortunately he was only living a mile away at the time so I was able to capture the song for posterity. He has a particular talent for creating a silent room, people listen intently and are often amazed that he was singing his own material.

Maggie Nichols is a regular performer too, seen here performing with her voice and keyboard as well as doing improvised dance with Miranda. She is an Avant-garde vocalist and has been an active participant in the European improvisational community since joining the Spontaneous Music Ensemble the late ’60s. Throughout her career, she has also worked to further women in improvised music and other creative arts not only by example, but through workshops and extensive collaborating. Maggie is a well-know singer on the Jazz and improvisation circuit but happily plays for free at MaDCaff.

Wikipedia Entry about Maggie

A series of interviews curated by Saxophonist, Flautist, Clarinettist, Composer and Improviser Julie Kjær

To learn more about Maggie, watch this fascinating interview

Marc Gordon, a virtuoso guitar player who composes guitar pieces with titles such as

‘Will we ever learn?’. He also works with other musicians and is often providing guitar support to other MaDCaff performers, sometimes with no notice at all, just a handful of chords and he can just fit right in, he’s that good. Marc has also regularly set up and monitored his PA system for us and is an all-round lovely and very talented chap.

Steve Acworth was a supporter of MaDCaff right from the outset. He was a lovely guy with talent, an amazing sense of humour, a collection of unusual instruments and a pet giraffe called Eiffel – see the video below. As the official photographer I also found Steve to be amazingly photogenic. Steve died in 2017 but he will not be forgotten.

It’s not all solo singer-songwriters, we have seen many collaborations too over the years, from choirs to bands to duos, spontaneous get-togethers and jams at the end of the evening, we’ve seen it all and we’ve loved the variety.

And even though the MaD in MaDCaff  stands for Music and Dance, we have been known to allow poets, spoken word artists, performance artists and many others to join in as well. We even had an interactive pole dancer at one event, and she was great.

by Rachel

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