Our dedicated staff and volunteers come from all walks of life. This includes people who have experienced mental illness, as well as those with experience working in the mental healthcare sector.
We are artists, musicians, caregivers and innovators. We draw from this diverse range of experience and expertise to provide a unique service – using music and the arts to empower people on their journeys of recovery.
What sets us apart is our emphasis on recovery through the arts, and our use of non-clinical environments to achieve it. It is plain to see the positive impact that our work has on people’s lives.
We are honoured to have Terry Hall (The Specials), Barry Ashworth (Dub Pistols), and Kevin Cummins (Music Photographer) as our patrons.
“These are terribly testing times for those of us with mental health issues. My mental health deteriorated towards the end of 2020. The thing that got me through was communication. If you’re suffering, then it is incredibly important to tell people... family, friends, doctors, Tonic! Tell them to check on you... always. Share your health issues… they aren’t problems. Most of all… stay safe… stay secure... We’ll get there!”
Terry Hall is lead singer of The Specials.
“I support Tonic because of the great work they do bringing the issue of mental health into the open. They are a passionate team that understand the problems people with mental illness face. The music industry has many artists that suffer from depression and other issues. There is a stigma around mental health and Tonic help to challenge this and raise awareness - that is why I give them my full support and backing.”
Barry Ashworth founded electronic music group Dub Pistols in 1996.
“It’s vitally important to support groups and charities like Tonic who work tirelessly on behalf of people with mental health problems... this is why I was honoured to accept a role as a patron of Tonic and hopefully with your help we can all make a difference.”
Kevin Cummins is a music photographer.
BBC 6 Music
Meet the Team
Founders & Trustees
Steph explored the themes of music, social justice and mental health in her fine art degree. This led her to a career as a social worker, working with adults with severe and enduring mental illness at an NHS Trust, and then later within a University Student Wellbeing Service.
Steph co-founded Tonic while working as a Care Coordinator in a Community Mental Health Team. Her clients frequently cited the importance of music in their recovery, but there was a lack of creative services and resources to refer clients onto. Frustrated by this, Steph and her colleague Lisa, inspired by the many festivals and gigs they attended, set out to create a music event that their clients could be involved with, and Tonic was born.
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Despite having no prior experience of event management, Steph organised sell-out gigs at Portsmouth Pyramids, the iconic 100 Club, The Wedgewood Rooms, The Joiners and The Cellar. Money raised from these gigs paved the way to fund free music & art workshops, as well as funding EPs & LPs for musicians living with mental illness. We now have a shop that provides emotional support, including a studio with full creative timetable and two choirs, supporting hundreds of people each year.
“Tonic is everything I love – music, art and incredible people. We have been blessed to meet and support the most inspirational people, and to have such a kind and supportive creative team. Tonic is not a job, it’s a way of life.”
Lisa co-founded Tonic Music for Mental Health with Steph at a time when they both worked together in a Community Mental Health Team. Lisa had experienced her own journey with depression and anxiety, and wanted to support others in a more creative way.
The founders conceived the idea, breathed life into the idea, and raised it to be something quite amazing.
Due to personal reasons, Lisa had to take a step back from active parenting of Tonic, but she is proud to have seen Steph and the Tonic crew continue to nurture her baby. She will always be there to offer encouragement and support.
Lisa is proud to have taken on an important role as one of the Tonic trustees.
Founder & Trustee
Abbie is a Science Writer/Editor by trade and an aspiring but not particularly accomplished musician. She had been looking into retraining in music therapy but was put off by the formality of the courses and heard about the wonderful work that Tonic were doing. She soon became involved with helping behind the scenes and has never looked back since.
“Tonic provides a variety of inclusive, supportive and unjudgmental communities. We have small groups, larger choirs, or people who just pop into the shop for a mooch through some vinyl, a chat, and a cup of tea. It is a small slice of how the world should be, but too often isn't. Little by little, we are looking to change this.”
Vicki is a registered Mental Health Nurse and has worked in the NHS for over 30 years. Most of this time has been spent managing acute admission wards and supporting adults in times of crisis. Vicki currently manages a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit in Sussex. She is absolutely passionate about fighting to save, improve and protect the NHS so everybody can access a fully funded health service in their time of need.
When not working, Vicki enjoys walking her golden retriever puppy along Brighton beach, chasing sunsets and going to gigs. She loves listening to soul, funk, ska and reggae. Her favourite artists are Paul Weller and Bowie. She also has a soft spot for The Specials who have been really supportive of Tonic.
Vicki is a great believer in the power of music to improve our mental health and help us feel more connected. She can often be found on Tonic’s information stands at gigs and loves hearing people’s stories.
“I feel humbled and privileged to be part of Team Tonic. I have met so many inspirational people who share similar passions and values. We are all very down to Earth and bags of fun to work with so... get involved!”
Vinny Peculiar [aka Alan Wilkes] is a Midlands-based musician, songwriter and a former first level nurse in mental health and learning disability services.
His 2016 album ‘Silver Meadows’, a concept album based on his experiences working in long stay institutions, is dedicated to his late brother who suffered with schizophrenia.
Trustee / Workshop Facilitator
Vinny has facilitated creativity and confidence building workshops for Tonic in various locations including nightclubs, universities, colleges and NHS specialist mental health facilities.
His musical influences include David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Ray Davies. As well as playing Vinny Peculiar shows, he has a Glam Rock tribute band called ‘Feather Cut’.
Steve works on bids and grant applications for Portsmouth City Council. He has a background in the charity sector both as a manager and a trustee.
He is a fan of live music and the power it has to bring people together.
“I am proud to be a part of Tonic as a trustee – the work it does has never been more important.”
Dr John Barnes is a Consultant Psychiatrist in Rehabilitation. He has been with the Somerset Partnership NHS Trust (Sompar) since 1997, working across community and hospital rehabilitation settings. He has been consultant to Ash Ward low secure rehabilitation service in Bridgwater since 2011.
John has supported the development of rehabilitation psychiatry within Somerset and in the South West region, and he is a trainer of core and advanced trainees in psychiatry. John is himself trained in family interventions in psychosis, and is an advocate of a range psychological and social approaches to mental illness, including creative therapies and participation in music and the arts.
John worked with Tonic on the development of the Creative City Somerset 2019 arts and music project for clients of Sompar, which included Tonic’s Vinny Peculiar giving workshops to help participants write and perform a song. John and Vinny also co-presented a workshop at a national conference for rehabilitation psychiatrists in November 2019. John is currently working with colleagues in Somerset, planning a follow-up to the Creative City project.
John has been an adviser to Tonic since January 2019, helping the team with planning and evaluation. On his visits to Tonic HQ John has attended workshops in guitar and bass, as well as the Tonic Ska Choir.
Jo is a mental health nurse and CBT therapist. She is currently the psychology lead in an NHS community mental health rehabilitation team.
Jo has previously worked as the clinical manager of a nationally acclaimed early intervention psychosis service; working in this area provided her with amazing opportunities to engage creatively with young people. One of the highlights of Jo's time in early intervention was a music and spoken word night at a grassroots venue, with performances by the young people she worked with.
Music and performance are essential to Jo's own wellbeing and a huge part of her life. She has punk rock roots, was a DJ in an indie club in the 90s, and can now often be found at festivals in the summer months, performing with Samba Reggae band Batala Portsmouth.
Jo is a passionate believer in the positive power of creativity, self-expression, music and dance.
“I am delighted to be involved with the Tonic Rider; a fantastic programme that promotes positive mental health in the music industry.”
Jade is a classically trained mezzo-soprano singer from North Wales, who left behind opera arias to front Cardiff and Brighton based rock, punk and soul bands. After taking a short hiatus from her own music, Jade is now the vocalist of a London based jazz quartet.
Her main musical influences are Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley and Billie Holiday, but she loves the raw and honest attitude of John Lydon!
Jade is the music facilitator for our vocal groups and the Tonic Punk Choir.
“Being at the heart of Tonic is wonderful as it means I get to see people develop both personally and creatively. Watching the confidence, friendship and abilities grow within the groups is an amazing thing to be a part of. I’m very proud of the vocal group, who all work so hard to develop their voices and confidence. Through positive risk-taking they are achieving what once seemed out of reach.”
“I’m really excited to be leading the punk choir. Not only is this such a fun and creative project, but it will also be a chance for all those involved to come together and sing those great punk songs that stand for change - something we can apply to Tonic’s ethos of challenging the stigma around mental health.”
Steve is a registered mental health nurse, singer/songwriter and event organiser.
You can listen to Steve's music at: www.stevelowis.com
Steve has gained a wealth of knowledge and skills over 15 years, working for Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust in various clinical and community settings. Since 2014, he has worked as a clinically experienced trainer at the Recovery College. This role has involved the development and delivery of recovery-focused courses. Through facilitated discussions, the courses aim to help reduce the stigma around mental health, empower people to take control of aspects of their lives, and instil the hope and belief that mental health recovery is possible.
Tonic Rider Coordinator
Over a 20-year period, Steve has been a major contributor to the Southampton music scene, both playing live and organising events in the city. Since 2017, he has been the Sofar Sounds - Southampton Leader. Steve also runs Sound Level Events - an events team who arrange corporate and public events in unique places around Hampshire - and invests his time with the Southampton Networking Group (SoNG), helping to create a thriving music scene in the city.
“Joining the Tonic team is a dream come true for me as I am able to combine my two main passions of music and mental health nursing. The Tonic Rider is an important project that will help raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention in the music industry. I am proud to be a part of it and to challenge the stigma around mental illness.”
Brigitte is a mental health occupational therapist. She worked with Steph and Lisa when they founded Tonic and attended the first Tonic festival.
Since then, Brigitte has followed Tonic’s journey and is delighted to have joined the team as a Mental Health Practitioner.
“I’m a keen gardener, enjoy making cakes and love dancing (modern jive/Ceroc). I’m passionate about mental health and music.
“I enjoy all music, from classical to punk, but rock ‘n’ roll is my first love.”
Recovery Through Music Coordinator
Simon is our editor, copywriter and bid writer. He made our website and now maintains it. He also writes our core content.
“I will never forget the day I first discovered the true power of music when, aged 14, I was introduced to the classic Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon. There were two tracks in particular that blew me away - Time and Us & Them. Never before had music moved me in this way. I experienced both an emotional and physical response.”
Editor / Copywriter
When not sat at a computer, Simon is the cover facilitator for our guitar and bass workshops. He also does our garden variety IT, graphic design and photo editing.
“I believe that music can be the difference in people’s lives that carries them on their journeys of recovery. There was a time when it felt like music was all I had - the only thing keeping me afloat - and this is why Tonic’s work is so important to me.”
Dawn has been part of the Tonic family since 2018 and gets involved with everything she can. This includes event coordinating, fundraising, social media, the Tonic Punk Choir, Tonic’s merch stand at events, assisting the arts and crafts group, and manning the shop at Tonic HQ.
Fundraising & Events Coordinator
“No day is ever the same at Tonic. Whether I’m meeting new people, going to new places or learning new skills, I love it. The best bit for me is that, not only do I get to be a part of this amazing team, but I get to see first hand what Team Tonic provides - helping people with their recovery through music.
“The Tonic shop is such a great place to escape and relax. There's always a warm welcome, a smiling face, a listening ear, and lots of opportunities to get involved.”
Billy has been creating artwork for Tonic for a number of years, and in 2020 became a full member of Team Tonic. He is responsible for creative design and graphics across the whole Tonic family.
Billy has been DJing around Portsmouth and the South Coast for the past 30 years.
“Tonic is an inspiration to so many people, I am humbled to do what I can to help.”
Jason has been playing bass since the age of 8 and gigging since he was 12. By 20 years old he had gained a degree in bass performance, which started his journey to becoming a freelance musician. His first big audition was for a major label artist, which he went on to tour with supporting major UK artists.
Alongside touring and recording, Jason always had private students, which is where he began learning the skill of teaching effectively for different types of people and needs. At present, he tours throughout the year, produces and writes music, as well as being hands on with Tonic.
As Tonic's Music Director, Jason’s role involves facilitating music workshops and creating backing tracks for the Ska and Punk choirs. He's always working on new and creative methods of teaching for the workshops, and is really interested in psychology and the link between music and mental health.
“Tonic is important to me as I know the importance of music and arts for our general wellbeing. Having something like Tonic bridges the gap between the two. It enables you to engage in creative activities in a safe space with people from all walks of life and experiences.”
Leonie is a singer, songwriter and session vocalist from Portsmouth. She has also been a vocal coach and music facilitator for over 10 years, working with various projects across the city.
Her professional achievements include providing backing vocals and lead vocals for various artists, such as Boy George - both on recording projects and performing live.
Leonie facilitates the Tonic Ska Choir.
Leonie's vocals have gained her commercial success across a variety of platforms such as Spotify (with her band Blame Jones), and she was awarded a Gold Disc for her contribution to the late Eva Cassidy album ‘Somewhere’.
“Finding Tonic and being given the opportunity to work for them has given me the platform to do what I love most - helping people find their voice and grow the confidence to use it.”
Jeordie is a published academic and PhD researcher of substance use amongst working musicians at Goldsmiths, University of London. Previously, Jeordie graduated with a First Class Honours BSc Psychology and Sociology (University of Suffolk), followed by a MSc Research Methods with Distinction (University of Essex).
In addition, Jeordie is a graduate member (MBPsS) of the British Psychological Society and has contributed to the ‘Touring and Mental Health Manual’, alongside working as a research assistant within the field of mental health in the music industry.
As a researcher and data analyst, Jeordie’s role is to collect and analyse data to help with the everyday running of Tonic programmes. Outside of work, Jeordie regularly attends gigs and festivals, always wears band t-shirts, and has a collection of over 2,000 CDs, mostly from charity shops.
Researcher / Data Analyst
Our resident Blog and Creative Writing facilitator, David has studied both fiction and non-fiction literary forms with diplomas in Media Studies and Journalism. He is currently writing a fantasy novel.
David enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy, listening to classic rock, modern indie and alternative music, and watching copious amounts of gaming and review-based vlogs.
“Tonic's work is important to me because of the supportive, encouraging and creative environment it provides for all those involved. For me, Tonic feels the safest place to work and I feel very supported with my autism diagnosis – I can finally discuss this openly and not have to worry about making mistakes due to my condition.
“Tonic has given me the confidence to be myself and I’m pleased to be involved with the incredible work and support that they provide.”
Tonic Music for Mental Health is an inclusive and non-judgemental organisation.
We do not tolerate unlawful discrimination, bullying or harassment.
We seek to create an environment that promotes dignity and respect for everyone – because we believe in equality.
We respect the unique worth, inherent dignity and human rights of every individual.
At Tonic Music for Mental Health we celebrate difference.
By drawing from a wide range of experiences, we ensure that no good idea goes unnoticed, and no one with a fresh perspective is left out – because it takes all kinds of people to run a successful charity.
Diversity makes us greater than the sum of our parts.
Why are we called Tonic?
In our name Tonic Music for Mental Health the word Tonic has two meanings:
1. “Something that makes you feel happier or healthier”
2. “The first note in a musical scale” – the tonic is the most important degree of a scale, serving as the focus for both harmony and melody. Likewise, there is a strong case for mental wellbeing being the most important part of our health. Subjective terms associated with the tonic in music include at home, stable, at rest, and a feeling of resolution. Almost all music ends with a final statement of the tonic.
Definitions (in quotation marks) are from the Macmillan Dictionary.
The use of the word Tonic is also a nod to 2-Tone Tonic Suits.