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.
“I'm proud to be a patron of Tonic Music for Mental Health. They're a great organisation that run music and art projects that anyone can get involved in.
“One of the things I did when I became ill, because I couldn't communicate, was to start painting. My therapist had said it was a good way to express yourself, so I started to paint The Jackson 5, except the first one I drew ended up with six of them on it! Anything that gives you a voice is really good. Art and music are a great outlet and have been such an important part of my recovery.”
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.
Steph is founder and CEO of Tonic.
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.
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 frontline NHS worker and Tonic trustee.
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.
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 also has a Glam Rock tribute band, ‘Feather Cut’.
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 coordinator, 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 ways of learning 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.”
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."
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.”
Dawn is our events planner and coordinator.
She 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.
“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.”
Simon is our editor, copywriter and bid writer. He made our website and now maintains it. He also wrote our core content. When not sat at a computer, Simon is the cover facilitator for our guitar and bass workshops.
“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.”
“Music can provide sanctuary and an escape. It can bring calm and hope to an otherwise troubled mind. It can provide connection. What a book or film can achieve in two hours, a piece of music can achieve in two minutes.”
“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.”
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 advisor 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.
David facilitates our creative writing workshops and designs our flyers.
Samuel Carter-Brazier is a professional audio/visual producer and guitar tutor. He has over 10 years experience working with musicians, voice-over artists and on post-production projects.
Sam has experience as a session, touring and festival guitarist; as well as a composer and sound designer for independent films. His past clients include CNN, the BBC and CBBC.
Sam is our guitar facilitator.
He has worked for Tonic tutoring guitar and creating video content for the Tonic Ska Choir and our social media pages.
“My name is Jan. I also go under many other names, such as Ma Langan and Nanny Tonic. I am a volunteer for Tonic, which my daughter Steph runs.
I personally get a great deal out of the charity. When Tonic started out we went to fetes and festivals. It’s fantastic the banter you get from such an eclectic bunch of people. We have been fundraising at Victorious Festival, which is local to the charity in Southsea. When the Tonic shop opened my husband Tom and I helped to run it, selling vinyl and merchandise.”
“In 2019 I went to 16 gigs with The Specials - their lead singer is one of our patrons. We’ve had some moments on tour. I’ve danced with Lynval Golding at Coventry Cathedral and had my photo taken with Terry Hall.
Many people have been very emotional seeing a mental health charity at gigs - a humbling experience for me to be a part of.
The help I give to Tonic is a real tonic for me, and at 76 I am still enjoying it. Jan (Ma Langan)“
"Working with Tonic has given me a new lease of life. I love going to different fetes and festivals, and talking to people."
“I have realised that there is a massive need for what Tonic does, and I love being a part of it. My highlights must be meeting Dub Pistolero Barry Ashworth, and ‘The Specials' Terry Hall, both patrons of Tonic.”
Stan has been involved with Tonic from the very start. At just 12 years old, he would give up most weekends to help raise money at markets and events. As Tonic has progressed through the years, Stan’s involvement has grown. From setting up and selling items with Tonic at the Isle Of Wight Festival and Victorious Festival, to volunteering in the Tonic shop and working at Boomtown.
Age 17, Stan did a 15,000ft skydive to raise money for Tonic. This was a big milestone for Stan and helped both him and Tonic to grow stronger. Stan has taken official photos for Tonic on The Specials 2019 UK tour, as well as at many other gigs and festivals.
“Tonic has been a part of my life for so long and it has truly shaped the person I have become. I have had so many opportunities that I never would have dreamt of. The standout moment for me was being able to photograph The Specials at Brixton Academy, London.
Just being able to watch them was amazing, but to get stuck in and provide some photos for Tonic was an absolute dream and one I will never forget.”
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.