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Martha Robinson

Each year Perceptions Forum has a poetry competition, the Martha Robinson Poetry Competition, (see The Martha Robinson Poetry Competition 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2005 and 2006 and 2009 and also 2010-2011), but who was Martha Robinson? We know she bequeathed some money as the Martha Robinson fund to be used for promoting poetry, and now we have some more information. This thoughtful and well-written piece has a tone of sadness, but that has to be understood as this was an Obituary written after the death of Martha Robinson...


"No cure, no sympathy no-one to turn to." - That was how Martha Robinson summed up the tragedy of schizophrenia in an article entitled "Fighting for an end to neglect" in her local newspaper - the last of the many she had been responsible for in newspapers and journals for many years. She knew about this tragedy first hand. Her only son, John, a brilliant young man who won an open scholarship to Oxford broke down with schizophrenia at the time of his final exams, and committed suicide when he was 38 in 1977.

Martha was a great fighter. She fought to educate the public, because she said, "Educating the public is the only way to help victims. If these sick people are accepted in the community, miracles can happen". She fought years of crippling rheumatoid arthritis until the end, with uncomplaining courage and cheerfulness. When in 1979 she heard about the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (now known as Rethink), she joined, and became an active member of our Westminster Group. Despite her disabling illness she attended our meetings regularly in her wheelchair until that became a physical impossibility.

Her abiding wish was to help and encourage sufferers, with whom she had a tremendous empathy. She was an author, and she very quickly observed the poetic talents of two members of our group. Inspired, undaunted, and without delay, she appealed through the NSF National Newsletter for poetry written by sufferers to be sent to her. A small workshop was formed in her flat, and in 1981, "Is there anyone out there?" the first of two anthologies of poetry was published and sold in aid of the NSF.

The response to her request for poems had been so great, the quality of the poetry so good, and the first book had proved to be so successful, that in 1983 a second. one, "Another World", was published. In the same year Martha launched an International Poetry Competition. This brought 4,400 poems from all over the world to her Poetry Workshop. Richard Baker and three eminent members of the Poetry Society were the judges of this competition, which raised 1000 for the NSF, and 3500 for the three prizes awarded.

There were plans in Martha's mind for the publication of several more books of poems, but because of the deterioration of her health, much to her regret, these plans had to be abandoned.

In the introduction to "Is there anyone out there?", Martha described the heartwarming outpouring of thanks that she had received. from both poets and their parents. She quoted one in particular, "one of the youngest, just out of hospital after attempting to embrace death who wrote to her saying, "Someone's left a door ajar and a ray of light is shining through."

Martha shunned praise and thanks. To get on with the job was all that mattered. We are truly grateful for the ray of light that shone through her and for the warm affection and encouragement she gave to those for whom she had the highest regard - to whom her work was dedicated - and for all she did for the NSF.

By Mary Montgomery Campbell.
Written in 1987 after Martha Robinson's death