Scotland’s leading mental health arts festival launches tomorrow

2 April 2019

The festival has been running since 2007

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is launching tomorrow.

This year it will run from 3-26 May, now in its 13th year since first starting in 2007.

The festival is led by the Mental Health Foundation, and will feature an array of diverse cultural events across the country, ranging from film, literature and theatre to music, visual art and dance.

With over 25,000 attendees and 300 events taking place in Scotland each year, the festival is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

It aims to tackle mental health stigma by challenging perceptions and allowing those involved to make new connections.

Festival Manager Rob Dickie said: “I think art is a great way to start conversations, especially about very difficult subjects such as mental health.

“I think seeing artists talking out through their experiences they’ve been through in their work gives people a way to talk about their own experiences, and in doing that it really helps to tackle stigmas.”

He added: “People see how mental health is something that’s experienced by everyone, and they’re not alone in what they’re going through.”

The festival will open with its International Film Awards ceremony tomorrow night at the CCA, celebrating films across the globe which have helped address mental health issues in a sensitive and poignant manner.

The International Film Programme will then run from 3-6 May with screenings taking place at the CCA, GFT and Flourish House in Glasgow.

Many of the films featured will be followed by Q&As, with Oscar-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel scheduled to speak to audiences via Skype after the screening of his film Evelyn on Saturday at the GFT, which has won this year’s anti-stigma award.

Photograph: Evelyn

“Orlando von Einsiedel’s award-winning film is one of many which will be shown across the weekend.”

Other major screenings will include Iain Cunningham’s Irene’s Ghost and Hannah Currie’s We Are All Here.

Stacey Campbell, who has been involved with the festival in recent years, said: “I have really enjoyed taking part in the mental health festival the past few years.

“I think it’s a great way of educating people about mental health and challenging the stigma associated with it.”

She added: “Getting involved through various groups has also been very fun and some of the performances I have watched personally have been very moving and inspiring.”

Infographic: Taylor McDaniel

There have been a number of changes ahead of this year’s festival.

Dickie said: “One thing we are doing differently is using sliding scale ticket pricing for film screenings at the CCA and Flourish House.

“People are invited to pay what they can, from free tickets to ones which cost £8, which helps to keep our whole programme accessible to everyone.

“We’ve always had some free film events, but we’ve often had to charge for certain ones – this year people can access every single film at those venues mentioned with free tickets available if they need that.”

He added: “Another thing that’s really interesting in terms of the film programme is we’re having a full day of programming at Flourish House – a clubhouse for people with experience of mental illness.

“We’ve had a few one-off screenings there in the past, but this year we’re having a full day of our international film programme there, including four of our award winning films.”

The size and scope of the festival is also increasing this year.

Dickie said: “Another thing we are doing differently is working with new regions in Angus and The Borders, who are both organising fantastic community-led programmes.

“In Angus, there is a real focus on getting outdoors and celebrating local creativity, while The Borders have developed some really interesting events, such as Sound Wave, which pays tribute to Scott Hutchison by encouraging people to record their own versions of a song inspired by the Frightened Rabbit song The Loneliness and The Scream.”

The festival receives support from groups such as See Me and Creative Scotland, as well as a range of other arts and community organisations across the country.

It will also coincide with the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from 13-19 May this year.

Those who are interested in attending events at the festival can find a full schedule of what will be taking place over the three weeks here.

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