The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) is exploring the theme ‘Gather’ as it returns to live audiences across Scotland for the first time since 2019.
The programme published today features both live and online events inviting people to explore what it means to gather. The line-up includes eight new artist commissions, two touring theatre shows and the return of SMHAF’s International Film Awards and Writing Awards.
The innovative programme of events is unveiled today on the SMHAF website and in printed brochures available in community and cultural venues across Scotland. The three-week Festival takes place from 4 to 24 May 2022 with over 200 events and activities, including both live and online programming, covering theatre, film, writing, visual arts and music.
Now in its sixteenth year, the Festival will open on 4 May with ‘Gathering’, a showcase of festival highlights and new commissions at the CCA in Glasgow as well as online. Throughout the Festival, more Gatherings will be happening across Scotland to celebrate the arts, promote good mental health and wellbeing, and bring communities together.
Gail Aldam - Arts and Events Manager at Mental Health Foundation
We are delighted to be welcoming artists to ‘Gather’ with us and share their incredible work exploring mental health issues, challenging stigma and demonstrating how engagement with the arts can improve wellbeing. The theme of ‘Gather’ was inspired by the longing to come together, connect and share experiences after two years of restrictions but we are also questioning what it now means to gather as we enter a post-pandemic age. We are hugely excited to be returning to live venues with SMHAF this year. While the last two years have been challenging, it did allow us to reach new audiences in Scotland and beyond with our online events, which is why we will continue to offer digital events as part of our commitment to inclusive and accessible programming.
Running from 4 to 24 May 2022, SMHAF is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF). The Festival coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week (9 to 15 May), also hosted by MHF which, this year, is examining ‘Loneliness’. Research by MHF has found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The week will raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing and the practical steps we can take to address it.
SMHAF is one of Scotland’s biggest, most diverse festivals. Its unique approach – programmed from the ground up by a team of regional coordinators all across the country, in combination with a film and theatre programme curated by the Mental Health Foundation – ensures it connects with audiences that other arts festivals often struggle to reach.
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Notes for editors
The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival Programme is live at www.mhfestival.com from Monday 11 April 2022. Highlights include:
The festival will open on Wednesday 4 May with Gathering, a day of film screenings, discussion, and live performance at the CCA in Glasgow, showcasing some of our SMHAF artist commissions and previewing festival highlights. All event tickets are available on a ‘pay what you can’ basis.
Gatherings will be happening across Scotland to celebrate the arts, promote wellbeing and bring communities together. Many will take place in outdoor spaces, including the Edinburgh Thrive Gathering in a local park, creative Tree Chatter Walks in the Highlands, the Community Labyrinth Launch in Paisley town centre, and The Big Gather at Ardrossan South Beach. In more traditional arts spaces, Inspiring Life is a day-long creative gathering in the Borders while Migration Storytelling Event brings together the local refugee community in the southside of Glasgow.
As live performances finally make a return, SMHAF hosts a stellar programme of high quality theatre shows. Caroline Horton’s All of Me, winner of the 2019 Mental Health Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Fringe, returns to Scotland for a run at the Tron Theatre, One Mississippi by Bijli Productions, first seen at SMHAF in 2017, embarks on a Scottish tour, and Skye Loneragan’s Though This Be Madness is also touring Scotland. SMHAF will also be showcasing online work by Mark Lockyer and Skye Loneragan that was commissioned during lockdown.
The International Film Awards kicks off our weekend of film screenings and workshops at CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts and Glasgow Film Theatre. Award-winning films include local work by Sean Lìonadh, Steven Fraser and Maria Viola Craig, as well as the Lithuanian feature documentary I’ll Stand By You focusing on rural suicide prevention. Other highlights include the Scottish premiere of Charm Circle, winner of the Audience Award at Sheffield DocFest, and the world premiere of Lessons in Temperament, adapted during lockdown from an award-winning theatrical memoir. Scottish feature Riptide is screening across the Highlands and producer Siobhan Fahey attends a special screening and workshop in Edinburgh to celebrate Rebel Dykes.
Gather Artists Commissions
This year’s online programme will include five new artist commissions by Jo Chukualim, Esther Rutter, Catherine Grosvenor, Drew Taylor-Wilson and Bibo and Brian Keeley. The work will range from a downloadable knitting pattern to short films about queer safe spaces and living with a critical illness. They will be showcased at www.mhfestival.com and premiered in May. The commissions are supported by Creative Scotland.
In addition to this year’s Gather artist commissions, we have also commissioned three artists, Ross Mackay, Elaine Connell, and Robyn Woolston, to create new work in partnership with communities across Scotland. Our first Community Commissions have been created with support from the Baring Foundation.
SMHAF Writing Awards
The SMHAF Writing Awards, in partnership with Bipolar Scotland, are one of SMHAF’s most enduring successes, offering first-time writers the chance to be published alongside established names.
Djana Gabrielle and Two Stoned Birds are among the musicians giving special performances at Gathering at the CCA on 4 May (both were recipients of SMHAF artist commissions in 2021). In Glasgow you can also join Paragon Music for an evening of music, dance and poetry exploring how the arts contribute to our mental health, the friendly, inclusive Mad Jam community host both online and live open mic nights, and in Cumbernauld, Fool On invite you to Gather Thigither, a showcase of live music and comedy. Renfrewshire music collective Smash Hits presents a showcase of songwriting and performances from local artists exploring our theme.
Collaborative exhibitions showcase artworks by artists and community groups across Scotland. In the Highlands, A Gathering of Story-Art presents pieces by artists connected with local creative groups and the stories behind them. Renfrewshire’s annual exhibition Mindspace will display textile patchwork and small-scale paintings of swans in hospital wards and online, Artlink Central host a group exhibition to explore how we gather through creativity, and Art in Healthcare’s digital exhibition presents work from their social prescribing programme. Solo exhibitions include Assemble, a series of metal sculptures by regular SMHAF participant Jamie King on display in Edinburgh.
Get involved in workshops to develop your artistic skills, improve your mental health and discover innovative new ways to be creative. In Edinburgh, Come Gather the Gowans the Gather is a wee hour to sketch and celebrate the small things, using yellow dandelions to colour your work. Writing for Wellbeing is a six-week writing course in Ayrshire, creating a non-judgmental, supported space to explore your wellbeing. And in Lanarkshire, there are workshops to suit everyone, from Get Together Adventure Day for young people, Creative Crafting, a workshops series featuring silk painting, quilting, felt-making and more, and On Your Doorstep, a series of photography workshops in beautiful natural settings.
The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is one of Scotland's most striking and provocative cultural events, encompassing music, film, visual art, performing arts, dance, and literature. The annual Festival takes place in venues across Scotland throughout May (previously October), aiming to support the arts and challenge preconceived ideas about mental health. By engaging artists, connecting with communities and forming collaborations, the Festival celebrates the artistic achievements of people with experience of mental health problems, explores the relationship between creativity and the mind, and promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.
The Festival is led by the Mental Health Foundation in association with the following national partners: See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma; Creative Scotland; Thrive Edinburgh; Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership; See Me; NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde; and the Baring Foundation, along with design partners Ilka and media partners The List. The Festival is also supported by hundreds of arts, community and public organisations across Scotland.
The Mental Health Foundation is the UK’s charity for everyone’s mental health. With prevention at the heart of what we do, we aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems so that people and communities can thrive. The Foundation is a UK charity that relies on public donations and grant funding to deliver its work. The Foundation is proud of the vital role it plays in hosting, developing and managing the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.