Mental Wealth Festival 2016
The Mental Wealth Festival returns to Westminster and Covent Garden for a second year. Speakers include Ruby Wax, Alastair Campbell, Hugh Grant, Paul Dolan and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Here, Baroness Hollins explains her memories of the inaugural festival in 2015 and her hopes for this year's in September.
The idea for the Mental Wealth Festival started small. From the original suggestion, by Prof Francis Davis, of a book festival celebrating mental health literature, the festival steadily developed into a showcase for a rich and diverse collection of professionals and experts by experience.
We had seen a gap, not filled by other initiatives, and a need in practitioners, patients and support organisations that demanded a response.
We wanted to create a step change in how mental health issues are viewed. We wanted to promote keeping people well rather than emphasising illness. The first Festival, organised over two short months, took on a life of its own (almost running away from us), ultimately securing over 800 ticket holders. We had books but we also had art, workshops, speeches debates, film showings poetry and mindfulness.
It brought together government ministers, leading writers, policy makers, activists, carers and employers to provide a forum in which people could gather, debate and plan a refreshed agenda in supporting good mental health.
We heard from people about their own routes to recovery. Through film we were invited into the lives of young people with learning and physical disabilities. Participants had many opportunities to join in a creative session whether through making something, by learning to read stories in pictures exploring a mental health theme, or joining a mindfulness session. Numerous panel discussions brought people from varying backgrounds to consider issues from access to services to the role of family carers.
People from across many different sectors got engaged with activities and spoke about issues in ways they wouldn't normally do. The festival lead to new partnerships and renewed commitments to create and support community-based initiatives to enable mental wellbeing.
Turning provision upside down
The clear message of those who took part is that specialist and community provision needs turning upside down: the more resources, support and energy that can be unlocked and provided locally within communities, the more creative, responsive and effective that support will be, thus unlocking the mental wealth of our communities in new ways.
The 2016 Festival has several events in Parliament on Tuesday 13 September, with the main festival at City Lit in Covent Garden from Wednesday 14 to Thursday 15 September.
The Festival includes many well-known faces and the topics are even more varied. Contributors include Ruby Wax, Hugh Grant, Alastair Campbell and authors Paul Dolan and Toby Litt.
Other sessions reflect on spirituality and wellbeing; mental health and homelessness with Lord John Bird, co-founder of The Big Issue; and an exploration of mental wellbeing in the workplace. A host of other events on focusing on the arts, young people and people with learning disabilities, plus discussions on money, fatherhood and self-perception add up to nearly 50 individual events, with more added daily.
Our aim is to co-create a celebration with and for people who have personal or family experience of mental health problems alongside mental health professionals, people who care and the broader public.
Registration in advance is strongly recommended to secure a place in your chosen sessions. Day tickets or festival passes are now availble.