Reclaiming Our Heritage

In 2007 the Mental Health Foundation held the first ever Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF). Since then, it has grown to be the largest and oldest mental health festival in the world and as such it has become a significant part of the Scottish cultural landscape. 

Reclaiming Our Heritage project

Our latest arts project, Reclaiming Our Heritage, sets to record and preserve the rich cultural heritage in Scotland which surrounds the arts and mental health community.   

The Foundation has successfully accessed funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for this two-year project. Using oral testimonies, we will be exploring a time period of roughly 50 years, from the 1960s up until the mid-2000s when SMHAF was first established.    

Testimonies will be gathered by a group of 20 volunteers from across Scotland who will be taught new skills in oral history and heritage. 

About the oral history training offered, volunteer Abi says;  

“The training has been really interesting, and it’s been good to meet other people who are involved in the project. We’ve learnt quite a lot about each other just through the trial interviews!”  

It is our hope that through gathering these hidden stories from artists, community groups, service users and more that we will be able to offer a new narrative around mental health in Scotland.  

Often, our history is cast with memories of asylums and the impact of stigma and discrimination. However, as managers of SMHAF, we know that the artistic community have played a vital role in promoting positive messages around mental health. We all have mental health and art has been used as a tool to open conversations and challenge ideas for decades. We want this project to expand the public’s perception of what mental health is and can be, to promote the cultural significance of this social movement.  

People will have a chance to access snippets from the archive through the SMHAF website in 2021. A mobile exhibition will also showcase the findings from the project, allowing others to learn more about the mental health and arts movement in Scotland. 

It is our hope that through gathering these hidden stories from artists, community groups, service users and more that we will be able to offer a new narrative around mental health in Scotland.  

Learn about the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival

One way that the Mental Health Foundation supports using the arts to improve mental health is through the annual Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF). Now one of the largest festivals of its kind in the world, SMHAF brings together communities, artists and activists from all over Scotland to be creative and engage with arts events exploring mental health, including film, theatre, literature, visual arts, dance and comedy.

Find out more now