New mental health arts award announced for Edinburgh Fringe

The Mental Health Foundation is to present a new award at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, in recognition of the show that most successfully explores the subject of mental health.

The Mental Health Fringe Award has the support of the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, the Edinburgh Fringe, and the Scotsman newspaper. Shows from all categories in the Fringe programme will be eligible.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, arts lead for the Mental Health Foundation (Scotland) and Edinburgh festivals editor for the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, said:

"Mental health has been a prominent theme at the Edinburgh Fringe for the past couple of years, thanks to memorable and acclaimed shows like Bryony Kimmings’ Fake It Til You Make It, Felicity Ward’s 50% More Likely To Die and Richard Gadd’s Monkey See Monkey Do.

"We hope this award will encourage artists of all kinds to continue to make this kind of work, which is really important in opening up conversations about what can be very difficult and personal subjects, and which can often have a transformative effect on public attitudes towards mental health."

The Mental Health Foundation already has a presence at the Edinburgh Fringe, through its annual Gala for Mental Health at the Pleasance, which has previously featured performers such as Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, Susan Calman, Le Gateau Chocolat, Felicity Ward, Chris Gethard and Richard Gadd. This year the charity will also host Mental health is a Fringe issue, a workshop for performers as part of the Fringe Central programme on Monday 14 August at 1.30pm. The event will be opportunity for people creating shows about mental health to share their experiences in a mutually supportive environment.

The winner of the Mental Health Arts Fringe Award will be announced at the Scotsman Fringe Awards, the biggest awards ceremony at the Edinburgh Fringe, on Friday 25 August, and will also be invited to return to Scotland as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival’s first Spring programme in May 2018, in partnership with the Tron’s annual Mayfesto programme. 

Members of the judging panel include: playwright Alan Bissett (whose play One Thinks Of It All as a Dream, about Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and premiered to critical acclaim and sell-out shows in 2016); Linda Irvine, strategic programme manager for NHS Lothian; Andy Arnold, artistic director of the Tron Theatre; playwright and critic Rebecca Monks; and theatre critic Mark Fisher. A shortlist will be decided by the judges in consultation with the Scotsman’s highly respected team of reviewers and announced during the final week of the Fringe.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We have already identified a list of shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe that explicitly address mental health, but it will also be fascinating to see how the subject comes up in other shows across the festival, given the anxious times that we are living in.”

More information

Fringe companies who think their show should be considered for the award are invited to contact Andrew directly at [email protected].

For further information and interview requests, please contact Andrew Eaton-Lewis at the email address above.