Programme announced for brand new festival of health and human rights in Scotland

Declaration Festival

A ground-breaking new festival, Declaration, will see leading writers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists appearing alongside human rights campaigners and people working across health and social care to discuss human rights and the right to health in Scotland.

Declaration, at the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Glasgow from 3-6 March, is the result of a unique partnership between NHS Health Scotland, the Mental Health Foundation, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and the Centre for Health Policy at the University of Strathclyde. All of these organisations have come together as part of Scotland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights and this festival is part of that. It builds on the First Minister’s commitment to "do even more and even better on incorporating human rights in Scotland". 

The full programme for the festival is published today and can be found online at Declaration will feature 30 events – a mix of film screenings, performances, debates, workshops and provocations – each one inspired by one of the 30 articles in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a focus on how human rights and the right to health come alive in Scotland today. All events are FREE and a limited number of day tickets can be reserved at the festival website,, from today. 

Those participating in Declaration include novelist Louise Welsh and architect Jude Barber; performance poets Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum; Amal Azzudin of the Glasgow Girls; Kate Pickett, co-author of international best-seller The Spirit Level; the feminist collective TYCI; Psychologists against Austerity; Freedom from Torture, the anti-stigma campaign See Me, and many more. 

Programme highlights include:

  • A 50th anniversary screening of Cathy Come Home, director Ken Loach's hugely influential 1966 TV play about homelessness, followed by discussion on health, homelessness and human rights. 
  • Louise Welsh and Jude Barber reviving their acclaimed Empire Café project exploring Glasgow’s connection with the slave trade, with performance poet Dorothea Smartt.
  • A special pre-release preview screening of The Divide, the film version of best-selling book The Spirit Level, followed by a debate about the impact of inequality on health, well-being and prosperity with Joyce McMillan (the Scotsman), Alex Massie (the Spectator), and Spirit Level co-author Kate Pickett. 
  • Two separate performance events exploring the right to rest and leisure and the role they play in wellbeing, and the right to a nationality, curated by Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum of Rally & Broad.
  • A free screening of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary He Named Me Malala, about the right to education. (‘Outstanding.’  ***** - The Guardian)
  • Amal Azzudin of the Glasgow Girls exploring the right to asylum in conversation with three generations of asylum seekers in Scotland.

Declaration has been programmed by the team behind the ground-breaking Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF), in collaboration with the festival’s partner organisations. SMHAFF is ten years old this year and its pioneering approach to using the arts to highlight issues around health and human rights is now being imitated across the world.

Lee Knifton, founder of SMHAFF and Head of Mental Health Foundation in Scotland said:

"We are very pleased to be working in partnership with NHS Health Scotland, the ALLIANCE and the University of Strathclyde to develop an exciting new festival which will explore the notion of health and human rights with the wider public and partners, creating new ideas and energy in this vital area."

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, Arts Lead for the Mental Health Foundation, said:

"We’re very excited to be announcing this festival programme. There’s a huge variety of events on offer – all of them free – and we hope that people will want to spend a whole day, and perhaps a whole weekend, helping us to kick start a wider debate about what human rights mean today – and what impact it has on the health of individuals, and of a society, when people are denied those rights."

Cath Denholm, Director of Strategy, NHS Health Scotland said:

"The right to physical and mental health for everyone lies at the heart of what the NHS stands for. Human rights are fundamental to the delivery of respectful and effective care and a fairer, healthier Scotland. NHS Health Scotland is pleased to be contributing to this festival in a number of ways in order to share that important message."
Ian Welsh OBE, ALLIANCE Chief Executive said:

"Declaration will highlight the importance of how human rights are an everyday concern for people who live with long term conditions and unpaid carers across Scotland.   Making human rights accessible and placing them in situations and contexts we can all recognise strengthens our understanding of what can be done to make sure people claim their right to live well and how health and social care support and services can firmly establish rights based approaches as part of their everyday approach."

Neil Quinn, Co-Director of the Centre for Health Policy at the University of Strathclyde’s International Public Policy Institute, said:

"We are delighted to be a lead partner in Declaration, which will deliver a stimulating programme of events focused on health and human rights. We are excited about the learning that will emerge from the festival and the potential for it shaping public policy in Scotland."

The programme for Declaration will be online from today at Further announcements will be made throughout February.

For further information, and to request interviews, contact Gail Aldam on 07912 977658 or Andrew Eaton-Lewis on 07475 210703.

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