The Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival runs from Mon 1 – Wed 24 Oct at venues across Scotland. Click here for more information.
There’s always the temptation to overlook many of Scotland’s smaller festivals, as they tremble in the shadow of the Fringe. The consequence of the summer goliath is that many think Edinburgh only comes to life when August rolls around. But there are exciting young festivals slowly taking hold of the cultural calendar; Take One Action and Africa in Motion are two prime examples, and further afield Berwick’s Film & Media Arts Festival and the new THAT Festival at Stirling’s Macrobert theatre.
The Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival (SMHAFF) has been a force, quite similar to Take One Action, in raising awareness of social justice over the last six years. Unlike many other festivals however, it has been situated and programmed across Scotland, delivering workshops, seminars, audience discussions as well as dance, opera and poetry sessions. This year’s theme is ‘walk in my shoes’, a central idea which will connect audiences to individuals in film in a much more personal and conscious way.
There are also handfuls of rare releases and, as always, a high standard of new cinema. Glasgow screenings include psychological thrillers (I, Anna), experimental filmmaking selected by songwriter/performer Malcolm Middleton and re-issued surreal trips (Anti-Clock). Over in Edinburgh there’s an unmissable opportunity to meet Jack Bond who will be discussing the 60s film he stood alongside Salvador Dalí in (Dali in New York).
But once again, it’s some of the documentaries which delve deep into the nature of mental health awareness and provide the window into real-life cases. Neuropsychologist Paul Broks will be attending to discuss trauma, recovery and state of mind following a screening of Rupture, and Nick Higgins will be talking about extracts from his Northern Lights Film Project. Clio Barnard’s pseudo-documentary, Body Talk: The Arbor, uses lip-syncing to confront women’s health issues, as actors ‘walk in the shoes’ of real people.
For a more active approach however, there is of course a bountiful and diverse mix of workshops and exhibitions including a huge series of events in Renfrewshire, hosted by the CRN. Some activities include singalongs, outdoor art and family ceilidhs. There are many poetry and writing exploits available in Moray and Fife and areas across the whole of Scotland offer a range of multi-arts selections, such as open mics, tea dances and mind games. There’s documentary dance work and creative writing groups in Inverclyde, scientific visual art in Forth Valley and writing as therapy in Aberdeen. Starting in the Highlands, there’s a project spearheaded by comedian Susan Morrison to use comedy as both a coping strategy in prison, but also to shape it as a therapeutic tool for at risk young people.
Geographical restriction is no excuse to avoid engaging in mental health awareness this October and with a fresh, spirited spread of events, SMHAFF looks to be another stimulating, lively and nourishing experience.
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