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SMHAF: The festival exploring mental health through creativity


Now in its 11th year, the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) is one of Scotland's most diverse cultural events, covering everything from music, film and visual art to theatre, dance, and literature. The annual festival takes place in venues across Scotland from 10-29 October, and aims to support the arts whilst challenging preconceived ideas about mental health.

Here, we take a look at five different events running thoughout this year's festival, which use creativity to open up a dialogue surrounding mental health.

One Mississippi

This new and hard-hitting play from Mariem Omari explores how childhood experiences shape men’s adult lives. Actor Scott Kyle stars in the play, and described it as "a rollercoaster ride that takes you through the dark side of growing up in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as Belfast at the height of the troubles."

Kyle added: "I always want to entertain an audience when I take to the stage, and I know that this production does that after the amazing reaction we received on our opening night. The great thing about this show is that it also highlights the challenges that the four characters face regarding their mental health.

"I hope that people who see the show will join in with the laughter, dancing, singing, crying - but most of all I hope that they think about the subject matter. If people go away from the show and talk to people about the issues raised in the production that that can only be a good thing."

10-12 October, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; 13-14 October, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

It's Not Over Yet

Using movement and text Emma Jayne Park invites you to share part of her life only those closest to her witnessed; a journey of remembering, evaluating our life choices and exploring why they even matter. It’s personal, it’s funny, it’s angry in places but above all it’s honest, and explores her experience of cancer.

During Emma’s treatment and remission, she was deeply affected by being unable to access live performance. It’s Not Over Yet is the first stage in developing quality theatre work that can be reshaped into intimate home-based performances considering the specific needs of people who are house bound for medical reasons.  Working in partnership with The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, these short works will engage with a variety of themes and art forms to offer those who cannot attend the theatre the same privilege as our visiting audiences.


13 October, Dance Live Festival, Aberdeen; 28 October, The Stove, Dumfries; 28 October, Living Room Performances

Dear Diary

A spoken word night celebrating personal stories that have been shared publicly or privately, organised and hosted by Another Helping and Marbles Magazine, and featuring a creative programme of poetry and spoken word by Poetry Circus.

Proceeds will be donated to Young Saheliya, an Edinburgh-based organisation that provides support for girls and young women aged 12-25 from BME backgrounds.

Of the event, Marbles Editor Kirstyn Smith said: "We have a huge number of writers, poets and storytellers and are so excited to share them with you. So much talent in one night."

19 October, Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Edinburgh

Living with the Lights On

The Scottish premiere of Mark Lockyer’s hilarious, touching and critically acclaimed solo show, in which the actor shares the true story of how his life fell apart following an on-stage meltdown during a 1995 RSC production of Romeo and Juliet.

Mark’s story is a terrifying roller coaster ride through the medical and criminal justice systems, through prison and hospital and on towards eventual recovery. It is testament to the fact that mental illness can happen to anyone and that, with the right treatment, there can be a life beyond it.

17-19 October, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh; 20-21st October, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

5 Ways to Begin

This scratch night gives ten emerging performers space to try out new work, and get feedback from a live audience. There are two events (one in Glasgow, one in Edinburgh), and each artist gets ten minutes to showcase their piece.

Dancer Julia James-Griffiths is performing The Box at the Glasgow event. She said: "1 in 4 of us live in The Box at some point. What are we going to do about it?

"This project involves creating a contemporary dance theatre piece that explores the impact depression can have on an individual, and how our society responds to it. The aim is for this to be done in a way that is innovative, creative, yet accessible.

"Through movement, playful use of text/spoken word and the physical elements found and used for depression/mental health issues, the work will explore the idea of confinement, in its various forms, and what can be produced from it."

Other artists performing at the Glasgow event are Michael Sherin, Rebecca Monks, Kirsty May Hamilton and Jimmy Russell. In Edinburgh, Belle Jones, Sandy Jack, Elspeth Chapman and Skye Longeram are presenting.

14 October, Flourish House, Glasgow, 18 October, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival runs until 29 October, with events across Scotland. See the full programme at mhfestival.com.

This article was published on 11 Oct 2017