MHF Live: 'Anyone who loves music and is passionate about mental health awareness can get involved'

MHF Live: 'Anyone who loves music and is passionate about mental health awareness can get involved'

credit: Cameron Brisbane

Project manager Hannah Currie tells us more about the DIY music festival which aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and money for the Mental Health Foundation

Inspired by the success of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, MHF Live is a UK-wide DIY music festival which anyone can programme and take part in themselves next February, to raise awareness of mental health issues and money for the Mental Health Foundation. The idea is that the public can put on whichever music event they'd like – anything from a gig to an open mic night, a school concert to a music quiz or a karaoke night at home – and do it under the MHF Live banner.

Launched this week, the initiative already has support from artists including Rita Ora, Enter Shikari, Frightened Rabbit, Years & Years, Siobhan Wilson, Loki and many more. 'Rita's mum is a psychiatrist and she's really passionate about mental health awareness, so she made us a video to show her support,' says Hannah Currie, project manager of MHF Live, promoter of MILK club nights in Glasgow and London, and the director of a film about rapper Lumo – who died by suicide last year – which will premiere in February.

'Grant from Frightened Rabbit is particularly keen to support mental health projects which speak to young people,' she continues, 'and he's going to be wearing our green pin, the international symbol of mental health awareness, to show his support on social media; Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari has already tweeted his. Others, like Scottish rappers Solareye and Loki, are getting involved by playing MHF Live events.'

Although February is the suggested time for events, when they happen isn't as important as the fact they actually do. 'The link between creativity and the mind is so strong, and we believe music is a really powerful tool that lifts moods, brings people together, and can break down stigma and promote positive mental health,' says Currie. 'MHF Live is a community-led network of events across the UK; we're proposing they take place in the first two weeks of February, so there will be a flurry of activity around that time, but we're happy to support events at any time of the year.'

A pack detailing how to take part is available to download from the MHF Live website. 'These events can encompass any kind of music and take place on any scale,' says Currie. 'It's really important to us that everyone feels included and no-one feels intimidated! We've been reaching out to schools, universities, student unions, even churches and nurseries. Anyone who loves music and is passionate about mental health awareness can get involved.'

The need for awareness-raising events like this is all-too-apparent, but there's a silver lining in the fact that discussions and awareness around the issue of mental health are growing, with music and art playing a leading role. 'Personally, I think the loss of Scott Hutchison (of Frightened Rabbit) has left an indelible mark on the music scene and I'm seeing a lot of people channelling their grief into trying to make a difference,' says Currie. 'Similarly in the Scottish hip hop scene, there's been a big shift in attitudes since the loss of the rapper Lumo, who died aged 21. Awareness and open discussion about mental health are absolutely improving, which is encouraging to see, but stigma still looms, and when you look at the statistics, we're in the middle of a mental health crisis. There's still a lot of work to be done, but we hope that MHF Live can be a positive contribution to the ongoing effort to improve mental health and end stigma.'

MHF Live will take place throughout February 2019. Find out more and get involved.

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