Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival announces its 11th programme

Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival announces its 11th programme

Beyond the Binary / credit: Jassy Earl

Festival enters its second decade with a change of title and a theme of 'reclaim'

One of the major problems with mental ill health is the difficulty people have in admitting that they suffer from it. For ten years, the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival has been working to make mental health an issue that people are more comfortable about discussing in public. The Festival is now in its 11th year, and is kicking off its second decade with a programme of over 300 events across 17 areas in Scotland. It's marked this milestone by changing its name: SMHAFF is now the less sneeze-like SMHAF, the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.

But film is still a central part of the festival programme. The film programme is being screened at CCA in Glasgow between Thu 12 and Sun 15 Oct. The winner of the feature drama award, Summer 1993, is Spanish writer-director Carla Simón's story about a six-year-old girl sent to live with her aunt and uncle, after her parents' death from AIDS. Anchored by a remarkable performance from Laia Artigas, it's been praised as a sensitive but unsentimental portrayal of a child trying to deal with grief. The feature documentary winner, Mark Kidel's Becoming Cary Grant, looks at how an Englishman named Archie Leach transformed himself into the most pursued (and some think, greatest) actor in movie history, and how Grant in mid-life confronted some of the trauma of his childhood through the use of psychotherapy and LSD. Other films in the programme include Ian Tierney's Spike, which explores the post-traumatic stress disorder of a soldier who served in Northern Ireland, and Canadian drama The Other Half, starring the remarkable Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) as a woman with bipolar disorder who forms a relationship with a British man living in Canada.

Living with the Lights On is a one-man show by actor Mark Lockyer, an RSC actor in the 1990s whose undiagnosed bipolar disorder caused him to drop out of many high-profile productions because of stress, paranoia and inability to concentrate. After years in the wilderness, he got glowing reviews in 2016 for his performance in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, and in the unsparing and brutally funny Living with the Lights On he offers tea and biscuits to the audience and tells the story of his breakdown. Dancer and choreographer Emma Jayne Park's It's Not Over Yet is a very personal show about living with a diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which plans to turn people's homes into performance spaces across Dumfries and Galloway. Other theatre highlights include Mariem Omar's One Mississippi (Traverse, Edinburgh), a verbatim play exploring how childhood experiences shape men's adult lives, and Julia Taudevin's Hysteria!, a darkly comic political cabaret partly inspired by the 2016 US general election.

Performances such as Lockyer's and Park's illustrate the festival's 2017 them, which is 'reclaim'. The 'reclaim' idea also lies behind many of the festival's storytelling events, in which people recount their own experiences. Beyond the Binary is an evening of transgender stories; Real Talk focuses on connections and honesty, and Tales by the Fireside is a series of storytelling workshops in which participants can create their stories and then deliver them in an outdoor performance.

Other highlights include Minute Taker and Ana Stefaniak's modern fable To Love Somebody Melancholy; The Coolidge Effect, a show exploring society's relationship with pornography; and Flint & Pitch's Reclaim the Script, two specially programmed spoken word and music nights in Edinburgh and Paisley.

Full details of the 2017 SMHAF programme are available on the festival website. This will be the last of the festivals to take place in autumn: as of 2018, it will take place in May.

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival runs in various venues across Scotland from Tue 10–Sun 29 Oct.

Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival

One of Scotland’s most diverse and inclusive cultural events, combining high quality artistic events with extensive community-led programming and a social justice agenda.