Running throughout October, how timely is it that the brochure for the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival is published and advertised against the backdrop of an active parliament voting on NHS reform? Andrew Lansley’s approved underhand bid to gear healthcare towards privatisation and marketisation is attempting to further neuter the welfare state, leaving a trail of misshapen arguments about funding and ideology in its path. What better way to epitomise the creative flair snaked throughout our society than with a celebration of those who may find treatment all the more elusive in years to come?
Now in its fifth year, the MH Festival is offering just short of 270 events in counties across Scotland, commending the artistic merit of those who have experience in or have suffered from mental health issues. Edinburgh & Lothian has arguably the most eclectic mix of theatre, film and workshops: but its angle towards promoting creative discussion and community mapping is what stands out. From creating a memory tree to short courses on cartooning, the city’s aim wraps itself around the need for debate and interaction while accompanying this year’s theme of dreams and reflection.
Illustrious films make up a humble portion of the festival’s programme, from Geronimi’s well-known Sleeping Beauty to the more recent Juno and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As each deal with notions of the subconscious, a wider comment on social responsibility and childhood repressions offer up intricate debates on modern culture. This idea of responsibility should echo throughout British society as protests against cuts and seismic reforms to the NHS voice the opinions of a frustrated mass.
Glasgow’s events and exhibitions offer the chance to interact and discuss with others regarding mental health, and their Young Carers Workshops and Creative Writing Event offer the prospect of artistic collaboration as well as the opportunity to share stories and memories. The same chance for participation can be found in Lanarkshire with the Camglen Youth Film & Photography Festival, an interactive showcase discussing the nature of social problems including bullying and confidence. There’s even a chance to get away from the weightier subjects by indulging in a chill-out Ceramics Workshop or by taking part in Bazooka Arts’ Storymaker Workshop.
With hundreds of other events, the festival provides the perfect setting for social and political discussion while allowing people from all sectors of mental health to collaborate on projects designed to encourage unity. It’s a quietly powerful celebration of the arts fusing with science, and in a society which finds the two fields driving further apart, the statement it makes by expanding on last year’s programme rings out throughout Scotland.