Irish arts festival promoting mental health and wellbeing announces expansion after success of second event

Irish arts festival promoting mental health and wellbeing announces expansion after success of second event

AN Irish-founded arts festival promoting mental health and wellbeing in London has announced its expansion across Britain after its second instalment proved a roaring success.

The second annual Shout London - The Ashford Place Mental Health Film & Arts Festival was held at The Kiln in Kilburn and The Crown in Cricklewood this month, to coincide with World Mental Health Day.

A host of stars attended the event, which ran over two days, including festival patron Michelle Collins.

Radio 4 Broadcaster Peter Curran presented the event, which kicked off at the Kiln with Maria McAteer performing scenes from her one-woman show The Guinness Girl with Alice Beadle on the violin.

Festival patron Michelle Collins (Pic: Milena Starkova)

The show, which is based on Maria’s life, has a UK & Ireland Tour planned for 2024.

The event also included the UK premiere of Ben Akers’ feature documentary Our Kids Our Lives, which explores the mental health of young people,

English-Irish singer-songwriter and musician Sacha Wood sang and played the acoustic guitar during the event.

Both Wood and McAteer have lived experience of depersonalisation personality disorder, which they went on to discuss with Curran on stage following their performances.

Poet Wendy Young recited a number of lively poems during her performance which was later followed by more inspirational poetry and a conversation with Ronald Amanze.

Amanze’s background as a music producer and musician has led him to be passionate about the role of creativity in improving the quality-of-life experience for all those living with dementia.

Broadcaster Peter Curran & Ronald Amanze on stage during the festival (Pic:Dominique Murphy- de Neef)

The second day of the event focused on neurodiversity, with the audience treated to an art and poetry exhibition from the likes of Yasmin Nicholas, who also screened her short film Shells Without an Echo, before discussing her own mental health with Dominique Murphy-de Neef.

Two films on the subject of eating disorders were screened on day two of the festival, including a short documentary presented by patron and actor Michelle Collins.

Collins is also the patron of Personalised Eating Disorder Support (PEDS) - a Peterborough based charity supporting those dealing with the condition.

The short film Disorder by Alice Wallis was also screened, which documents the effects on a family when one member is suffering from an eating disorder.

The festival was rounded off with a discussion with Sean Kaluarachchi, who works in the London Irish Centre’s (LIC) Survivors Service, supporting survivors of Ireland's Mother & Baby and County Homes.

Francis Magee and Maria McAteer on the red carpet at The Crown (Pic: Milena Starkova)

After discussing his work with the LIC, Belfast-born Kaluarachchi closed the festival with a musical performance of his own.

The success of this year’s festival has seen organisers confirm the dates for the 2023 instalment and also the extension of the event to Liverpool.

“We were overwhelmed by the incredible quality of the work and the amount of submissions received for Shout London this year,” Festival organiser Carey Fitzgerald said.

“This has spurred us on to ensure we continue shouting right across the UK,” she added.

“We are thrilled to be presenting Shout Liverpool in the new year.

“The festival not only celebrates the artistic expression of people with experience of mental health issues and explores the relationship between creativity and the mind, it also brings attention to the sterling work of Ashford Place in mental and physical health and wellbeing.”

Sacha Wood on the guitar (Pic: Dominique Murphy-de Neef)

Ashford Place CEO, Danny Maher, who has worked closely with Fitzgerald in developing Shout Londoin, said:  “The festival’s emotive and powerful films and performance  fostered an energetic conversation on mental health, increased our understanding of, and empathise with, the experiences of artists as they use their creativity to overcome challenges and take opportunities that neurodiversity and other mental health conditions can offer.

“This year’s festival certainly has increased the conversation around mental health and has shown mental health difficulties doesn’t have to be a barrier to creative expression and success.

“The Shout festivals continue to demonstrate the power of an asset or strengths based approach rather than the deficit approach that is the usual experience of people with mental health challenges.”

Shout London 2024 will take place on October 9 and 10 in the capital.

The inaugural Shout Liverpool festival will be held in Liverpool in early 2024.