Welsh Mental Health Arts FestivalThe Welsh Mental Health Arts Festival will return with a number of events taking place across Wales in October and November.

This year’s festival, organised by Disability Arts Cymru, Ynys Mon a Gwynedd Mind and Making Minds, has a theme of ‘Walls : Muriau’. Out of the creative minds of those with and without lived experience of mental ill health, the festival will explore the walls put up and the barriers, both physical and attitudinal, that exist for those affected by mental illness.

Funded by the Arts Council of Wales, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales, National Centre for Mental Health/MRC Centre (Cardiff University) and Voluntary Arts Wales, the festival will celebrate the relationship between the arts and mental health. It will also seek to educate, reduce stigma and challenge perceptions around mental health and increase access to/involvement in the arts for those experiencing mental ill health. Finally, it will also provide a platform and raise the profile of emerging and established artists living with mental illness.

Sara Mackay, director of Disability Arts Cymru, said: “In an arts and mental health context, walls can take on many meanings. It could be the walls of the mind, the walls of a gallery, theatre or cinema screen, a hospital, the box you feel you might fit in with a diagnosis, or the walls you need to overcome due to stigma. It could even be the walls you’ve broken through in recovery!”

The festival’s programme includes 4 days and nights of events and activities hosted by the Wales Millennium Centre, including a performance from Only Boys Aloud. Gwyneth Lewis, the inaugural poet of Wales, will also be performing at the venue that features her words ‘In these stones horizons sing’. Other activities at the Wales Millennium Centre include workshops, performances on the Glanfa stage and a series of short plays in the Weston Studio. Re-Live, an organisation that supports veterans who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, is among those performing. 

There will be an exhibition, play and film screening at the Ucheldre Centre in Holyhead. Representatives of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, which inspired the Welsh festival, will be involved in the film screening. Other expert speakers will gather for a series of talks and a film screening at Galeri, in Caernarfon, while leading landscape artist Iwan Gwyn Parry will explain how painting is ‘an ointment to keeping him well’.

The North Wales part of the programme will be completed by a photography exhibition, featuring images captured by local young people.

In South Wales, there will be a month-long exhibition at the public Hearth gallery at Llandough Hospital. There will also be an event at Celf o Gwmpas, in Llandrindod Wells, while Blackwood Little Theatre will be staging its ‘Ruins of Talgarth’ production at several venues.

Clare Bailey, Ynys Mon a Gwynedd Mind, said: “Following the success and positive feedback from our events as part of the Welsh Mental Health Arts Festival last year, we are looking forward once more to our thought-provoking, questioning, creative and inspiring events this autumn. 

“We believe very much that arts and film are conduits for raising awareness and facilitating change, and that artists have always played a key role in social movements and addressing issues. They are central to change and there is a need for both attitudinal and behavioural change around mental health, by both the wider society and those who work within services.”

Mark Smith, Making Minds, added: “We’re thrilled that the festival is being held again this year. We’re grateful for the support from our funders and the efforts being made by our fellow organisers. The festival has definitely made good progress since last year, which will hopefully lead to a more interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking experience for everyone who engages with the events and activities being held.”

Further information on the festival will be released in due course, including a more detailed programme. You can find the festival on Facebook at facebook.com/wallsmuriau and on Twitter @wallsmuriau2016