To celebrate our move to May, SMHAF 2018 has the theme Beginnings, placing a special focus on young people’s mental health and creating opportunities for artists and communities across the country to explore the theme in their own way.

Our biggest theatre programme to date features a four-night Glasgow run of Mental, a powerful show about what it’s like to grow up with a mother who is bipolar – and the winner of the first Mental Health Fringe Award. Premiering at SMHAF, Though This Be Madness is a show about new parenthood and mental illness by theatre-maker Skye Loneragan. And, to coincide with the double bill of Eve / Adam at Dundee Rep Theatre, the Mental Health Foundation,  National Theatre of Scotland and Freight Design launch I Am, a moving and fascinating book by transgender and non-binary people from around the globe.

We also have four acclaimed theatre shows touring to venues across Scotland: Don’t Panic! It’s Challenge Anneka, a frank and funny show about a young woman’s battle with anxiety, which channels the spirit of a famous TV presenter for whom no challenge is too big; Amy Conway’s Super Awesome World, in which writer-performer Amy Conway draws on her childhood love of computer games to explore her relationship with depression; Turntable, a show by MJ McCarthy about the impact of formative musical experiences on our lives; and Fisk, a rich tapestry of puppetry, movement and design by award-winning company Tortoise in a Nutshell.

The not-to-be-missed International Film Awards launches a weekend of film at Glasgow’s CCA, featuring screenings of all our award-winning titles. Across the programme, there is a strong emphasis on young people’s experiences, notably in Youth Perspective, showcasing work by supremely talented young filmmakers, and the pairing Horizon and #will, exploring teenage mental health. There are impressive UK and International  shorts programmes, while features Crazy and Second Spring focus on very different individuals seeking new beginnings in their lives. As always, we look forward to welcoming directors and others connected with these films to join us in discussion and celebration.

Performance highlights include the return of Flint & Pitch, a Beginnings-themed showcase of spoken word, music and theatre (p), hosted by Jenny Lindsay at the Bongo Club (p). SMHAF Associate Artist Emma Jayne Park returns with her scratch night 5 Ways to Begin… in Glasgow and Edinburgh, featuring works in progress from five performance artists exploring mental health through their work. The Box, Julia James-Griffiths’ contemporary dance theatre piece exploring the impact of depression, premieres at Assembly Roxy. And we’re excited to join forces with VOX Liminis at Saint Luke’s to present interactive performance CON(SCRIPTED)  and a gig to support the album launch for Not Known at this Address, which brings together some of Scotland’s most celebrated songwriters with people who have first-hand experience of the criminal justice system.

We also have exciting programmes taking place in regions throughout Scotland. There’s a packed line-up in Renfrewshire, featuring their debut Youth Mental Health Arts Festival, and Caring Conversations, a collaborative exhibition exploring mental health stigma in health and social care. In Lanarkshire, Music for the Mind offers a variety of musical entertainment by local stars; Books and Bread for Beginners is an opportunity to try something new in Fife; in Aberdeen, Mental Health Movie Monthly launch Mental Health Awareness Week with a free screening of Mustang; and SMHAF Highland’s highlights include the exhibition From Small Beginnings… and the popular annual Highland Gathering .

But with hundreds of events happening across Scotland, these highlights are only the beginning. We hope you enjoy exploring the full programme and look forward to seeing you this May.