The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is teaming up with Voluntary Arts Scotland and A Year of Conversation 2019 to call on the country to take time out to talk on Saturday 11th May. The initiative will celebrate the positive power of conversation, to open our minds and counter growing social polarisation.

This ties in perfectly with the theme for SMHAF 2019 – Connected – which celebrates the connections the festival builds between communities across Scotland, between people trying to find their creative voice and established artists, and between the different worlds of activism, the arts, and healthcare.

At the heart of all this is conversation, which forms an integral part of many of our events, from post-screening discussions during our film programme to community gatherings, artist’s talks and afternoon teas taking place across Scotland.  

Tom Pow, creative director of A Year of Conversation 2019, would love to see as many people as possible get talking on the day. He said: “Although A Year of Conversation has events throughout the year celebrating conversation, there’s a particular excitement about having a concentrated focus on one day.

“Voluntary Arts Scotland, the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and ourselves are hoping that many individuals and organisations will see an opportunity to do something different and to know that they are part of a national expression of everything that conversation means – engagement, openness, creativity.”

A Day of Conversation will also form part of Voluntary Arts Scotland’s annual Get Creative Festival, which takes place from 11-19 May. One event being organised is Food For Thought, A Conversation Around Food. Run in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library it will be an afternoon of good food and good conversation – an opportunity to connect with others through food, and to share memories, recipes and delicacies from childhood.

Jemma Neville, director of Voluntary Arts Scotland, said: “The word conversation means to turn around and exchange ideas or news. It’s about hospitality and is a creative act in and of itself.

“This Get Creative festival, strike up a conversation with someone new and allow yourself to be surprised by what you learn about yourself.”

You can get involved with A Day of Conversation by hosting events such as:

  • A coffee morning to discuss an issue at the heart of their regular activity.
  • A gathering where each person brings an object that means something to them – then share stories about it.
  • Chatting over food to discuss something of local interest.
  • Having a conversation with another local or similar group and learn from each other.
  • Going on an inter-generational walk, where children take older people on a “play walk” and older people take children on a “memory walk”. 
  • Or simply doing what you usually do (rehearse, plan, create) but building in a conversation.

The possibilities are endless. All these ways to start conversations are small things that are easily achieveable, but they can make a big difference. 

To host your own A Day of Conversation event, please download the toolkit. Events can be listed on the Get Creative website, and on the SMHAF website. Please email Kelly Donaldson at and the SMHAF team at to help get the word out.

A Year of Conversation will involve events throughout 2019. Some will be about conversation in our personal relationships, others will involved wider social, health and political issues. Some involve scientists and academics, others focus on artists, musicians, writers and storytellers. To find out more, visit