The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival has commissioned five artists to create new work on the theme My Experience of Isolation. The work will be premiered on SMHAF’s website in the coming months.

In response to the coronavirus lockdown we want to amplify the creative voices of people who already understand isolation, in the interests of solidarity, empathy and the sharing of wisdom and experience.

Gail Aldam said: “We are very grateful to the huge number of artists who took the time to submit a proposal for this commission. The range and quality of ideas was highly impressive, and a reminder of how many important stories there are to tell about people’s experiences of isolation. We wish we were able to support more of these ideas and we hope that they are able to come to fruition in other ways.”

The following artists’ completed work will be premiered at Keep an eye on our website and social media for announcements.

Amy Rosa please credit Tiu Makkonen Web

Feral MotherJames McDermott WebRebecca TantonyWeb

Images (from top left): Amble Skuse; Amy Rosa, credit Tiu Makkonen; Feral Mother; James McDermott; Rebecca Tantony.

Amble Skuse

A musical exploration of how isolation “can create a looped psychological experience”. Amble will improvise using an electric violin and EEG sensor that will pick up on her brain waves, so that her subconscious reactions to the sounds become a part of the music she is making. Amble is a disabled composer who works mainly at home in isolation.

Amy Rosa

A series of photographic self-portraits and accompanying creative writing/spoken text about living with complex post traumatic stress disorder. Amy Rosa makes live art, intimate performance, large-scale sculptural installations, recorded spoken text and photographic work about her experience of the world as a disabled woman living with multiple chronic illnesses. 

James McDermott

A series of performance poems exploring the experiences of being an LGBTQ person during lockdown, a situation that has separated many people from supportive communities and safe spaces. James is a queer playwright and poet whose plays are published by Samuel French and whose debut poetry collection ‘Manatomy’ is published by Burning Eye Books in August. James was recently short-listed for Outspoken’s Prize for Poetry 2020 in the Performance Category.

Feral Mother

An enhanced narrative – part written, hyperlinked with video journal, poetry and song – that explores why, after dealing with regular bouts of depression, feeling suicidal and suffering severe isolation due to the impact of dealing with a severely limiting chronic illness, Feral Mother unexpectedly found her mental health and sense of isolation improving during the coronavirus crisis, despite the fact that her physical health has not improved and life continues to be extremely challenging.

Rebecca Tantony

A series of short poems and stories reflecting on how, as Rebecca puts it, “isolation is a narrative in my family history that has spanned generations”. Touching on loneliness, independence and the bridge between the two, Rebecca will explore the notion of how we sometimes need to revisit a past to change it. Rebecca is a writer and facilitator whose work has taken her to Turkey, India, America, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2020 is led by the Mental Health Foundation and supported by national partners: Creative Scotland, See Me, NHS Lothian, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Front Page & The List.