The 2023 festival launches with Manifesto on Wednesday 4 October – as part of the day, we’re excited to present a series of specially commissioned creative provocations from leading artists and activists inspired by our theme of ‘revolution’ – including Traumascapes.

Traumascapes is a survivor-led organisation dedicated to changing the ecosystem of trauma and creating new horizons for survivors through art and science.

At Manifesto, they will present On Survivors’ Terms, a session encompassing film excerpts and a panel discussion, focusing on art and filmmaking as a channel through which to resist and disrupt oppressive systemic storylines, reclaim the narrative of trauma and mental health on survivors’ own terms, and foster individual and collective healing.

This written provocation by Founder & CEO Laura E. Fischer and Art Manager & Researcher Sullivan Holderbach offers an introduction to their work and a taste of what to expect at Manifesto.  


The systems we operate within are structurally violent and ill-equipped to handle the healthcare ‘burden’ of trauma.

For many trauma survivors, mental health services have been unavailable, unrelatable, and even retraumatising. Talk-based interventions have been widely acknowledged as ineffective when dealing with trauma and yet they are still the main, and often the only, services that are offered to survivors experiencing mental health issues resulting from traumatic experiences.

But how do we put words to sensations and experiences we ourselves cannot understand? How are we expected to talk through experiences that are embodied and non-verbal?

Systems built by non-survivors with a pathological stance on mental health ‘irregularities’, ‘illnesses’, ‘dysfunctions’, ‘disorders’, etc. are not able to foster wellbeing nor healing for the vast majority of trauma survivors, both because of its problematic conceptualisations and its ineffective treatments.

So where do we go when the help that we need is so often scarce, unhelpful, or personally costly?

Creativity is not only the space where ‘what could be’ can emerge but, for trauma survivors, it is the channel through which agency can be reclaimed and embodied healing can occur.

Living with the lasting impacts of trauma on the mind, brain, and body makes recovery, a return to what was, impossible. Instead, we turn to the arts for new avenues that do not bring us back but forward. Creativity is not only the space where ‘what could be’ can emerge but, for trauma survivors, it is the channel through which agency can be reclaimed and embodied healing can occur.

In the midst of harsh socioeconomic realities shaped by structural powers, our revolution manifests itself through survivor leadership. To reclaim our spaces for healing, we must first take ownership of our personal and collective narratives which have historically been controlled by oppressive and coercive systems.

Creative explorations and artistic expressions lie at the heart of our resistance. The socioeconomic barriers which impact mental health outcomes and render mental health support inaccessible are the same as those that precipitate societal violence and cause trauma. Through art, we can challenge the oppressive, interrogate what is societally deemed unquestionable, disrupt the present discourse, and create new avenues.

About the Programme

Excerpts will be screened from the following films as part of a panel discussion with filmmakers Andrea Luka Zimmerman, Julie-Yara Atz and Laura E. Fischer and chair Sullivan Holderbach.

All films will be captioned and BSL interpretation will be provided.


A dog next to a structure on an empty beach.

Wayfaring Stranger (2024, preview)
Andrea Luka Zimmerman

Part fable, part manifesto, part poem, filmed across landscapes marked by centuries of ceaseless human extraction, Wayfaring Stranger asks what it takes to find a liveable life on one’s own terms and without conflict with others and the environment.


Performer in front of a neon backdrop.

#BlackBoyJoyGone (#BBJG) (2022)
Isaac Ouro-Gnao
and Ashley Karrell

A documentary by and for black men on mental health, sexual trauma and finding strength through brotherhood, blending interviews, poetry, dance and storytelling, and capturing the lives, realities, and the hopeful perspectives of men across the UK.


A person sits on road bridge in the sunshine.

Here, The Planes (Or How I Experience the War) (2013)
Julie-Yara Atz

Here or there, war… the vulnerability while facing the undefinable, hovering, almost inevitable threat. And human beings in all this.


A man lying on the floor with a hand on his shoulder, surrounded by people.

I Remember Once You Needed Me (2020)
Julian Triandafyllou

A group of young men meet under the watchful gaze of a documentary film crew to creatively re-stage and perform a sexual assault. Narrated by the shadows of the director’s past the film offers a unique perspective on healing from personal trauma.


Close up of a small artifact in the desert.

Anti Zweena (2017)
Laura E. Fischer

Anti Zweena: you are beautiful. Anti Zweena: anti-beautiful. Four years after a traumatic experience, she journeys back to bring closure to an individual narrative of trauma and open a new collective narrative of healing.

Content Warning and Self-care

This session focuses on trauma and includes film excerpts that discuss war, childhood abuse, sexual violence, kidnapping and homelessness. We encourage people to carefully consider whether taking part is right for you and to do what you need to take care of yourself before, during, and after the session. You can find useful sources of support here.

How to See It

Traumascapes: On Survivors’ Terms is showing from 5pm – 6pm on Wednesday 4 October at CCA, Glasgow as part of our Manifesto programme.

This event is available as part of the Manifesto Day Pass, which costs £5 / £10 / £15 on a ‘pay what you can’ basis and allows you to attend up to 5 events. Single tickets for this event are also now available for £3.

About Traumascapes

Traumascapes is a survivor-led organisation dedicated to changing the ecosystem of trauma and creating new horizons for survivors through art and science. We exist to comprehensively respond to trauma, address its social and systemic determinants, support survivors, and protect our rights to safety, freedom, and joy. 

The Traumascapes Arts Collective carries Traumascapes’ bold, disruptive, and caring voice through interdisciplinary art projects, exhibitions, workshops, and other creative work. The collective creates artwork, both individually and collaboratively, that explores and articulates various aspects of trauma, with a particular emphasis on nuanced, complex, silenced, or less discussed themes.

Find out more at traumascapes.org.

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