Jamie Bolland – Photo: Ingrid Mur

Read our report for the 17th Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, which took place from 4-22 October 2023, exploring the theme of ‘Revolution’.

SMHAF 2023 featured over 240 events in 14 local authority areas across Scotland. It reached estimated live audiences of over 15,000 people and digital audiences of over 2,000 people.

The festival is led by the Mental Health Foundation and aims to use the arts and creativity to explore how we can help to prevent mental health problems and support people to live mentally healthier lives.

Highlights

‘Revolution’

Our ‘Revolution’ theme was a catalyst for creativity and community engagement. In the midst of political and economic turbulence, the festival confronted the impact of economic barriers and social inequality on our mental health, and asked ‘how we can do things differently?’

Manifesto

SMHAF 2023 opened with Manifesto, an ambitious day of music, theatre, performance and participatory workshops to explore the questions: What does a mental health revolution look like? And how do we start one?.

Photos: Ingrid Mur

Artist Commissions

We commissioned five diverse artists to create new artworks inspired by our ‘Revolution’ theme, encompassing live performance, film, printed materials, and audio art.

Moving Minds

A kaleidoscope of artists, musicians, and organisations showcased their talents at this annual family-friendly event, produced in collaboration with Glasgow’s diverse communities.

Photos: Ingrid Mur

Film

We presented four powerful screenings in cinemas and community venues, inviting guests including acclaimed director Carol Morley, emerging talent Etienne Kubwabo, and visual artist Melanie Manchot to join us in conversation.

Writing

We hosted our 10th annual Writing Awards to celebrate new writing exploring mental health. Host Hannah Lavery introduced our shortlisted writers to read excerpts from their work.

Photos: Jassy Earl

Regional Programmes

The festival featured over 200 events in urban and rural locations all across Scotland – from Thurso to Hawick – spanning music, film, theatre, visual art, discussion, creative workshops and more.

Our Impact

Audiences

“I intend to find more creative ways of expressing myself and being more honest when I feel “unwell.”

Audience Feedback
Audience at Moving Minds – Photo: Ingrid Mur

SMHAF has a big impact on its diverse audiences, with its innovative creative programming, and the opportunities it creates for people to gain insights and resources that help them better support their mental health.

98% of respondents to our audience survey described their experience as Good or Very Good with the overwhelming majority saying Very Good.

Artists

“It felt significant for me to be recognised as an artist and as someone with lived experience. It is not often I feel confident disclosing my disability and in a way that felt comfortable and in such a supportive environment.”

Artist Feedback
Raveloe – Photo: Ingrid Mur

SMHAF is a unique platform for artists to create and share work about mental health, providing a safe and welcoming environment to explore their own lived experience and the issues they care about through their work.

93% of respondents to our artist survey felt that their involvement with SMHAF positively impacted their mental health.

Regional Impact

“I think it’s [SMHAF] a wonderful thing. It’s about connecting people and breaking down these barriers…it brings that authenticity to the arts rather than you’re just going along and actually looking at something. You don’t just look at something like that. You’re actually part of something and that’s how you build communities.”

Regional Coordinator
Out of Sight Out of Mind – Photo: Chris Scott

Arts and mental health activity has an important role in communities across Scotland. Engaging in SMHAF enables this vital work to reach wider audiences and challenges mental health stigma in local communities.

Our Partners and Supporters

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2023 was supported by national partners: Creative Scotland, Thrive Edinburgh, Edinburgh Health & Social Care Partnership, Baring Foundation, See Me, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Scottish Recovery Network, and media partner: The List.

Thank you to our partners and the hundreds of organisations, communities, and individuals who participated in the festival this year.