MenTalkHealth is at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, meeting some of the amazing contributors and hearing their own unique stories and experiences of mental health.

In the second special episode of the podcast, join Davey as he meets with Edinburgh based artist, Andrew Henderson, to discuss how his art sculptures speak to his relationship with mental illness. Andrew’s work is part of the brilliant All, Entire, Whole exhibition, curated by our guest host Sean McGugan.

***Trigger Warning*** 

This episode does talk around the subject of suicide in an important and healthy way. If this is a possible trigger, that’s okay. Join us on the next episode instead.

About MenTalkHealth

Just how honest can two men be? With a broad history of mental health issues between them, join Davey, Damian and their friends on a journey to find humour in some of their darkest moments and try to get men talking about their own mental health.

This episode was edited by Davey Shields, with sound by Corbin Sounds.

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The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is programmed by people from all across Scotland. To celebrate this year’s Connected theme, we want to introduce you to some of them. Today, we meet Brian Reid, who coordinates an annual exhibition at Leverndale Hospital, which this year is called Connect to the Moment.

What does Connected, SMHAF’s theme this year, mean to you?

It was my favourite choice of topic for some years. It’s an all embracing theme which creates dialogue around who we are, where we are and all that is important to us. In discussions, art and writing groups around this topic, it has been fruitful. Diverse responses. Poignant moments. And great fun.

How long have you been putting on events at the festival, and what made you get involved?

We have had an exhibition every year at Leverndale Hospital. Initially, we were totally unofficial! We invented local SMHAF fringe style events on the Leverndale site. One year, we took all our exhibits down to the cafe at the Pearce Institute and sited them there for the whole festival, and we weren’t in the brochure.

At Leverndale, we have always had an art vibe at the core of our creative therapies and I’ve been truly honoured to be involved in some of the most dynamic events with great practitioners and brilliant artists. A big focus for me in my work in Recreational Therapy is the mantra that Anyone Can Do Art. Except for me of course.

I am a total banner waver when it comes to battling stigma. I'm 39 years a nurse and I still feel as passionately about inclusion and the provision of life enhancing opportunities to connect with your real self. The person. What you like to do. 

How would you describe where you live to someone who had never been there?

I love where I live. Less than twenty minutes and I am in total countryside. Less than twenty minutes and I am in Glasgow city centre. Hills and water and the Glasgow Film Festival and Celtic Connections and SMHAF all within easy reach. A nurturing, vibrant and - with our free access to Glasgow Museums - culturally inclusive country. What is not to love.

Can you give us an example – more than one if you like - of an event in your area that sums up the spirit of the festival?

I love the film festival. Brilliantly curated and the events where directors and participants get to share their story is amazing.

I love all the local events around Paisley and Glasgow that give a platform to people living with illness and stigma and grief. I think that opportunity is at the core of all that is important in the festival. Not imposing art from outside but encouraging and creating art from what previously seemed like hopeless situations. Breathing self belief and self esteem and fun back in to lives in a way that is meaningful to each individual.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Have been to five events so far and have at least three lined up for next week. Wouldn’t like to favour one over the other but I loved the film festival. The Lumo movie, We Are All Here, was devastating.

Connect to the Moment takes place on Thu 23 May from 6-9pm in the Recreational Therapy department at Leverndale Hospital. This year’s event celebrates how we connect to art and how art connects us to others and our environment. No need to book, just drop in throughout the evening. 

A participatory artwork in the form of an audio tour in the city of Glasgow, She Stepped Backwards In Front of the Words Behind Her conjures artist Emily Furneaux’s own experiences of slipping into a state of psychosis. In our latest Q&A, we talk to her about why she decided to speak out.

Can you describe your own experience of psychosis?

Ooo very difficult to summarise because of its multifaceted presentations. I would say a quite magical, disturbing at times, fantastical adventure whereby our collective reality becomes mis-shapen. I fell out of the reality we share as humans, perceiving, and misinterpreting my minds thoughts as they played out in the environments I found myself in.

There is more stigma around psychosis than there is around anxiety or depression. What made you decide to speak out about it?

For that very reason. It’s fantastic we are living in a time where we are finally accepting, and have an awareness of, mental health difficulties but our conversations and awareness needs to extend to severe presentations of mental health too. It took me a long time to speak openly about my experiences - it has only been through the making of this project that I have become more confident in sharing my experiences and it hasn’t always been easy - there have been multiple occasions where people have asked what my project for SMHAF is about. And I tell them it’s about my own, personal experiences of psychosis and they will look to the floor, unable to make eye contact because they feel uncomfortable. We have a long way to go to break the stigma, to make people more comfortable and I hope my offerings will help to widen our conversations.

How did you come up with the idea of an audio tour, and what do you hope audiences will get out of it?

It seemed very fitting to make a project where you are taken on a physical journey as you listen to my fantastical, often humorous and sometimes bleak accounts. Many of my experiences, as I slipped into psychosis, occurred on a long walk through Glasgow on the day of my 30th birthday.

Tell us about the title, She Stepped Backwards in Front of The Words Behind Her. It’s very evocative.

Well it sort of mimics the feelings I had of being in multiple time frames and places within the same period of time - a huge component of the audio: “Determined now and content with her new capabilities to delve into the wealth of undulating trajectories oscillating in front, below, behind and above her. An intricate, chaotic cluster of collaged time and place, folds, creases, perforations, rips and tears, collaboratively ruinating and renewing on one infinite roll of paper, unencumbered by linearity. “

Have you made work exploring mental health before?

No I haven’t - this is a new journey for me! I never thought I would re-tell my stories - following my breakdown, I found it extremely difficult to reconnect with my art practice.
When I did finally begin to feel better it seemed very clear I needed to make an artwork about my experiences. And then, I spent months trying to write a project in which I could protect myself - sort of hide behind the work by using a fictional character. Something always felt jarring about it and then I realised I needed to be bolder and write my stories, as me.

How and where did you learn to be an artist?

We are all artists! I just happened to learn I was one quite early on. I studied in Brighton and Kansas City, USA before moving to Glasgow nearly ten years ago. 

How would you describe the kind of art you make?

The form my work takes differs from project to project and is very dependent on the subject matter. I work in sculpture, video, collage, paper model making, audio and installation. I make work usually about a place or environment weaving fiction and fact to create new encounters and new narratives. My investigations into ‘place’ often become intercepted with personal encounters, gut responses and obsession that become woven and tangled in the environments they are played out it.

What are you working on next?
I will be working on a mockumentary for Glasgow International Festival. Set in 2022, it tells the story of my rise to sporting fame after winning the Boston Marathon in 2020 and then my disappearance, to make artwork, shortly after. In correspondence with the presentation of the mockumentary in April 2020, I will be actually travelling to Boston (by cargo ship and train) to run the Boston marathon, with the intention to win it (a wildly ambitious goal) so I can become a sports personality and then disappear to make artwork.

She Stepped Backwards In Front of the Words Behind Her begins on Thursday 9th May, and a map and audio will be available to collect throughout the festival. On the final day (Sunday 26th May), live happenings and occurrences will be integrated within the tour. Click here to find out more.

MenTalkHealth is there meeting some of the amazing contributors, and hearing their own unique stories and experiences of mental health.

In our first of three special episodes, join Davey Shields as he meets with filmmaker and SMHAF Grand Jury Prize winner, Tim Mercier, to discuss his astounding short film Model Childhood. Dealing with the legacy of a sexual assault, Davey, Tim and our guest host, Sean, discuss the freedom and benefits of creating a way to tell your story, no matter how hard it might be to tell.

Trigger Warning: This episode does talk around the subject of sexual assault and suicide. If this is a possible trigger, that’s okay. Join us on the next episode instead.

Edited by Davey Shields
Sound by Corbin Sounds

You can also subscribe to MenTalkHealth on Spotify and iTunes. Read our article on Tim Mercier winning the Grand Jury Prize at the International Film Awards here.

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is programmed by people from all across Scotland. To celebrate this year’s Connected theme, we want to introduce you to some of them. Today, we meet Sheila Newcombe from Angus.

Where are you from and what do you do?

I’m from Angus Voice and I work part-time as Participation Development Worker. We used lived experience to influence and shape services locally, and to raise awareness of mental ill health, and also challenge stigma. Our involvement in SMHAF this year started when Angus Voice and See Me jointly hosted a co-creation event back in November. One of the two main priorities identified on that day was to ‘do something’ as part of SMHAF 2019 in Angus.

What does Connected, SMHAF’s theme this year, mean to you?

We’ve worked as a co-creation team, and connected with others – individuals and organisations along the way. Just like the old folk tale about Stone Soup, A Celebration of Creativity has been made possible through the involvement of many different people, in many different ways – all stemming from the various connections we have. We’re also delighted to see how so many different people, groups and organisations have connected with A Celebration of Creativity – artists, people with lived experience, community groups, local organisations and more. Work exhibited comes from across the age ranges, the youngest being primary school age, and the oldest being 70+. We sometimes hear people describe Angus as a place of places, so starting from the initial exhibition and then parts of it being moved to different parts of Angus also fits with the theme of connected.  

 DSC5063 Dan Dare Pilot of the Future

How long have you been putting on events at this festival, and what made you get involved?

This is the first year I/we’ve been involved in SMHAF. It’s something we knew about, and there might have been occasional events held locally in Angus during the period of SMHAF, but in the past there had been no formal link made to SMHAF.

Can you give us an example – more than one if you like - of an event in your area that sums up the spirit of the festival?

Angus Creative Minds: A Celebration of Creativity sums up the spirit of the festival for us, and especially this year’s theme of Connected.  

Who or what do you feel most connected to?

At a personal level I have a strong feeling of connection to nature, and feel so lucky to live in Angus – with amazing landscapes and wildlife from the coast to the lochs and the mountains.  Working with others on A Celebration of Creativity has had a major impact on my feelings of connection to others too.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?

Every day is different, and our planning has been very organic. For me, that means I’m really excited about seeing the exhibition all together in one place ahead of the preview and opening to the public.  

Click here to find out more about events taking place in Angus as part of SMHAF 2019. 

Header image is by Robbie, part of a creative group of young people aged 5-12, exploring wellbeing and wishes. Dan Dare Pilot of the Future is by Evan at Kirrie Connections' Dementia Friendly Project.