To close its first week of events, the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival took over Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts with a selection of films submitted to its International Film Competition. The programme of short films, Women, Interrupted, showcased five touching gems portraying different women’s struggles with mental health disorders.
Firstly, the audience was introduced to Alice, protagonist of Camille Fleury’s Hide and Seek, before Beth, Marta, Laura and Virginia’s stories made their appearance on the screen. All together, these fictional and real women’s stories painted a delicate yet powerful picture, showing many different facets of what living with a mental health condition feels like as a mother, daughter or wife.
The predominant feeling that came across in these films was a sense of alienation. Alice’s struggle to deal with bipolar disorder was aggravated by the suffocating sense of living in a psychiatric ward. Beth’s (In Sickness) incapability to communicate with her fiancé set a growing distance between the two of them. Marta (Secret Death) silently and uselessly looked for sympathy and support as she dealt with the trauma of her son’s attempted suicide. Laura (Most of Us Don't Live There) questioned how the love and caring she received as a child could still leave her with an undying sense of emptiness. In Ramtin Nikzad’s One Foot in Reality, which won Best Short Drama in the International Film Competition, Virginia discussed her “trip to space” and the difficulties of living around her loved ones when part of her was always somewhere else.
The extent and intensity of the sum of negative emotions felt by these women was amplified by a few directorial choices, such as the almost complete lack of soundtracks. In Michele Leonardi’s Secret Death, Marta’s interlocutors’ faces were never shown. In Thomas Edwards’ In Sickness, Beth’s condition was further emphasised as scenes of her attempted suicide and its consequences were contrasted against moments from happier times.
Featuring only two actors and setting the whole film in the couple’s house, Edwards also managed to raise the issue of people’s expectations when it comes to women sharing their feelings. Men are commonly believed to have a less emotional facade compared to women, who are constantly reminded of their fragility, helplessness and volatility. Thus, they are expected to seek help and support. But gender often has no particular meaning when it comes to talking about difficult emotions. Jim’s attempts to protect Beth and his inability to accept her silence further aggravated their precarious relationship and her sense of guilt.
The truly phenomenal aspect of the films selected for Women, Interrupted, besides their surprising meticulosity in portraying women’s lives, was their ability to include an underlying positive message. Life’s odd beauty was depicted just as accurately as its bewildering cruelty, inviting the audience to engage in conversation about what are still stigmatised issues.
The screening was followed by a Q&A session with the lovely Virginia Linn, protagonist of One Foot in Reality. Virginia opened up about her experiences living and dealing with schizophrenia to an engaged and touched audience. More than one person felt the need to thank her afterwards, and rightfully so, setting a perfectly open and familiar tone to SMHAFF’s weekend of film at the CCA.
by Ludovica Credendino
Hide and Seek (Camille Fleury | France | 2015 | 24m)
In Sickness (Thomas Edwards | UK | 2016 | 14m)
Morte Segreta (Secret Death) (Michele Leonardi | Italy | 2015 | 13m)
Most of Us Don't Live There (Laura Marie Wayne | Canada/Cuba | 2015 | 25m)
One Foot in Reality (Ramtin Nikzad | USA | 2016 | 11m)
The SMHAFF film programme runs in Glasgow and Edinburgh until Wednesday 2 November. For full listings, click here. There are also films screening until Monday 31 October in regions across Scotland.
Talking Heads reporter Colin MacGregor previews Geez a Break Productions' If I Forget to Remember, which has already received a five star review at its premiere at East Kilbride Arts Centre and has further dates at Bellshill Cultural Centre and Rutherglen Town Hall.
‘It’s a small world’ is an often used cliché in this day of modern media platforms but one I found myself muttering just the other night. I had been in an online discussion with a gentleman named Ross McAree, who I discovered co-runs Lanarkshire-based Geez a Break Productions.
Where does ‘it’s a small world’ fit in? Well, I had made plans to go along this Saturday to the Bellshill Cultural Centre to review a play for SMHAFF called If I Forget to Remember and guess what the production company behind it is – that’s right, Geez a Break Productions – and Ross is a producer and actor for the play. Small world, eh?
Well it doesn’t end there. Through talking further, I discovered that his co-founder and co-producer is none other than Liam Lambie, someone I am acquainted with through his past work and have very much grown to admire.
Liam and Ross are no strangers to SMHAFF, having produced the highly acclaimed play Lanes and Doorways for last year’s festival, which told the story of a group of homeless people living on the streets of Glasgow.
This year’s contribution If I Forget to Remember highlights the plight of a family as they deal with the heart breaking preparations for their mother who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at the age of 52.
The play has already performed at East Kilbride Arts Centre and the news that filtered back to me was that it was a glowing success. It has already received a five star review in the local press and audience members have informed me that it received was a standing ovation.
By all accounts, If I Forget to Remember is a rare combination of humility, dignity, and humour, as the audience are lead on an emotional and heartfelt journey. I must also add that I have been told that hankies are a necessity.
Liam is a writer, director and producer who I will continue to follow in the future. His past works have been wonderful pieces that enthral an audience and If I Forget to Remember promises to be yet another notch that secures his impressive reputation.
by Colin MacGregor
Maggie Patterson : Jacquline Gilbride (Take the High Road)
William Patterson : Victor Kennedy
Katie Patterson : Sarah Beth Brown
Scott Patterson : Ross McAree (also Co-Producer)
Daniel Patterson : Liam Lambie (also Writer, Director and Co-Producer)
Jackie Owens : Amy Montgomery
She is Fierce invites you to come and experience Wonderland in Edinburgh Castle's Great Hall, celebrating the creativity of young women with the magazine's contributors. Talking Heads reporter Kirstyn Smith spoke to founder Hannah Taylor about how She is Fierce supports young women and what to look forward to on the night.
She is Fierce is more than a magazine – it’s a way of life. In its own words, it’s a collective for girls with messy hair and curious hearts, as well as a publication for them to share stories and experiences, and develop a creative portfolio. Encouraging, positive and relentlessly supportive of young women in a world which isn’t always kind to them, She is Fierce is filling a void that desperately needed to be filled.
At the centre of these curious hearts is Hannah Taylor, founder of the magazine and mum to a fierce young girl who inspired her to shake up the teen magazine market.
‘I think She is Fierce offers an opportunity for young people to explore different avenues about what makes them happy,’ she says. ‘Hopefully, in turn, that will help them. We are the opposite of mainstream media which just concentrates on celebrity culture and makeup and all the rest of it. She is Fierce is something a bit more inspiring.’
She’s not wrong. Founded only a year ago, issue Minus One was a roaring success and the big one, Issue One proper – the Wonderland Issue – drops at the end of October. To celebrate, they’re throwing a big old party, at Edinburgh Castle no less.
‘It’s an awesome opportunity for us,’ Hannah says. ‘I would never have expected to be able to party at the castle!’
For She is Fierce, Edinburgh Castle is opening its doors for supporters and curious types to learn more about the magazine. The event will also showcase some of the people who have contributed to the first issue and Hannah is psyched to show off the wealth of young talent that is out there.
‘It’s a bit of an eclectic mix! We’ve got a young aspiring poet called Aischa Daughtery who’s coming along to recite the poem she wrote for us. We’ve also got the two young ladies who run Pyrus, a florist with a twist. They both studied fine art, then somehow fell into floristry and now they combine their love of fine art with floristry to create these amazing installations. We also have local fashion designer (and all round general badass) Emily Millichip MC'ing the event for us, plus Rebecca Monks performing spoken word.’
‘Hopefully it’ll be a really cool, chilled, laid-back event to show off the diversity and the creative girls that we’ve got in the magazine,’ Hannah says.
Happening as part of SMHAFF, the event is doing a lot to highlight the importance of mental health in young people, and particularly young women.
‘I think She is Fierce is providing a creative outlet for young people, which I think is really important when it comes to their wellbeing,’ says Hannah. ‘We’re trying to highlight the fact that your teenage years are the most important of your life. Although you should be having a heap of fun, there’s actually a lot of pressure on young people.’
A recent study from the Scottish Health Survey, corroborates this view. It found that women aged 16-24 have ‘significantly lower’ levels of mental wellbeing than other age categories, as well as higher levels of self-harm. This is something particularly worrying to Hannah, and something she is taking into consideration every step of the way with She is Fierce.
‘Your teens are the time of your life when you’re making the biggest decisions. Young people should take care of themselves, be gentle with themselves and not give themselves too much of a hard time.’
by Kirstyn Smith
She is Fierce takes place on Thursday 20 October from 7pm–9pm in the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle. Ticket information can be found here.
Tall by nature but little by name, comedian Gary Little is not afraid of broaching any subject if it makes a positive difference to just one person. Ahead of his upcoming tour, he spoke to Talking Heads reporter Anne Austin about his thoughts on comedy and mental health. Described by Kevin Bridges as ‘some of the best stand up’ he is ever seen, Gary's new show A Little Bit of Personal is sure to have the crowds laughing, talking and thinking.
Several well known comedians have spoken out about their own mental health experiences. Do you think there’s a connection between comedy and mental health?
There’s a couple of ways to look at this. Stand up brings stress and highs and lows. [First], there’s the stress, then if it goes well the highs, if not then it is the lows and disappointment. The job itself can bring stress and lows. Then again, 1 in 4 people suffer from depression, so there’s probably as many joiners going through it. But when you’re in the limelight, there exists this sad clown stereotype that doesn’t apply to the joiner. I don’t think this stereotype holds any relevancy – so many people suffer regardless of what they do.
How do your experiences of depression and being in prison come through in your comedy?
I talk about depression and being inside – it suits my style and I’m telling the funny stuff, obviously. That’s the good thing about the shit stuff that happens to you. It can be turned into a positive to tell people there’s still hope out there.
Do you believe comedy can play a part in helping people who are experiencing mental health issues?
Definitely, I have had people come up to me after shows and said how much they have appreciated it and said how often they think they’re the only one to have been in a particular situation. When they hear about me and we’re all laughing, it shows that there is hope and a future. I believe more time should be spent talking about mental health and taking the stigma away. I don’t know when the time will come that people can be open about it. The stigma is still there big time.
Are you concerned when doing stand-up about depression that you may cross boundaries and offend some people?
I’ve had people tell me that they have been offended by my shows. When I’ve asked them what offended them, they replied that they didn’t know. I tell stories about depression, my mum dying and being in prison. When people hear certain words they often jump to the offensive conclusion without considering the whole context. I tell my life stories. I am laughing at my experiences and no one else. It is a Scottish thing, perhaps a working class Glaswegian trait that by nature we self-deprecate. Someone will find something funny whereas someone else will find it offensive. What are the boundaries? It is subjective.
Do you believe celebrities talking about their own mental health issues helps?
Anyone talking is good and the big names get it on television. However, I don’t know how much the guy or girl sitting in their house watching Stephen Fry talking about his experience will help. Getting people talking generally is important and with so many folk experiencing depression, you’d think there would be more acceptability. It seems hard for human nature not to judge and hold onto what their own perceptions are.
by Anne Austin
Thu 20 Oct, 8pm
East Kilbride Arts Centre, 51 Old Coach Road, East Kilbride G74 4DU
£10 | 01355 261 000 | SLLCBOXOFFICE.CO.UK
Sat 29 Oct, 8pm
Behind the Wall, 14 Melville Street, Falkirk FK1 1HZ
£10 | 01324 633 338
Mon 31 Oct, 8pm
The Stand, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, G3 6NG
£10 | 0141 212 3389 | THESTAND.CO.UK
Monday 10 October was World Mental Health Day and on the University of Stirling campus there were a whole range of activities to get students to think about mental health in a positive way. Talking Heads reporter Andrew Revill has recorded his account of the day using words, photographs and video.
Members of the Students’ Union, led by Union President Dave Keenan, took over the Atrium in the Andrew Millar Building to ask students for a moment of their time to think and talk about mental health.
There were a variety of stalls that invited you to take part in simple, fun activities that not only allowed you to relax and unwind, but also to engage in conversations about mental wellbeing.
I began with some colouring in, something which I had not done since I was in primary school, and had completely forgotten how much fun it was. This table was visited by many students, who had some time between classes to join in the activities, and led by the very friendly and creative Linda McCulloch of Unity Group and Lesley Anne Derks of Artspace.
Next I visited the Play-Doh! table, and got chatting to Artlink Central’s Artistic Programmer Catherine Findlay about the event, as well as her own personal experiences with anxiety and depression.
I also spoke to Bethany Avery of the University of Stirling’s Mental Wellbeing Society. They were staging a photo booth encouraging people to take a selfie with an item of yellow clothing on or holding a yellow prop, (think rubber duckies!) to then share on social media with the hashtag #HelloYellow.
The final stall was a photo booth of a slightly different kind. Sebastian Lawson-Thorp, a former student and founder of the Relief Café, was running his #PledgeWithAPolaroid campaign.
The campaign involves getting students to have their picture taken on a Polaroid camera as a way to show their support for ending stigma related to mental illness. He described it as “something instantaneous but also lasting”.
Sebastian’s pictures were then displayed in the Pathfoot Building on campus, alongside artwork from Artlink Central, some of which you can see here.
The exhibition, which runs until 31 October, was launched by The Treehouse Gang, a therapeutic singing group led by Gareth Perrie, also of Artlink Central, which had also performed earlier in the Atrium. Here is the Gang’s rendition of traditional folk song ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’.
by Andrew Revill
Time and Artspace Time is a joint exhibition held at The Art Collection in the Pathfoot Building at the University of Stirling Campus. It is open daily from 9am-5pm until 31 October and is free to attend.