The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF), led by the Mental Health Foundation, will return from 3-23 May 2021 and explore the theme of 'Normality?'.

SMHAF 2021 will take place as a live events programme – subject to Covid-19 restrictions – complemented by an online programme to enhance accessibility and reach. We invite artists and organisations involved in the arts and mental health across Scotland to showcase work or develop creative projects in the festival programme. Please contact us if you would like to discuss a project you are working on, or new proposals to get involved in your area.

The theme of 'Normality? was chosen based on a widespread desire among our national network of artists, mental health activists and community groups to question the value judgements associated with a word that has appeared frequently in the media in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, Arts Programme Officer at the Mental Health Foundation said:

“The theme of 'Normality?’ was inspired by a wave of media stories referring to ‘the new normal’ or ‘returning to normal’ and a desire to challenge the value judgements often associated with use of this word. What if the ‘old normal’ was damaging your mental health? Or what if being isolated and unable to work was always ‘normal’ to you because of anxiety, illness or disability? A festival exploring 'Normality?' feels like a kind of manifesto, a plea for a new kind of normality that is healthier and fairer.”

Normality? is also the theme for our writing competition, which launched this week in partnership with Bipolar Scotland. It is open to anyone based in Scotland, the UK and internationally, with writers invited to submit new work across three categories: Fiction, Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction. Find out more here

The international film competition is also open for submissions until Friday 18 December. We are calling on filmmakers, both established and aspiring, to submit films exploring mental health in all the diverse ways it can be understood and reflected. Selected titles will be screened during the festival in May and the very best will be honoured at the International Film Awards. Find out more here.

The Closing Report from SMHAF 2020 has also been published. The festival was adapted as an online programme due to the Covid-19 crisis and UK-wide lockdown. It featured seven newly commissioned works, an extensive film programme, and opportunities for artists and filmmakers to explore self-care and strategies for survival with peers, and was funded by Creative Scotland, See Me, NHS Lothian, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The online programme was an important learning experience for the festival, especially in terms of considering how to make our programme fully accessible for all. Download the Closing Report here.

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is an internationally-respected annual programme to support the arts, challenge preconceived ideas about mental health, and explore how engagement with the arts can help to prevent mental ill health. Led by the Mental Health Foundation – scheduled to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week – and supported by partner organisations across Scotland, SMHAF is the biggest festival of its kind in the world. Its ground-breaking model – combining high artistic quality with strong grassroots support, community engagement and social activism – has been imitated across Europe. We are currently partnering with mental health festivals in Wales and Northern Ireland, sharing our programming and knowledge, while also supporting new programmes elsewhere.