The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) will return for its 16th year from 4-24 May 2022 to explore the theme of ‘Gather’. This reflects the Mental Health Awareness Week theme of ‘Loneliness’, which coincides with the festival from 9-15 May 2022.
Led by the Mental Health Foundation, SMHAF 2022 will be a hybrid festival, combining live events and online programming to enhance connections and strive towards being accessible for all. As we develop our programme, we invite artists, communities, and organisations working in the arts and mental health in Scotland to get involved. Get in touch if you want to discuss a project you are working on, showcase your work, or contribute to the development of a programme in your region.
Our theme of ‘Gather’ was chosen to recognise that bringing people together has always been vital to our work; we use the arts to connect communities, reduce social isolation, and challenge mental health stigma. After two years at a distance, we want to explore what it means for people to come together. How does sharing a space influence our mental health and our experience of art? And when we cannot or choose not to come together physically, how else can we gather in a way that is truly inclusive? As always, SMHAF is an opportunity to gather stories, artworks, performances, thoughts, and conversations scattered across Scotland, creating an important public dialogue on mental health.
‘Gather’ also reflects the theme of ‘Loneliness’, which we will be exploring during Mental Health Awareness Week. Loneliness affects millions of people in the UK every year and is a key driver of poor mental health. Research by the Mental Health Foundation has found loneliness has been hugely exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with levels of loneliness still higher than pre-pandemic levels. The week will raise awareness of the impact of loneliness of our mental wellbeing and the practical steps we can take to address it. Reducing loneliness is a major step towards a mentally healthy society and connecting people through the arts is one way we can achieve this.
We are excited to see how artists and communities across Scotland choose to explore and challenge what we mean by ‘Gather’ and ‘Loneliness’ at the festival next May.