Yesterday afternoon, we launched the programme for the 2015 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival in a special event at The Studio at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. Guests were treated to previews of some of the highlights from this year’s programme, including performances from poet Jenny Lindsay and SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph, as well as getting a first look at our striking new brochure and artwork.

Now in our ninth year, we have over 300 events taking place in 17 regions across Scotland this October, including theatre, film, comedy, dance, spoken word, visual art and more. Arts Lead Andrew Eaton-Lewis picked out nationally-touring theatre productions In Her Shadows and The Last Yankee as particular highlights, along with three events focusing on Matt Haig’s inspiring memoir Reasons to Stay Alive and the ambitious multi-venue exhibition Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

Eaton-Lewis also explained why this is such an exciting time for the Festival as we approach our tenth anniversary. New funding from Creative Scotland and the Wellcome Trust has enabled us to increase our year round activity, as well as commission and develop original projects. This year, we are excited to be supporting Michael John McCarthy’s Turntable, a series of workshops and events taking place throughout October, exploring how music can enrich our lives.

Film Curator Richard Warden introduced our film programme for this year, which includes a European premiere, as well as a number of films screening in Scotland and the UK for the first time. What is particularly exciting about this year’s programme is that the majority of films were selected from submissions to our International Film Competition – there were so many ‘wonderful and appropriate films’ that demanded to be screened during the Festival.

We were delighted to show trailers from three of these films – Dead When I Got Here, The Closer We Get and Dancing With Maria – which highlighted the variety and depth that can be found in this year’s selection. Alongside these, we gave the first public screening of the 2015 SMHAFF trailer, which features footage from several of the films and music from Swimmer One.

Members of the Edinburgh & Lothian Festival team also took us through some local highlights. Regional Lead Sheena Lowrie picked out Jenny Lindsay’s cabaret night Rally & Broad, the Wellbeing Mela, a fun family day to promote diversity and positive mental health, and the popular annual Ceilidh Club night at Summerhall. From CAPS Independent Advocacy, Kirsten McLean spoke about Out of Sight, Out of Mind and Pam Van de Brug introduced her public art project Conversations for Change.

Our theme for 2015 is passion, which is fitting as it is so central to everything that SMHAFF does. Festival Manager Gail Aldam said: ‘What has really struck me each year is the passion that people have for what we do, using art to give a voice to marginalised groups, challenging injustice and instigating change.’ The theme also reflects the vital commitment from nearly 300 organisations, communities and individuals, who have helped SMHAFF grow into one of the world’s largest social justice festivals.

We would like to thank everyone who made the launch such a wonderful event and look forward to seeing you at events across Scotland in October.