Love Arts York is a new festival for the city, exploring the links between creativity and mental health. Director Steven Wrigley-Howe explains more
Love Arts York began taking shape in the summer of 2013 when a wide range of people from the NHS, academia and the voluntary and arts sectors got together to kick start a mental health and wellbeing themed arts festival for the city.
It is an exciting collaboration between lots of local organisations and individuals with an interest in mental health and wellbeing.
We wanted to use the arts as a way to get people talking and remove some of the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds mental health issues.
We’ve been amazed at the level of interest and support we have seen in launching this first festival.
This came not just from the organisations that have joined forces to organise the festival, but also from partners in the city who have been incredibly generous with their time and facilities to provide venues and other support.
Because of this support, our events can truly be seen as embedded in the day to day cultural life of the city throughout May.
It will pop up in the schedules of such established arts venues as York City Screen and York Theatre Royal, and help still further to show mental health and wellbeing is just one more thing art can deal with and not something taboo to be shown or discussed away from the mainstream.
Our first programme, which runs from Monday 12th to Friday 30th May, also has a great mix of events, some commissioned by us and some already planned which we are supporting because they fit the aims of our festival.
We are showcasing some fantastic work from local people with direct experience of mental health problems, as well as using other art and artists to help us understand and celebrate the close link between mental health and creativity.
Finally the festival really is for everyone, because everyone is affected by mental health problems, either directly or in someone they are close to.
We’d love to hear what people think of this year’s festival and also to help us move the festival from what we hope is “small but perfectly formed in 2014” to “bigger and better in 2015”.
Some festival highlights
Throughout May there are exhibitions of photography and artwork from a number of local groups on display at York City Screen and the Theatre Royal’s exhibition corridor. There’s also a chance to meet the artists on Saturday, May 17 from 3pm-5pm at York City Screen.
On Thursday, May 15 Fiona Shaw reads from Out Of Me, a powerful memoir of postnatal depression, at York Explore Library
It’s not often York hosts a UK film premiere but Love Arts York will have this honour when York City Screen shows Free The Mind, a film about the proven power of mindfulness mediation, on Bank Holiday Monday, May 26, followed by a Q & A with local mindfulness group York MBSR.
A lot of exciting new work is lined up, including a full day with the York St John University Converge group on Wednesday, May 21; Johnny Curd’s Butterfly in the ballroom at the De Grey Rooms on Wednesday May 14, and Six Lips Theatre’s House Of Tragic She at St John University on Friday, May 16.
Anxiety and depression are no laughing matter but Debs Gatenby’s groundbreaking Hi Anxiety (Tuesday, May 20 at York St John) finds humour with humanity in these common mental health problems.
And there are some very contrasting songs to be heard. Early music band Poeticall Musicke perform melancholic John Dowland at Barley Hall on Friday, May 16.
Mesmerising singer songwriter Gwyneth Herbert whose performance at City Screen’s Basement on Thursday, May 22, will include an unreleased song on the theme of mental illness, which you can hear on the Love Arts York website.
Love Arts York is also about giving opportunities for people to get involved.
There will be workshops run by iCan, The International Centre for Arts and Narrative, at York Theatre Royal, and a chance to add your own thoughts about mental health to the Elephant On Parade, which will be popping up throughout the festival.
- Festival director Steven Wrigley-Howe is also a non-executive director on the board of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which along with York St John University are the festival’s main supporters
- More details about the festival and an event programme are available on the Love Arts website or via the Facebook page and Twitter @LoveArtsYork