Image shown: First Fortnight European Mental Health Art & Culture Festival

First Fortnight will host the European Mental Health Art & Culture Festival in January 2019. This is the first time the festival is coming to Ireland, with the aim of challenging mental health stigma. Over 150 events are taking place across Ireland with representatives from 16 countries across the continent participating.

The theatre programme features 12 productions including German-based Gifty Wiafe’s powerful It’s In the Blood, which will be staged in Dublin and Waterford, and Infinity, winner of the First Fortnight Award at the Dublin Fringe Festival 2018. WOMB, developed by Outlandish Theatre Platform in partnership with the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, creates a parallel perspective on woman and society. Lysis by Upstate Theatre Project is based on the writings and testimonies of people living with mental health issues. Through the Lens is A Smashing Times evening of performances, music, film screenings, presentations and a panel discussion using the arts to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

Visual Art
The visual art programme includes exhibitions, tours and participatory projects. Irish artist Emma Sheridan’s exhibition Warpaint is at the Science Gallery in Dublin. Sheridan put a callout through social media asking for people willing to have their portrait painted. She then spoke with them about their experience of mental ill health as she painted, resulting in a collection of emotive and inspirational paintings. For Threads, Polish visual artist Andrzej Mazur works collaboratively with 12 people experiencing homelessness helping them to describe their own personal journeys and mapping them across Europe with multiple strands of thread, intersecting and reaching Ireland. Presented in partnership with the Mendicity Institution, members of the public can contribute their own thread to a central art piece to stand alongside the individual works. In Waterford, Wellbeing Wall will see the creation of a mental health themed artwork painted directly on a wall space in the young adult area of Waterford Central Library.

Two of Ireland’s busiest acts, Saint Sister and The Academic, will curate the Dublin editions of Therapy Sessions, a staple of the festival with an eclectic mix of music and spoken word, on 4 and 11 January. Both nights will be mc’d by spoken word artist Stephen James Smith. Co-Motion, a music and walking experience that allows you to share songs that speak to you and form new connections through music, returns to The National Botanic Gardens. First Fortnight Mullingar will combine a night of mental health talks, graffiti and live music, involving some of the town’s best local talent. There will be speakers from Little Things, the HSE’s mental health campaign and safeTALK, the HSE’s suicide alertness for everyone training programme. Lots more besides, including The Big Gig on 12 January in Tramline, Dublin.

First Fortnight is collaborating with Clowns Without Borders Ireland and The Dublin Circus Project for a special circus programme as part of the festival. The Clown-Dalkin Project is a series of positive mental health circus workshops in Dublin in Clondalkin Direct Provision Centre. Following on from the project, Clowns Without Borders and their apprentice clowns will perform a showcase (Fly Away With The Circus) in Smock Alley on 13 January. Children will also have the opportunity to take part in a circus workshop at The Ark in Dublin.

Literature / Spoken Word 
Madness, Mental Illness, & Creativity: Writers And Artists In Conversation is taking place in Dublin with three creatives in the fields of writing and visual art: Arnold Thomas Fanning, Sara Baume and Eoghan O’Driscoll. 24/7 carers groups are invited to Manorhamilton Castle Cafe in Leitrim for a Vintage Tea And Storytelling Sharing on 10 January. Having used creativity as the foundation to recover from depression, Stanley Notte shares his story, techniques and theories on how creativity can positively influence our mental health in The Truth is… at Kino in Cork. Kino will also host The Crossover, a multi-disciplinary performance art project initiated in 2018 in Cork City featuring collaborations between Cork performance poets, rappers, musicians and visual artists.

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life is a symposium exploring Men, Movement and Mental Health, curated by Cathy Coughlan, Dance Artist in Residence at Rua Red Arts Centre, South Dublin and Ailish Claffey, Dance Artist in Residence at the National Centre for Arts and Health, Tallaght University Hospital. In Focus: Outsider Art And Mental Health Talk & Tea will be presented by Dr Riann Coulter at the National Gallery of Ireland on 15 January. A Look At Arts & Wellbeing In Kildare 2017-2018, part of Riverbank’s First Fortnight programme of events, will see artists and participants in conversation who work and deliver arts and wellbeing projects in Co. Kildare. Other events include Conversation Salons and The Art Of Anxiety With Nadine O’Regan in Dublin.

Riverbank Arts Centre in Kildare is hosting a number of events as part of its Under The Sea! First Fortnight Family Day on 19 January. Children can take part in creative workshops which will use storytelling, arts & craft, and other activities to explore the world of feelings and emotions, caring for yourself and making connections. Sligo Library Services and Stressed Out Steve invite children to take part in a fun-filled workshop of stress, worry and consternation, where they will get to use art, drama and storytelling to explore the complex concepts of mood and emotion. Artist Beth O’Halloran will lead Soothing Sessions Workshops For Babies & Adults at the National Gallery of Ireland. Dublin events for children include a Children’s Wellbeing Workshop hosted by the Alliance Française.

About First Fortnight
Now in its tenth year, First Fortnight is an arts-based mental health charity that organises a festival in the first two weeks of the year aimed at challenging stigma. This is the first time it has staged the European mental health arts festival in Ireland. An awareness campaign in the First Fortnight of the year works because we are all a little raw that time of year and more likely to be open to an empathic response. First Fortnight has become a fixture in the cultural calendar and synonymous with mental health awareness, challenging prejudice and ending stigma. First Fortnight also runs a Centre for Creative Therapies, which provides an art psychotherapy and music therapy service to adults with experience of homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

View the full programme and ticket information at


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