Image shown: First Fortnight 2020

First Fortnight, Ireland’s annual Mental Health Art & Culture Festival, will host its ninth edition during the month of January 2020 with over 100 events in 62 venues across 17 counties. 

A really strong visual arts programme at this year’s festival includes community installations, exhibitions, creative workshops and pop-up talks presented by the National Gallery of Ireland. In Galway, the Art in Mind collective, a non-profit organisation seeking mental wellbeing through artistic practice, presents Alone in the Crowd, a growing body of figures being developed through a series of workshops with community groups, culminating in One – the largest sculpture installation ever assembled in Ireland.

The Creative Well Archive Project in Kildare explores the people, work, thoughts, memories and ideas that have incubated within this visual arts and health programme over the last 10 years. International artist Nicola Anthony worked with individuals in Wexford who feel isolated, displaced, or lonely to create A Desire for Closeness, an immersive installation informed by the stories they told her about their lives. DRAW Away From Worries is an exhibition by Park View House Creative Group in Donegal, who have created art of varied forms amidst personal struggles and distress.

In Wexford, sculptor Nicola Anthony will share insights from her exhibition, A Desire for Closeness (see above), and her research platform, the Human Archive Project, in Around The World In 800 Stories. Festival staple the Conversation Salon is back in Dublin and a special Artists’ Coffee Morning At The Ark aims to shine a light on artists’ wellbeing. The Workman’s Club hosts Dr. Shay Ward, fitness and wellness expert Jody Kennedy and cognitive rehabilitation facilitator Matt Burke in a panel discussion on A Holistic Approach To Mental Health.

Literature / Spoken Word 
Libraries across the country are joining forces with First Fortnight during the month of January to shine a spotlight on mental health-related books, from fiction to informative texts, as part of Mind-Reading. Comedian, writer and broadcaster, Colm O’Regan, hosts The Dublin Story Slam, an open mic storytelling night where members of the audience get up and share a true personal story inspired by a different theme each month. The Vintage Tea And Storytelling Sharing for 24/7 family carers comes back to Manorhamilton in Leitrim, a unique event for the unsung heroines and heroes of our communities.

How Aria? will premiere as part of the festival in collaboration with Irish National Opera. Composer Amanda Feery and poet Stephen James Smith worked with service users of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services during this new community and outreach initiative. Festival favourite, the Therapy Sessions, an eclectic mix of music and spoken word, is back in Dublin and Cork. For those interested in making connections with others through music, Co-Motion will pair you up with a random walking partner to share your playlists using headphones and headphone splitters as you stroll around the Botanic Gardens.

John Connors, one of the leading Irish actors of his generation, will bring Ireland’s Call to Balor Arts Centre in Donegal, a play examining mental health, suicide, class, religion and identity as it follows the lives of three youths growing up in Coolock. Fishamble’s Olivier award-winning Silent by Pat Kinevane comes to the O’ Reilly Theatre in Dublin for one night, the touching and challenging story of homeless McGoldrig, who once had splendid things. Admin by Oisín McKenna, winner of the First Fortnight Award at Dublin Fringe 2019, follows Oisín as he leaves Dublin to pursue his dream of becoming socially mobile. Now, he is having an existential crisis in the canned goods aisle at Aldi, trying to remember his mindfulness techniques.

I Am What I Am is a day-long event in Louth, inviting people to bring their art and creativity into the community. Any and all art forms are welcome including painting, poetry, sculpture, photography, singing / songwriting and dancing. This event will feature contributions from Inspire wellbeing facilitators and participants and Creative Spark’s Art as Exchange Artists’ Group. In Wicklow, Klinkerdin – Performing Arts Salon presents new talent as well as established artists and performers via a vibrant mix of theatre, music, poetry, comedy and more, with most acts drawn from the Bray-based community group Common Ground.

About First Fortnight
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. 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 2020 programme and ticket information at


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