NEW theatre, film, music, comedy, visual art and literary events from some of the artists in Scotland and Europe are all part of this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF).

Led by the Mental Health Foundation, the festival has quietly grown into one of the biggest arts and film festivals in the country, with Scotland-wide audience numbers reaching over 25,000.

In celebration of its first decade, the festival has commissioned a new theatre work from Alan Bissett about the life of Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett and has also appointed its first associate artist in Emma Jayne Park, whose interactive dance work for children, Experts In Short Trousers, will tour the country.

The festival’s annual International Film Competition is its biggest to date, and the 10th edition also heralds new collaborations with other Scottish arts organisations including the National Theatre of Scotland, Oran Mor, Traverse Theatre, Aberdeen Performing Arts, Dundee Literary Festival, Africa In Motion, Take One Action and Luminate.

“We’re delighted to be able to announce such a strong, diverse and vibrant programme,” said Lee Knifton, head of MHF Scotland. “Over the past decade, we’ve worked with hundreds of artists and organisations across Scotland to challenge stigma, raise awareness and encourage creative responses to mental health.”


THE flagship production this year is the festival’s first ever commission – One Thinks of It All As A Dream which traces Barrett’s struggles with mental health and fame. Ian Barrett, Syd’s nephew, is to join Bissett, author and Pink Floyd expert John Cavanagh and music journalist Nicola Meighan for an evening of discussion, archive footage and music celebrating Syd’s life in the year he would have turned 70. The remaining members of Pink Floyd have given the play, and its soundtrack of the band’s music, their blessing.

As well as Experts in Short Trousers, Park, along with Julia James-Griffiths, presents The Box/Thinking In The First Person, a dance double bill exploring the impact of depression. Where The Crow Flies, a new work by Lisa Nicoll based on interviews with women in East Lothian, will tour a number of venues across Scotland during the festival.

Playwright Jo Clifford explores the impact of prejudice on transgender people, Pamela Carter discusses her new play on maverick psychiatrist RD Laing, and Cora Bissett directs an evening of performance including musical contributions from members of the Adam World Choir, a choir of transgender/non-binary people from around the world, brought together for the National Theatre of Scotland’s forthcoming Eve/Adam project.


THIS year’s film programme features more than 50 features and short films, screening in cinemas and venues across the country, many of which will be accompanied by post-screening discussions of the issues involved. Most of the work showing in Edinburgh and Glasgow has been selected from entries to the festival’s International Film Competition, which offers filmmakers from all over the world a chance to engage with new audiences and challenge perceptions around mental health. This year, almost 1,600 films from 100 countries were submitted – a 300 per cent increase on last year’s submissions. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Glasgow in the festival’s first week.

Highlights include the European premiere of Touched With Fire, a drama about bipolar disorder starring Katie Holmes; the Scottish premiere of A Family Affair, Tom Fassaert’s startling documentary which made a huge impact as the opening gala film at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam this year; the Scottish premiere of #MyEscape, a documentary shot largely by refugees as they fled Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria; and the UK premiere of Shoulder The Lion, a multi-award winning documentary which includes interviews with boxer Katie Dallam, the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.

Meanwhile, Rick Anthony and Margaret Tait Award winner Duncan Marquiss, of The Phantom Band, have improvised a new live score for Borderline, a 1930s avant-garde drama directed by Scot Kenneth Macpherson, starring Paul Robeson and the poet HD (Hilda Doolittle), which was ground-breaking in its progressive treatment of sexuality and race as well as the cinematic techniques used to portray inner psychological states.


ALSO at the festival, multi award-winning comedian Felicity Ward plays the only Scottish date of her UK tour 50% More Likely To Die. The show, which traces Ward’s struggles with anxiety garnered excellent reviews at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

In addition, Glasgow-based quintet Admiral Fallow and Edinburgh alternative band The Cathode Ray headline Music Matters, a special gig organised by Edinburgh Carers’ Council.

Featuring work by 100 artists, all with experience of mental health issues, Out of Sight Out of Mind is an ambitious series of exhibitions and multi-media installations across several Edinburgh venues. At the Grand Hall in Edinburgh Castle, new magazine for young women She Is Fierce takes over for a celebration of female creativity.

SMHAFF also has two events at Dundee Literary Festival this year. That Way Madness Lies is a look at mental illness in the work of Shakespeare with literary critic Stuart Kelly, journalist Joyce McMillan and psychotherapist and editor Peter Kravitz. YA authors Juno Dawson and Cat Clarke examine mental health as it affects teenagers in Mind Your Head.


MOVING Minds is a day-long, family-friendly takeover of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum in partnership with VoX (Voices of eXperience) celebrating diversity and wellbeing across communities with world music, dance and theatre.

In Edinburgh, poet Jenny Lindsay hosts a cabaret night exploring mental health from multiple angles and with contributions from performer and poet Harry Giles, journalist and author Chitra Ramaswamy, and singer-songwriter Finn Le Marinel, with more names to be announced.

Music and Mental Health Day in Paisley features an examination of the effects of music on mental health, a therapeutic drumming workshop and a screening of the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.

Recovery Fest, a new addition to this year’s Renfrewshire programme, focuses on events that raise awareness of recovery for people with mental ill health and addiction experiences.

LGBT Health and The State present Leith is Burning – a screening of Paris is Burning, Jennie Livingston’s documentary on the New York 1980s drag scene, followed by a dance-based vogue workshop and celebratory end-of-festival Vogue Ball.

The festival runs from October 10-31.

For more information on events, go to