Last week I had the pleasure of launching my first ever programme of work as part of my Agent for Change role with Salisbury International Arts Festival - who it must be said are a rather lovely bunch of people.
We've been working together to curate MouthPieces, a new strand of the festival which celebrates the creativity of diverse communities. Embracing diversity is not about targets or worthiness it's about removing barriers so that we as audiences get to enjoy totally fresh, innovative voices and hear stories that might otherwise remain hidden.
This year, MouthPieces focuses in on work by artists, who like myself, have lived experience of mental health. I've been wanting to do something like this for ages - the arts are full of mental health narratives often told by people without lived experience - if we were talking about any other marginalised community we would be questioning ethics, appropriateness and cultural appropriation and quite right too! I feel strongly that I want to reclaim the right for people like me to tell our own stories.
After all with 1 in 4 adults in the UK experiencing mental health challenges in any year we are a massive minority group underrepresented in all sectors including the arts. My belief is that the stigma, shame and secrecy surrounding mental health has got in the way of us coming together, representing ourselves and getting our voices heard. We have a lot to learn from other disabled groups and marginalised communities. And I for one am learning fast!
MouthPieces is a wonderful step forward - tickets are on sale now at https://www.salisburyfestival.co.uk/ for a fabulous range of shows including Vici Wreford-Sinnott's Butterfly, Running Dog Theatre’s Wanna Dance With Somebody!, a film double bill from Jonathon Caouette and Carol Morley and a talk from Alistair Campbell. And free experiences include Aidan Moesby's interactive installation A Periodic Table of Emotions and Company Chameleon's Witness This.
My own autobiographical show I am Joan is obviously not to be missed (ha!) It is an irreverent comedy about trauma recovery through role modelling imperfect but inspirational pioneers including Joan of Arc, Joan Jett and Joan Rivers.
Finally, our Mouthing Off event showcases emerging and established regional talent with work-in-progress sharings from Emma Louvelle and Richard Crowe, a facilitated conversation asking why mental health voices matter in the arts and a full length piece Help! from Viki Browne.
So there is a great deal to interest and enjoy and I really hope to see some of you there.
Thanks for dropping in. More Soon.....
I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist with mental health needs, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health