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Updated: 04/01/18 : 07:07:38

First Fortnight Mental Health Arts Festival underway nationwide

Award-winning playwright and BBC series co-creator Eva O’Connor, broadcaster and author Nikki Hayes music acts Rusangano Family, All Tvvins, Delorentos, Adrian Crowley, Ailbhe Reddy; international poetry performers Poetic Pilgrimage, Manchester poet Tony Walsh; director and screenwriter Nick Kelly and former sports stars Alan O’Mara and Dermot Earley are among a number of well-known names challenging mental health stigma this month as part of the 2018 First Fortnight mental health arts festival, which is now underway in 17 counties across Ireland.

Now in its ninth year, First Fortnight 2018 sees live music, film, theatre, discussion, sport and arts events staged to create open discussion and understanding of mental health problems, and challenge prejudice and discrimination.

Among the events now taking place across Dublin and selected venues nationwide include Lunatic, There I Go, a powerful new play based on the memoir ‘Bird’s Nest Soup’ by Hanna Greally which is currently being staged at the Civic Theatre until January 6th.

At the age of 19, Hanna was wrongfully incarcerated in an Irish lunatic asylum for more than 20 years. ‘Bird’s Nest Soup’ shocked the nation upon its publication in 1971 and that year Hanna made a memorable appearance on the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne.

Leads 2 Better Mental Health is a unique meet-up event involving dog owners and is one of seven events that will take place in Cork on January 14. Musicians Adrian Crowley and Nocturnes will take part in First Light, a night of great Irish talent in Sligo and Leitrim, while Nick Kelly’s heartwarming movie The Drummer & The Keeper – about the friendship between a young drummer with bipolar disorder and a goalkeeper with Asperger’s Syndrome –  will screen in 14 counties in partnership with See Change, the national mental health stigma reduction partnership, and in assocation with IFI National.

Is technology reshaping how we respond to mental health issues? For the first time First Fortnight will examine aspects of technology and mental health in Don’t Worry be APPY, as part of our series of discussion events in Dublin’s Trinity College on January 10.

What is the state of Ireland’s mental health services? How can you help? Mental health advocate, author and DJ Nikki Hayes will chair #InOurHourOfNeed, a panel debate on current mental health policy held in association with Mental Health Reform and A Lust For Life in Dublin’s Wood Quay venue on January 11.

First Fortnight once again partners with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services for a series of events, including the premiere of Sally Denver Matthews, a humourous one-woman show that looks at the mental health strains of being a new parent and how mothers often compare themselves to other mothers.

Award-winning playwright and actress Eva O’Connor returns to First Fortnight with an interactive piece of theatre, The Friday Night Effect, while dark, comedic odyssey The Egg is a Lonely Hunter will be staged at Smock Alley Theatre. Both will be staged from January 8th.

This year’s music events will include four Therapy Session events in Cork and Dublin, two of which will be curated by Delorentos and All Tvvins. Delorentos will perform an intimate and special three-piece acoustic set as part of the First Fortnight Therapy Sessions at The Workman’s Club, Dublin on Friday January 12 that will also feature Limerick trio, Bleeding Heart Pigeons.

The annual Big Gig also returns featuring Rusangano Family, Ailbhe Reddy, Le Boom and A. Smyth while this year’s Banter event will feature An evening with Barry Hyde of The Futureheads.

Hope Flies is the theme of this year’s festival, a concept that will be embodied in a new collaborative sculpture from Co Clare-based artist Shona MacGillivray and young people from the National Learning Network. The sculpture will express ideas of what hope means to them and will travel from the west of Ireland to the east to be displayed in the atrium of Dublin City Council’s Civic Offices on Wood Quay.

Other events taking place as part of First Fortnight 2018 include: heArts and Minds, a series of events within the National Gallery of Ireland discussing art and mental health, a special screening of the movie Loving Vincent and a post show discussion in the stunning NGI courtyard; The Public Diary, an interactive multimedia installation of personal diary entries collected at last year’s First Fortnight; Corinthian: Sports & Mental Health debate featuring former Kildare footballer Dermot Earley; screenings of acclaimed films Loving Vincent, 32 Pills and The Departure from Emmy award-winning Lana Wilson; and OutStraight – a concept-based show combining spoken word/ hip-hop theatre with visual art graffiti; and much, much more. The full line-up can be viewed at http://www.firstfortnight.ie.

This year’s festival presenting partners include; Mental Health Reform; St Patrick’s Mental Health Services; Mental Health Ireland and See Change, the National Mental Health Stigma Reduction Partnership.

Launching the official festival programme, First Fortnight co-founder and project manager JP Swaine said:  “First Fortnight has become synonymous with fresh, creative and innovative ways to spark the national conversation on mental health. Each festival that passes seems to encourage a new crop of artists to work creatively in response to mental health as an issue in Irish society and it has been hugely encouraging to meet with artists who have been developing their work with the expressed purpose of contributing to the First Fortnight.”

Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, said: “We are delighted to partner once again this year with the First Fortnight festival. Mental health stigma continues to be deeply engrained in Irish society and this affects those experiencing mental health difficulties on a day-to-day basis. However, negative attitudes are being slowly challenged and replaced by a more accurate, understanding and optimistic view of mental health difficulties and those who experience them.

“First Fortnight is a festival that highlights and advocates for healthier attitudes regarding mental health and those that experience mental health difficulties through the arts. We are delighted to partner with the First Fortnight festival to reemphasise the importance of reaching out to those in need of mental health care and to further advocate for the rights of those experiencing difficulty.”

 Among the highlights of this year’s festival will be:
Lunatic, There I Go - a powerful new play based on the memoir ‘Bird’s Nest Soup’ by Hanna Greally. At the age of 19, Hanna was wrongfully incarcerated in an Irish lunatic asylum for more than 20 years. ‘Bird’s Nest Soup’ shocked the nation and in 1971 Hanna made a memorable appearance on the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne. This will be perfomed exclusively at the Civic Theatre.

Don’t Worry Be APPY - Is technology reshaping how we respond to mental health issues? For the first time First Fortnight will examine technology and mental health as part of a panel discussion.

#InOurHourOfNeed - What is the state of Ireland’s mental health services? How can you help? Mental health advocate, author and DJ Nikki Hayes chairs a panel debate on Ireland’s current mental health policy held in association with Mental Health Reform and A Lust For Life.

Banter: An Evening With Barry Hyde of The Futureheads will see the frontman perform tracks from his debut solo album and discuss his battles with mental health difficulties.