The first of its kind in Northern Ireland, the NI Mental Health Arts Festival have announced their programme for 2021. Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week this year’s festival will run from 10th – 16th May and will include an eclectic collection of online art events. 

The festival, which was founded in 2013, aims to create a platform for high-quality artwork that deals compassionately and intelligently with mental health. The programme explores art through many mediums including visual arts, photography, poetry, music, film, comedy and psychodrama.

Festival Director Dawn Richardson explains how we can use the arts as a source of education and support.

“Through our shared rich culture of the Arts, we can challenge stigma and mental-health inequalities in our systems and society. We can support the recovery and wellbeing of those who have experienced mental-health issues through accessible, interactive, empowering arts projects…providing a space where people can gain insight and share experiences.”

Events featured on this year’s programme include a piece by Sabi Nicholson entitled ‘Avoidance’. Inspired by the hazy, dreamlike forms found in antique tintype photographs, this piece attempts, in a time of outer chaos, to connect to a vision of a half-forgotten inner world. Layers of digital manipulation liberate the photograph from any sense of time, creating a serene yet eerie cocoon. This event will take place on Monday 10th May at 7pm. 

‘The Art of Loneliness’ is hosted by Noelle Mc Alinden and Frank Liddy. This event will comprise of a panel discussion with invited guests, artists, creatives and performers Joe Nawaz, Mel Bradley, John Deery, Matt Deery, Lorna Smyth, Siobhan Ferguson and Nuala Mc Keever, who will be reflecting on the theme of loneliness, sharing their own insights and strategies and what lessons they have they learned during lockdown. ‘The Art of Loneliness’ is takes place on Wednesday 12 May at 7pm.  

Working in response to the Campaign to End Loneliness, and given the restrictions of the pandemic, the festival has issued their first ever physical publication. The publication includes curated artworks, submissions from their poetry open call and accessible tactile elements including braille, origami birds, badges and plantable paper. Using QR codes, the publication works in conjunction with the festival website

All events are free of charge and will take place via Zoom. 

For more information and to reserve your place visit where previous events from the 2020 festival are available to enjoy.