First Fortnight is a charity-based organisation with the aim of challenging mental health prejudice through the creative arts. First Fortnight co-founder and project manager JP Swaine said, “This is out most interesting and provocative line up for the festival to date and one which we hope leads to new and interesting reasons for people to talk about mental health”.
Founded in 2009, it staged its first two-week arts festival in 2012. Since then, the charity has become a mental health service provider with the establishment of the First Fortnight Centre for Creative Therapies in 2013.
The centre employs two psychotherapists, offering art-therapy for homeless and mentally ill individuals in Dublin.
It has returned in 2015 with a diverse line-up of mental health themed arts and cultural events.
The festival has something for everyone, with a vast variety of events from theatre, visual arts, film and live music, all of which focus on mental health problems, and in turn challenge the prejudice and stigma surrounding the topic.
RTÉ TV and Radio presenter Eoghan McDermott is this year’s ambassador for the festival and is delighted to take up the role.
“First Fortnight’s call to challenge mental health stigma is something that really resonates with me. Like many people, there have been times in the past when I’ve been depressed and unsure how to get better or who to turn to,” said McDermott.
“I know what it’s like to feel like you can’t ask for help. I know what it’s like to be embarrassed by your own feelings, but I also know what it feels like to have that weight lifted off your shoulders by talking to someone.
“Talking helps. There is no shame in experiencing a mental health problem, it happens to a lot of us,” he explained.
The festival kicked off on New Year’s Day with Resolution, a 90-minute creative exploration of life from people who have met adversity and challenge with courage and compassion, in Christ Church Cathedral. Participants included, Joan Freeman, Seamus McGuinness, Dylan Tighe, Caroline McGuigan amongst many more.
Songwriter Kevin Nolan brings a musical spark to the festival, delivering a truly unique performance of “Hootnanny” in St Patrick’s hospital (a hospital dedicated to mental health), and a place where Kevin has been a patient.
Film fanatics will not be disappointed with the nationwide screening and post-show Q&A of Frank – Lenny Abrahamson’s moving starring Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson, which will tour venues across the country.
The Irish Writer’s Centre, Parnell Street, opens its doors to “Milk & Cookies Stories”, a spoken word event, on January 13th at 6pm. Mixing home-baked treats with home-spun yarn, the event brings their storytelling and baking magic to First Fortnight for the second year running.
Speaking to Campus.ie, a spokesperson for Milk & Cookies Stories said that they have chosen to collaborate with First Fortnight as what they do is so very important.
“Creative arts is an excellent avenue to explore themes of mental health and inspire people to evaluate their own attitudes towards mental health and their own.
“Art pushes social boundaries, attitudes, beliefs in a way that is truly unique and impossible to replicate. So a mental health arts festival is an excellent idea.
“Our theme this month is focussing on ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’. We hope after the show the theme will resonate. Getting help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. A chance to help support a friend isn’t a chore, it’s a privilege.”
There are many other great events on throughout the festival including, “I Have To Say, I Have to Say”, a visual art installation exploring migrant suicide and “Over the Bar – Sports Stars, Athletes and Mental Health”, a panel to discuss the issue of mental health in the context of the sports world.
The festival is also hosting the Irish premiere of “Heaven Adores You”, a documentary on the life of US musician Elliott Smith, who tragically died at the age of 34.
First Fortnight will run until Friday, January 30th. For a full list of events and further information, please visit www.firstfortnight.ie.