Renfrewshire Mental Health Arts And Film Festival 2014

I have a job! It has been the best few months I have ever experienced! I thought I would be sitting unemployed busting my gut trying to get my foot in the door in an industry which currently requires people to start from below the bottom of the food chain.  My mother being the awesome woman she is was refusing to let that slide, she did not want her daughter to work for nothing, and neither did her daughter! The County which I live in has made it it’s duty to ensure that young people coming from college or university are not without a job and so I managed to get a PAID internship with the Renfrewshire Council and the NHS! How crazy!? I am an events coordinator for the Renfrewshire Mental Health Arts and Film Festival and I love it! One of our events was called the Art Trail Express, it was on World Mental Health Day, 10th Oct. It was 5 art exhibitions across 5 train stations and it was hosted by Gina Mckie from Clyde 1 and it was supported by See Me – the mental health government body.  My colleague  Michelle Fisher wrote about the day – here it is!


Art Trail Express 10th Oct – World Mental Health Day

Spanning 5 stations across Renfrewshire and Inverclyde; Art Trail by Rail has been a chance for groups of people with experience of mental health conditions to come together and display their work. Scotrail’s train stations provided a unique stage for expressing people’s creativity in a way that will encourage commuters to stop and think. The Art Trail Express event on the 10th of October launched the exhibition which is on display at Paisley Gilmour Street, Paisley St James, Bishopton, Langbank and Port Glasgow stations. 

The theme for this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival was “Power”. This word in relation to mental health could be interpreted in so many ways, and this was reflected in the exhibition. Phoenix Activity Group summed this up with their striking images at Bishopton Station: Power Inspires and Power Corrupts, Power Frees and Power Controls, Power Creates and Power Destroys. No two stories are the same so the theme was bound to create diverging ideas. 

The feeling of disempowerment came through clearly in some artworks. One photo states “Power is nothing without control”. Sometimes you can’t control your symptoms but you are expected to have the power to do so, or you might not feel in control of your own care. Another said “Being believed gives the power to speak out”. Mental health can be very difficult to talk about and feel understood. Discrimination born from misconceptions can allow people or institutions to suppress individual power. Speaking out in the face of this can be such a daunting prospect.  

On the other hand we had works showing how feeling empowered can really make a difference. Themes included the power of social contacts and networks, accepting yourself and letting go of self stigma. Some artists portrayed messages about being able to choose your own path and make your own decisions. Images of matchboxes displaying negative emotions on the outside with hopeful messages on the inside symbolised the inner strength that can help us through our tough times. 

The power of creativity was also very evident throughout the Art Trail event. The groups who created the artworks, Buddy Beat and Rockus Choir have bonded through the arts and for many it has been a crucial part of improving their health. Buddy Beat and Rockus provided a lively soundtrack to the day, catching the attention of commuters and rail staff. The Buddy Beat performance even made way for some spontaneous dancing in Bishopton station, inspiring plans for a new dance group. 

The themes and ideas raised through the work can be interpreted in many ways; bringing together the individual hopes, fears, strength and creativity of everyone involved. The exhibition has given mental health a platform in Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, one that will hopefully stimulate thought and discussion amongst ScotRail’s customers. It might even encourage them to reach out to others or seek help for themselves if they need it. I sensed a genuine feeling of togetherness at the event and from the exhibition. People came together to create, challenge discrimination and promote a sense of hope. Now that is truly powerful. 

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