Putting arts and mental health in the spotlight couldn’t be more important now

Mark Smith is the Project Co-ordinator of the Green Ribbon Arts Festival. Here, Mark shares his thoughts on organising an event during Covid 19.

Living with bipolar disorder, I’ve had my fair share of challenges in my life. When I was given the opportunity to organise an arts festival for the Mental Health Foundation, it was a challenge that I grasped with both hands.

Nobody saw what was coming next.

A global pandemic has hit the world unlike anything else that many of us have experienced in our lives or will again.

The subject of the Green Ribbon Arts Festival is the arts and mental health. The arts have been devastated during the Covid 19 pandemic. From friends of mine who were due to perform at gigs just as lockdown came in, to world renowned venues – a hammer blow has been dealt to the industry. People have lost income, lost jobs, been furloughed, while organisations and venues have already made redundancies or face threats of permanent closure.

People’s mental health has been affected through lockdown. Isolation, concern for loved ones, loss of work, and reduced social contact, are just some of the things that have caused anxiety and depression for people.

For me, the arts and mental health have a symbiotic relationship. Take theatre as one example. Theatres can’t function without audiences, and audiences have experiences that can provide a positive effect on their mental health and well-being.

When we talk about the affect of the pandemic on people’s mental health, we must not forget those in the arts who have been under such strain. Just as people in any other walk of life, those who work hard to keep the industry going – those who entertain, make us laugh, make us cry, provide cultural enrichment, those who work tirelessly behind the scenes, support us through community arts projects, make us think and spark conversations like nothing else can – they need to be supported too, just as anybody else.

Through the Green Ribbon Arts Festival, I want to find ways to support those who have been affected through Covid 19. You have so much valuable experience to demonstrate, and so much to say, that I hope that will come to the fore in the festival in a way that will lead to a greater profile for your work, and with new working relationships being formed. Co-operation is vital right now, as we look for ways to support the arts.

I sometimes bring song references into my blog posts. The one that springs to mind right now is Birdy’s ‘People help the people’. Isn’t that the case?

If you are interested in the Green Ribbon Arts Festival and what it is aiming to achieve, please contact me at msmith@mentalhealth.org.uk. Thank you for reading.

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