Bedlam Arts and Mental Health Festival

Bedlam Arts and Mental Health Festival


Posted 2021-11-04 by dpmfollow

Fri 12 Nov 2021 - Sun 21 Nov 2021

Birmingham's returns this month with ten days of events in venues across the city and online. Featuring theatre, film, poetry, storytelling, dance, music, workshops and discussions, the festival, between November 12-21, aims to showcase high-quality productions which encourage thought and conversation around mental health and wellbeing.

Launched in 2013 by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust together with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the festival, which takes place every two years, has grown to also include Midlands Arts Centre, Sampad South Asian Arts and this year has guest partner The Red Earth Collective.

Lakhvir Rellon, the mental health trust's head of community engagement and one of the festival founders, says the festival has gone from strength to strength. "The first year it was a really small festival but now it has grown into a festival which reaches a huge number of people. The last Bedlam in 2019 reached more than 30,000 people through performances and workshops."

The programme aims to offer something for everyone and features artists including Autin Dance Theatre, Phoebe Frances Brown, Sampad, Travelling Light, Women & Theatre, Aidan Moesby, Francesca Millican Slater, Amina Khayyam Dance Company and Lightpost Theatre.

Lakhvir continues: "For us as a trust, Bedlam is a really great way of enabling people who use our services and their carers to access the arts in the mainstream. It's also a great opportunity to work with artists to enhance their knowledge and capability of supporting people with mental health issues and producing work which is grounded in solid research and conversations with people with lived experience."

Bedlam also aims to awareness of mental health issues. "It's about reaching out to the general public and, through creative work, encouraging conversations about mental health and wellbeing. Our vision as a trust is about improving mental wellbeing and we can only achieve that by helping to destigmatise the difficulties that people may experience," explains Lakhvir. "The Bedlam Festival features such a diverse range of issues related to mental health, all the way from more common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression to the other spectrum of psychosis and eating disorders. And creativity plays a role in engaging people in these issues that they wouldn't necessarily engage with."

The festival features works focussing on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on people's health and wellbeing. "This year's Bedlam is quite heavily influenced by Covid and thinking about how communities have been impacted by Covid," explains festival producer Sabra Khan. "When Covid first hit there were discussions about how communities that were minoritized had been unequally impacted. That was definitely of interest to us because mental health impacts minority communities more anyway and that has been exacerbated by Covid.

And she adds: "There are a lot of artists who are now creating work based on their own experiences and the experiences of other people. At Bedlam we always pride ourselves on providing a high-quality festival so we look for artists who come to their subjects with thought and care about the work they want to produce."

The festival is an ideal conduit to encourage conversation about difficult subjects, says Sabra. "The arts is a much more engaging way to learn - you can engage with depictions of mental health through theatre, dance or music and it helps audiences to understand the experience better than a leaflet or being talked at. It creates empathy because you are often hearing true stories. The arts helps create relatable work, rather than a statistic. As part of our shows we offer question and answer opportunities with the cast to delve deeper into the issues and so audiences can learn about how we create the production, who we have talked to and the challenges that we have faced in bringing these shows together."

Bedlam events take place across a range of venues from Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Midlands Arts Centre through to Centrala, Cherry Reds Café Bar, The Irish Centre, The Loft, Birchfield's Holy Trinity Church, Ward End Library and online. "This year we have a focus on community touring and we also have a free online programme," says Sabra. "We are always looking to grow the festival in a way which means we can reach more people through taking our performances and workshops into communities rather than basing the festival in a few buildings where people have to come to us."

One of the many shows premiering at this year's festival is Lightpost Theatre's Forgotten Key Workers which highlights the stories of the many unsung heroes who worked throughout the pandemic.

Edited and produced by Lightpost's operations manager CJ Lloyd Webley and directed by the company's creative practitioner Mathias André, Forgotten Key Workers is staged at Birmingham Repertory Theatre's Studio on November 19-20. "We were inspired to do this piece because throughout the pandemic Lightpost weren't able to meet each other, be in a shared space or be creative and although we were doing Zoom rehearsals it wasn't the same," CJ says. "I was thinking that if this is how it's impacted on our industry, and I feel we have been overlooked as artists, then how has it impacted other industries as well?"

The production aims to raise awareness of the people who continued to work during the pandemic but weren't necessarily lauded or praised by the media or the masses, people like taxi drivers, delivery drivers, people who work for the Post Office, plumbers, electricians, priests. "They were saying that during the pandemic things were very intense for them but they were sort of forgotten. Although they were not saving lives as such, they were helping people's mental health and giving people options."

The work features verbatim accounts from interviews with key workers alongside performance from the company. "We wanted to create a piece for Bedlam because the festival is so much about mental health," says CJ. "Forgotten Key Workers really hones in on what it was like not to be appreciated by society and also the impact it had on them, their lives and their families. We know there are communities and people who were really affected by Covid. We are trying to say we may not have been through what you've been through but we will use this art form to highlight your stories so you know you are not forgotten."

For more information on Bedlam Festival and the full programme see or pick up a brochure at venues across the city.

!date 12/11/2021 -- 21/11/2021
70541 - 2023-01-26 01:47:37


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