Head and Heart – RRR’s Mental Health Arts Festival – returned for a second run in Jun 2021. Originally founded by Stephen Miller and Soso Ní Cheallaigh and building on previous success, this three-day festival further explored mental health and the role that art and museums can play in our wellbeing.
The festival was powered by a group of young people who took part in an Event Management programme, through which they learned about running a successful event from Rachael Campbell-Palmer, director of The Black Box. Head and Heart 2 is the outcome of this group’s ideas, passion, hard work, perspectives and collaboration. They were supported by the RRR team to curate, programme, promote and deliver this truly youth-led festival.
Over the weekend, there were an array of talks, workshops and panels with expert facilitators, heritage staff, talented guests and the festival event management team. It was relaxing, entertaining, educational and enjoyable – if you missed it or would like to watch back, scroll on to our recordings!
On Friday, we kicked the festival off with Inside your Brain where we joined two legends – art therapist, Stephen Millar, and RRR participant and writer Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh – for candid chats on the future of arts in the system of mental health recovery. Drawing on their shared experience of coordinating the first Head + Heart festival, Inside your Brain covered everything on Stevo and Soso’s minds regarding Mental Health in Northern Ireland.
Then we had an amazing Mindful Drawing session with trainee Art Psychotherapist Lisa Kelly exploring the inner critic and self-compassion and an introduction to RRR’s Arts and Wellbeing group from two core participants Natalie Cole and Rosie Oliver.
On Saturday, we heard about the link between what we eat and our brain health from Dr Claire McEvoy, Centre for Public Health at QUB. After that we put our baking skills to the test with first-person interpreter and baker extraordinaire, Claire Brown from the Ulster Folk Museum. Claire taught us her age-old recipe for perfect soda bread, discussing all things food and wellbeing with our core participant Rebecca-Jane McMonagle.
Then we were treated to an open and honest artist interview with Northern Ireland-based designer and stylist, Lucinda Graham, and RRR participants Molly Martin and Georgia Crutchley. They were so articulate on topics from social media to fashion to life in Northern Ireland and how these all influence our mental health.
To round off the day, we had a fantastic panel discussion and Q&A with talented stakeholders in the music industry. Our brilliant chair Constance Keane and panel guests Danielle Carragher (NMNI), Jordan Adetunji and Sam Wickens shared so much with us on how music and mental health are interlinked.
On Sunday morning, we enjoyed Mindful Yoga with Roisin Doherty from Tower Museum, Derry-Londonderry. We tried poses, breathing techniques and even some slow art!
Then as a perfect end to the festival, we had a journalling journey through photography and written word with Catherine Scott from Fermanagh Museum and art therapist Joanne Boal.
Feature image by Irene de la Mora, Event Management participant.