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Arts-based mental health festival gets underway

First Fortnight aims to challenge mental health prejudice while showcasing some of the best of Irish (and international) music, art, theatre and film.

Claire Byrne and Royseven's Paul Walsh with specially comissioned street artwork launching the First Fortnight festival.
Claire Byrne and Royseven's Paul Walsh with specially comissioned street artwork launching the First Fortnight festival.
Image: Finbarr O'Rourke

A FESTIVAL DEVOTED to the arts is hoping to raise awareness about mental health issues in Ireland over the next two weeks.

First Fortnight, which kicked off last night, aims to challenge mental health prejudice through live music, art, film and talks.

Organisers are working with See Change, the National Mental Health Stigma Reduction Partnership, to try and bring about positive change in public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems.

For 2012, the founding group decided to extend previous one-day efforts to include the first 14 days of January. They say the time of year is pertinent as “we are all a little raw…and more likely to be open to an empathetic response”.

“We expect the First Fortnight of every year to be synonymous with mental health awareness and ending discrimination, prejudice and social stigma,” they added.

Alternative rock band Royseven has recently been added to the lineup for the headlining 14 January gig at The Button Factory. They will be joined by Cashier No. 9, Le Galaxie and dREA.

Other musical highlights include Therapy Sessions at the Workman’s Club on 6 January and 11 January.

Tonight, a series of Irish short films will be showcased at FilmBase from 7pm. Works from directors Joanna Rubin Dranger, Stephen Crilly, Patrick Semple, Mary Redmond and Hugh O’Connor will be featured.

On Saturday afternoon, The Devil and Daniel Johnston will be screened at the Irish Film Institute. The award-winning director has lived with manic depression and Jeff Feuerzeig’s film documents his life so far.

The noted singer/songwriter/artist/filmmaker has also made one of his artwork pieces exclusively available for use on a limited-edition First Fortnight t-shirt.

Other notable events include:

One Man, Many Voice (Theatre) at FilmBase on Saturday, 7 January at 2.30pm

565+ (Theatre) at the Project Arts Centre between 12 and 14 January

Soapbox Sessions: Claire Byrne and other well known faces gather at The Button Factory from 2.30pm on 14 January

Italian artist Lemeh42′s wall drawing performances, William Hamilton’s I Am Alive exhibition, Sinead McDonald’s Facing and Mary A Kelly’s Asylum are on show through 14 January. More details here.

For more information, see the First Fortnight website>

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