Freedom of Mind Festival is coming to Bristol!

July 4, 2016 at 12:54 pm

A festival aimed at encouraging young people to speak openly about mental health is taking place in Bristol this autumn.

Katie Finch and Ella Marshall - co-founders of the Freedom of Mind FestivalKatie Finch (left) and Ella Marshall (right)- co-founders of the Freedom of Mind Festival

Mental health campaigners Ella Marshall, 17, and Katie Finch, 22, are the brains behind the Freedom of Mind Festival, which will be running from September 30th to October 10th.

They hope that the eleven day event will encourage conversation, challenge stigma and raise awareness of how people – particularly young people – can look after their mental health.

A launch event at the O2 Academy will kick-off the festival, and it will culminate in a day-long conference to tie in with World Mental Health Day.

In between, there will be a number of exciting and engaging events happening across the city including a political discussion, film screening, and book signings. On top of this, there will be open mic nights, exhibitions, and coffee mornings run by local mental health groups, charities and interested parties.

While the conference is specifically aimed at the mental health of young people, all of the other events are open and accessible to other ages.

Freedom of Mind has secured the attendance of a number of high profile mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin – the man who successfully set out to find the stranger who discouraged him from taking his own life in the #FindMike campaign.

Nathan Filer, the award-winning author of Shock of the Fall – a story about the life of a young man with schizophrenia – is also confirmed to be signing copies of his book.

The festival is already being supported by the Bristol Independent Mental Health Network, Off the Record, Bristol City Youth Council, Healthwatch, Bristol’s Clinical Commissioning Group, Bristol City Council and Bristol Festival of Ideas .

Arnolfini, At-Bristol, Watershed and Waterstones have also agreed to host some of the events.

The initial idea for the festival came from A-Level student Ella, who wanted to set up a mental health themed event to bring the people of Bristol together.

She met Katie last summer after they were put in touch to discuss collaborating over a campaign with the youth council.

Katie, who ran Mind Your Head week with Bristol Students’ Union in 2015 and speaks openly about her own mental health, said: “Ella just mentioned the festival in passing, and I took a real interest. We both got very excited, and straight away started scribbling down our ideas on the back of a piece of paper.

“We spent the first six months solidifying our plans about why we were doing the festival, what we wanted to achieve, and coming up with a name and logo.

“We’ve now established a strong committee of people, and around 100 volunteers have expressed interest to help make the festival a reality.”

She added: “We want Freedom of Mind to be about creating lasting change – we want everyone to feel just as comfortable talking about their mental health, as they do talking about their physical health.

“We all have a mental health, yet often we ignore it unless we start to struggle. Emotional difficulties can affect anyone at any time in their life, and we believe that everyone should have the tools to help themselves and others improve their emotional wellbeing.”

Ella, who is a member of the Bristol City Youth Council, said: “It has been incredible experiencing my vision come into fruition and evolve in front of my eyes.

“I remember being overwhelmingly excited by the initial graphics that were mocked up for the festival, not realising that a few months later I would have someone working full time to bring everything together.

“That someone is Katie Finch – she has been the driving force behind Freedom of Mind.”

The pair hope that the festival will become an annual event, and will generate ideas to help create an action plan to improve mental health services for young people across the city.

Tickets for Freedom of Mind are likely to be on sale from mid-July onwards.

If you would like to support the festival, whether it’s through holding an event, or offering sponsorship, contact info@freedomofmind.org.uk. For more information about Freedom of Mind Festival, visit: freedomofmind.org.uk

July 4, 2016 at 12:54 pm | News | No comment

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