Bridport Mind Fest makes mental health awareness the headline act

Project Focus: Bridport Mind Fest

With approximately 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health problems each year in the UK*, the importance of starting conversations and raising awareness surrounding the spectrum of mental health is as important as ever. Bridport Mind Fest intended to do just this, crowdfunding to launch their first festival to celebrate the power of the mind, to talk about its vulnerability and offer suggestions on how to heal.

On top of the funds raised by the Crowd, Bridport Mind Fest also received a match fund pledge of £2,000 from Dorset County Council, which supports innovative, local projects that are working hard to give young people places to go and things to do, in turn encouraging them to do good for their community.

We caught up with Simon Williams, Chairman of Bridport Mind Fest, to find out more about the impact of their very first festival.

What did you hope to achieve with Bridport MindFest?

The aim of the festival is to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to get people talking about mental health. As a consequence, we hoped that people who are dealing with mental health issues would feel more confident in seeking help and talking to someone such as their GP, teacher or parent. In turn, this would mean that earlier treatment and diagnosis could occur and thus result in less serious conditions arising.  

What difference did the festival make to the wider community?

On the children’s front, the festival acted as a focus for the Sir John Colfox Academy and all of the primary schools involved.

David Powell, a Minerva Trust Trustee and a governor at The Sir John Colfox Academy, who supports widening understanding of mental health issues with children within the Trust said, “You pulled off a very good first festival. It got the town talking about mental health and, from a school’s perspective, it provided a focus for all to be able to explore the issues and have open conversations with children as to what mental health is and how we can help.”    

In order to begin these conversations, we ran competitions with local schools to design posters for the event (which ran in all of the primary schools) and also our logo, which was won by a year eight pupil. This encouraged a lot of age appropriate discussion of the issues that the festival was trying to portray. Also, the focus enabled the schools to develop the work that they are doing with children’s mental health and bring it to a wider audience during workshops for the public at the event. Several parents that I didn’t know previously told me that their daughter/son brought home their posters, so there was also an opportunity for family discussion.  

Whilst a major portion of the festival involved children and young people, it was truly an all age event, with other workshops including conversations around dementia and also a DeathCafe discussion group that looked at both natural death and suicide.

There was also an all age art exhibition to celebrate the power of the mind, which showcased art from students, as well as adults belonging to various organisations connected with mental health. Art was also distributed around the Arts Centre and Town Hall events, with a particularly show-stopping collection of student work, replicating art produced by prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, being exhibited.

The aim of Bridport Mind Fest is to reduce the stigma around mental illness and to get people talking, and with the feedback being that people have opened up on the issues and that more discussions about mental health and well-being are happening around the town, I would say that it was a great success.

The festival will take place again in 2018 (from October 5th-10th, coinciding with World Mental Health Day) and will again be crowdfunded. We have more ambitious plans for this year which will need funding. Things such as ticket raffles funded about 60% of the festival, but we still need to preload with substantial funding ahead of the event so that we can maintain the principle that everything is given and that every event can be accessed free, regardless of means – no one is excluded.

What difference has your project made to the people involved?

An attendee to the festival who deals with serious mental illness and repeated periods as an in-patient said, “The Bridport Mind Fest made us all realise that there are other people like us. I felt able to talk to people I know about mental illness and what it is like, people who I know well and have never talked to before about it. It sort of liberated me. I used to go to gigs years ago, but I felt I couldn’t do it anymore since I became ill. After the festival, I went to my first gig for many years. I felt able to do it.”

What are the three main outcomes that your project has achieved?

  • Improved mental health and well-being
  • Improved relationships with family and friends (reduced isolation)
  • Increased participation in arts, heritage, sports and faith

What did you spend the funding that you received for your Crowdfunder project on?

  • Equipment purchase
  • Event or project marketing
  • Purchase of consumables or materials
  • Venue hire
  • Speakers and workshop costs Insurance
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Rent or hire of premises
  • Volunteer expenses

Find out more information about the next Bridport Mind Fest here – is proud to support projects that address health and wellbeing, and we want to provide extra funding for those types of projects from our partner funds – find out more here.

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