First Fortnight Mental Health Art & Culture Festival is taking place across 17 Irish counties this January

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First Fortnight Mental Health Art & Culture Festival is taking place across 17 Irish counties this January

Paul Timoney (front) from Batman Needs a Break!, Daithi Glas, Edel Doran, Tadhg Hickey, Dominica Williams Muireann Ní Cheannabháin and Ailbhe Dunne PICTURE: CONOR MCCABE

First Fortnight, Ireland’s Mental Health Arts Festival, returns this month for its ninth year with a programme packed with household names as well as some of Ireland’s best up and coming talent.

First Fortnight is a charity that runs a mental health arts festival in Dublin city, and across the country annually during the month of January. In 2020 there will be 119 events in 17 counties, across 62 venues. Over 37% of the events are free to attend.

The charity was instrumental in founding the European Arts Festival model and helped stage Europe’s first mental health arts festival in Athens, Greece in 2016.

First Fortnight subsequently hosted European Mental Health Arts Festival in communities across Ireland in 2019. An awareness campaign commencing in the First Fortnight of the year works because we are all a little raw this time of year and more likely to be open to an emphatic response.

The festival has become a fixture in the cultural calendar and synonymous with mental health awareness, challenging prejudice and ending stigma.

First Fortnight also runs a Centre for Creative Therapies, which provides an art psychotherapy and music therapy service to adults with experience of homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

The festival receives core funding support from the HSE’s National Office of Suicide Prevention (NOSP). The themes for #FFFest2020 are loneliness, isolation and community.

“We have always seen First Fortnight as the antidote to the themes we decided to focus on within this year’s festival programme,” said CEO of First Fortnight, David Keegan.

“It's through community driven initiatives like First Fortnight, the opportunity is created to extend an invitation for connection to address feelings of loneliness and isolation, which we all experience but also heavily stigmatised just like mental health.”
2020 events commenced on January 2 last and run through the month. There are no events taking place in county Longford, but neighbouring counties will be hosting a number of events that are easily accessible.

For example, there will be a Vintage Tea and Storytelling event taking place in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim on Thursday, January 9, at 11am, which will allow 24/7 family carers to share their stories while sipping tea from the finest china. Local Historian Margaret Connelly will also be giving a talk on how our ancestors supported each other during harsh winters in rural Ireland.

For the full programme of events or more information on First Fortnight, visit firstfortnight.ie.