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1 August 2022

Northern Ireland Mental Health & Arts Festival (NIMHAF)

3 grants £65,000
To support the development of Northern Ireland's Arts and Mental Health Festival.

About the project

NIMHAF – or the Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts Festival – is an annual arts festival, taking place each May. It aims – through showcasing the arts – to celebrate mental health, challenge stigma and inequality, establish enduring partnerships and support recovery and wellbeing.

NIMHAF has been awarded three grants by the Baring Foundation as part of our Arts & Mental Health funding programme, the third in 2022 of £45,000 over three years to support the festival’s development.

Trisha Forbes

NIMHAF co-founder & trustee

NIMHAF was founded in 2013 and was the first such festival of its kind in Northern Ireland. Each year, we aim to produce a programme of varied, vivid arts events that create a platform for high-quality artwork that deals compassionately and intelligently with mental health.

Mental health is a huge concern in Northern Ireland, with The Troubles leaving a legacy of trauma and poor mental health, including with younger generations. The prevalence of mental health problems has been estimated to be approximately 25% higher than in other parts of the UK and there are particular concerns about the links between deprivation and suicide.

The May 2022 festival had the theme of ‘Gather’ and celebrated our ability to gather (in person and online) after the Covid-19 pandemic. Events included workshops, exhibitions, film screenings, choir performances and a comedy night.

With new funding, including from the Baring Foundation, Future Screens NI and others, we are now in a position to expand and develop the Festival. In particular, in 2023 and beyond, we hope to:

  • expand the festival outside of Belfast, including to more rural parts of Northern Ireland
  • develop our year-round programme outside of the Festival week in May
  • increase our focus on inclusion. We recognise the intersectional nature of mental health problems and want to ensure that groups who experience poor mental health alongside other adversities can participate and be heard. The 2023 festival will be engaging with Trans and Traveller communities.

We can announce that the theme for NIMHAF in 2023 will be ‘Myths’, and we hope it will be a platform to both discuss the myths perceived about mental health as a whole and to explore Northern Ireland’s rich heritage of myths and legends. We hope to see you there!

Find out more about NIMHAF here.

Participant feedback

Such an interesting show, full of wonderful stories, songs, music and previously unknown facts about Rathlin Island. And humour!

Loved the mix of poetry, novel, short story, music – I just loved it all! Everyone goes through sh*t. I want to write and share more – inspired.

Feedback from the 2022 Festival