On the eve of the Federal election we could all use a little art to soothe our souls, nourish our connection to each other, open our hearts and minds, and look after our mental health. It’s all about art and mental health over the next few weeks. Check out these inspiring creative events.

Cementa Festival

Some of the most magical and deeply touching of these experiences happen in the regions, with less fanfare but no less potency. This weekend the Cementa Festival takes place at Kandos NSW (near Bathurst) and features, among many other beautiful events, Carnivale Catastrophe exploring, two years later, stories and emotions about the 2019 bushfires, and a Living With Fire symposium in which three equal systems of knowledge – the indigenous management of the land, the physics of bush fire behaviour and the impact of political, social, economic and cultural systems will be brought together by Uncle Peter Swain, Professor Jason Sharples and Emeritus Professor Mary O’Kane. Check out the other wonderful events here: https://cementa.com.au/

Space 22

Space 22 is an exploration of arts on prescription, has started on ABC TV, underpinned by research conducted by Prof Katherine Boydell – which you can explore here: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/research-studies/space-22/.

The Big Reach

Next week, The Big Reach takes place in Brisbane. The Big Reach is the latest iteration of the Big Anxiety Festival, led by Prof Jill Bennett at UNSW, who leads a research program founded in bringing together art, science and people to explore and address anxiety and trauma.  Arising from concerns about the limited reach of formal support for mental health, trauma and suicidality, The Big Reach explores the potential of creative engagements to connect with people in challenging circumstances—from trauma-informed media and co-designed immersive technology, to live art, performance and psychosocial design. It’s great to see the Festival expand beyond its home base in Sydney and also to see how work has cohered in forms more accessible for therapeutic implementation, since its earlier, exploratory phase (as for example, in this ABC news story).

There are two days of experiential and immersive creative experiences, talks, side shows and workshops. Day 1 explores creative and cultural approaches to mental health, lived experience, trauma and survival. Day 2 is concerned with making change – rethinking systems, services, interventions and imagining the future. Both days offer the now-signature mix of technologically-informed, cutting edge immersive experiences that challenge and extend understanding of the lived experience of mental distress; bold, insightful and dynamic conversations across arts practice, experiences of distress and the science of trauma and distress; and performance-presentations by innovative creative thinkers working at the intersection of arts, health and lived experience. The program can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the page: https://www.thebiganxiety.org/events/the-big-reach/

The Australia Council for the Arts has continued to partner with Professors Boydell and Bennett and other reseachers and practitioners around the country, including the inimitable Girrimay artist-nurse-midwife Marianne Wobcke (who is conducting a workshop as part of The Big Reach), to drive major steps in policy and practice supporting the use of the arts for mental health – see our previous blog posts.


Article by Dr Claire Hooker. Posted by Ian Thomson.
Feature image from ‘The Big Reach website’ used with permission.