Mental health arts festival for Kilkenny

Sean Keane

Reporter:

Sean Keane

Email:

sean.keane@kilkennypeople.ie

First Fortnight festival

A scene from the irish filmThe Drummer And The Keeper will be screened in the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on Thursday 18th January

A national festival aimed at challenging mental health stigma is coming to Kilkenny in January.
First Fortnight is a two-week mental health arts festival that has been staged in Dublin and venues nationwide since 2009.
The festival stages arts events in the hope that they will provoke discussion around mental health and end the stigma that can prevent people from seeking help when they most need it.
The acclaimed Irish film The Drummer And The Keeper will be screened in Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on Thursday 18th January at 8pm.
The Drummer & the Keeper tells the story of the unlikely friendship formed between two young men; Gabriel, a reckless young drummer with bipolar disorder, who revels in rejecting society’s rules and Christopher, a 17-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome, who yearns to fit in.
This heartwarming story shows the strength of the human bond in the face of adversity. The film was written and directed by Nick Kelly, whose short film Shoe was shortlisted for an Academy Award.
Speaking about the inspiration behind the film, Nick Kelly, said: “The core inspiration came from something I’ve both experienced myself and seen happen to other people: that at moments of massive personal crisis, those closest to you on paper (family, best friends) are often fairly useless – but other most unlikely people often appear in your life to say, do or give you what you really need. As a rock musician for many years, I had regularly encountered people who clearly had mental health issues – sometimes unbeknownst to themselves, so I felt I had a good handle on Gabriel’s world and his challenges. And I have a child on the autism spectrum, so I also had a pretty good feel for Christopher’s character.”
Speaking about the stigma that exists in Ireland around both autism and mental health, Nick said: “I think most people are intellectually more aware of the existence and prevalence of both Autism and Bipolar than they might have been, say, 30 years ago. But in terms of really understanding, accepting and making room in work and life for people with these challenges, I would say as a society we still have huge distance to go.
“There are still very many people in Ireland who would be afraid to admit to a mental health issue, and parents who refuse to consider exploring an autism diagnosis for their children, for fear of being branded and stigmatised as lesser or damaged. Thus the undeniable challenges posed by the conditions themselves are exponentially increased by the perceived need to hide them from others.
“This is the new closet and I really admire those brave enough to “come out” about their own mental health issues or neurodiversity.
“In the long run that’s what’s going achieve better treatment and greater tolerance and inclusion.”
In its ninth year, First Fortnight is an arts-based mental health charity that organises a festival in the first two weeks of the year aimed at challenging stigma. An awareness campaign in the First Fortnight of the year works because we are all a little raw that time of year.