Anxiety arts & mental Health festival 2014

Anxiety Arts Festival 2014 was a London-wide arts festival taking place at multiple venues throughout May - July 2014. The programme of visual art, film, communities and on-stage explored anxiety as a modern condition.

The four strands each had a curator who interlinked their themed programmes across the wider festival programme to build a cohesive, interconnected contemporary mix of screenings, events, talks, exhibtions, workshops, publications and round table discussions.

Between 2012 - 2014 the team of curators, Festival Director, freelancers and volunteers grew a range of strategic partnerships using funding from SLAM, Arts Council UK, PRS New Music Foundation, Brittens Pears and other sources.

Challenging stigma and discrimination about anxiety was the core aim of the festival. Through co-design with individuals with lived experience of mental health and advocacy groups each curator enabled new conversations and creative process driven collaborations to form the core of overall programme.

Mental Health Foundation departments took active roles the overall programme to build on the existing research programme strands within the foundation, including learning from Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.

Feedback from festival partners;

"It amazed me your CEO made the time to come and speak with us and learn more about our group."

“Thank you for inspiring me to keep trying the dance classes & support me to perform in Brixton. You helped me overcome terrible anxiety to come along at all.”

“Today opened my eyes to seeking and getting help.” 

“Great group, great workshop, great facilitators.”

“It provoked me to think about anxiety from individual, societal and general terms.”

“The range of speakers was inspiring and it has provoked me to feel more confident.”

Key Facts: 

Client:  Mental Health Foundation is a UK wide charity. MHF's vision is for a world with good mental health for all. Their mission is to help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health. Prevention is at the heart of what the Foundation does, because the best way to deal with a crisis is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Venues: Across London

When:  May - July 2016


Inclusive programming involved scheduling 'relaxed' performances, including signers for hearing impaired people to enjoy theatre performances and working with creative directors, producers and artists with lived experience of mental health and related social care and access issues.

Geniune partnerships created through networking across London in the run up to the festival enabled taster sessions to take place in partnership with Goldsmiths and Paliament Week and Barbican. Community care bloggers and Tweeter were invited to attend core festival events and vlog about workshops plus engage with Kiosk Digital festival evaluation app for recording creative responses to festival events.

Partners included

The Community Strand curated by Anna B. Sexton invited audiences to explore anxiety by engaging with their understanding of where ‘community’ starts and ends. By co-curating participatory arts programmes she was able to challenge engrained stereotypes that lead to mental health stigma and discrimination – and the isolation of ‘out of sight and often out of mind’ communities i.e working with a community of men living in Brixton Prison.

Festival goers were invited to engage with your own sense of ‘community’ as they explored the commonalities and differences that are fundamental threads in the fabric of life in London.