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Newcomers to the Liberties: First Fortnight

Steven Cummins makes one thing clear; First Fortnight does not want to raise awareness about mental health nor educate people about the types of mental health; it aims to “raise people’s awareness of how silent they are when the issue of mental health is brought up”.

 

First Fortnight, held in January, considered the most depressing month of the year, and holds events over 31 days to try and create an environment where it is normal to talk about mental health. “You can’t foist that upon people, but you can create a space where that conversation might naturally occur”, Steve said.

Festival Street Art Source:First Fortnight

Festival Street Art
Source:First Fortnight

 

They create this space through the use of the arts. Events such as concerts, film showings, therapy sessions and discussions about mental health took place. “Ultimately we are trying to change societal attitudes that maintain the social stigma of mental ill health through the events and through the media that the festival gets.”

 

The organisation has come a long way since it began five years ago as Steve outlines: “We began as one event on one evening in Dublin”. Since then, the festival has grown as it has expanded to more than 40 events in seven counties in Ireland over a month.

 

First Fortnight have recently taken on the challenge of tackling mental health issues that homeless people, and those at risk of homelessness, face with The First Fortnight Centre for Creative therapies. The centre aims to use the power of the arts and people’s natural creativity and “work directly with vulnerable people experiencing a mental health difficulty”, he says.

WOLF by James Earley Source: First Fortnight

WOLF by James Earley
Source: First Fortnight

 

It is clear that defeating the stigma of mental health is a top priority for the organisation and to help the adults in homeless services who have faced this stigma and discrimination.

 

First Fortnight has only recently made the move to the Dublin 8 area and have set up on South Earl Street. The visual impact on the area is more than evident as several Irish street artists took over the walls of the area creating thought-provoking murals. “All of the pieces are commissioned by First Fortnight, with the ideas coming from the artists themselves; we just help facilitate their creation” Steve said.

 


The artists include Aidan Kelly, Will St Leger, an NCAD graduate James Earley and Maser who created the ‘Live and Love’ and ‘You Are Alive’ pieces. Steve agrees that some are quite literal, whereas some might just get you thinking about mental health but “hopefully all will start a conversation, whatever that conversation might be.”

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