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Meet Katie: Managing Director of Freedom of Mind Festival

Ahead of World Mental Health day (Monday 10th October) we talk about mental health to Katie Finch, full-time managing director of Freedom of Mind Festival about the events they have set up to engage the wider community into discussion.

What is Freedom of Mind Festival?

“Freedom of Mind is a an eleven day event festival oritentated on mental health that is held across Bristol city. It is open to the wider comminity, is accessible for all ages and is aimed at stimulating conversation around mental health.”

How did the organisation begin, and how did you get involved?

“I suffer from ill mental health myself: I have Bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed whilst a student at Bristol University. When I started on my ‘path to recovery’ during my second year I realised that a lot of people didn’t really feel comfortable talking about mental health. I was suddenly confronted with a mental health diagnosis that I hadn’t been aware of and hadn’t needed to speak about before, and then when I was aware and did come to try, the response wasn’t very receptive. People kept telling me that I was brave for speaking about my Bipolar disorder which made me think, why should my mental health be an audacious point of discussion when it is part of my everyday life?”

“Freedom of Mind Festival was created after an initial discussion between myself and Ella Marshall over a single conversation in a coffee shop. We both felt that there was a lack of awareness surrounding the mental health discussion and the solution we brainstormed in response to this is as follows, ‘Conversation, Education, Change.’ We wanted to put on a series of events which chanelled and these three words and gave opportunity for creativity and engagement. Eighteen months down the line the Freedom of Mind festival is now a registered company with a team of volunteers and a committee of ten people; we are now on the eighth day of eleven and it has already been a huge success.”

What kind of events does Freedom of Mind Festival hold?

“We’ve made our events as diverse, creative and open as possible. Most importantly we are aiming to invite discussion. One of the key things we wanted to tackle surrounding ‘mental health’ is that it’s not all doom and gloom! People always assume that when you talk about mental health that this is referring to ‘mental illness’ which is not what our event is geared towards. We wanted Freedom of Mind Festival to be an open and engaging set of events. It’s not about whether you identify with having mental health issues – we don’t want this to put people off – we want to break down these barriers and encourage the message that everybody has a ‘mental health’ and it’s something we need to be aware of and talk about. For example, our launch event was a live gig intended to celebrate creativity, featuring local artists performing music, spoken word poetry and showcasing their short films. The night also raised money for Bristol based mental health charity, Off the Record. We’ve also held a panel conversation with Q&A which was held at the Watershed which explored the stigmas around male mental health, a panel discussion with Bristol politicians which questioned how much influence our local politicians have on the mental health agenda of our city; a book signing with Nathan Filer in collaboration with Festival of Ideas and many many more events that can be found on our website (http://freedomofmind.org.uk/). We hope that all of these events will encourage people to talk, discuss and engage in order to normalise the mental health conversation.”

If you’re interested in attending the last few days of Freedom of Mind festival, events can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/freedomofmindfestival/?fref=ts

Eloise is a second year English Literature student studying at the University of Bristol and is editor of the Her Campus Profile section. An authentic Bristolian, she is passionate about her city and can often be found wearing her Air Max with her nose in a book and a cider in her hand.Check out her instagram here: www.instagram.com/eloisetahourdin/
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