First Fortnight: Madness, mental illness and creativity explored

Bookmarks: Writers and artists to discuss the interplay of mental distress and creative output in their work

Arnold Fanning: “The interplay of mental distress and creative output is a potent topic, overlain with mythology, and ripe for dissection.” Photograph: Ste Murray

Arnold Fanning: “The interplay of mental distress and creative output is a potent topic, overlain with mythology, and ripe for dissection.” Photograph: Ste Murray

 

First Fortnight, the mental health arts and culture festival, runs nationwide next month, showcasing a wide variety of artforms to promote mental health awareness, challenge prejudice and end stigma. I’m proud to be participating in the festival with the event Madness, Mental Illness and Creativity: Writers and Artists in Conversation which takes place in the lovely surroundings of the Books Upstairs Café on D’Olier Street, Dublin, on Sunday, January 6th at 3pm.

I’ll be joined by writer Sara Baume (Spill Simmer Falter Wither and A Line Made by Walking) and outsider artist Eoghan O’Driscoll to discuss our experience and thinking on the links between creativity and mental illness, and how one impinges on the other in the context of our work practice and disciplines.

Author and co-editor of Banshee literary journal Claire Hennessy is the moderator of what should be a vital and lively discussion, and she says: “I’m really curious to see what the three writers and artists I’ll be speaking to have to say about this – it’s a great privilege to be able to ask questions of people whose work has spoken to you.”

The interplay of mental distress and creative output is a potent topic, overlain with mythology, and ripe for dissection.

Sara Baume says: “I am always most curious about art (of any form) which appears to have arisen out some kind and shade of obsession or desperation, an urgency which has nothing to do with ego, or career, or achievement public or personal. This is what interests me most when it comes to making the connection between illness of any form and creativity.”

There’ll also be an opportunity to see some of Eoghan’s stunning paintings on display, and of course time for the audience to field some questions of their own.

It’s going to be a great afternoon, a vital part in breaking down stigma around mental health while finding out more about writing, art, and creativity.

I’m delighted to be participating, and hope to see you there.

Arnold Thomas Fanning is the author of Mind on Fire: A Memoir of Madness and Recovery (Penguin Ireland) firstfortnight.ie

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