The DeStress Fest is happening right now at Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester. It’s only a twenty-minute walk from campus and is well worth a visit. The program of exhibitions has been running from the 8th of January and will be concluding on the 28th of March, so there is still plenty of time to visit. DeStress Fest is designed to connect the city with the arts again and especially get people talking about mental health.  

There is a vast number of exhibitions happening across the length of the festival, with artists working in residence and inviting other artists to work collaboratively, involving around 90 different artists and forms of input from creative minds all showing their stories and experiences of mental health. Expect to see paintings, installations, live performances, spoken word and creative and relaxing workshops to attend. 

G Sian, an Arts Council Change Maker, created the DeStress Fest knowing that January is a long stressful month for students and wanted to connect with students to show them that the arts can be a relaxation tool. He says ‘Art is part of the human experience – there will be unhealthy minds if there is no art’. 

There are DMU students featuring in the exhibition. The students will be featuring as part of a group show called ‘All Brains are the Same Colour’ starting on the 10th of February. There will be visual art by Stefania Laccu, which will be created from dialogue of people who have psychosomatic conditions and creating paintings as translations of what they have shared. Emma Bullo-Taylor has just finished her foundation course at DMU and presents her Hanging Plaster Body as part of the show. 

After going to see the first show, David Parkin’s Delusions of Grandeur, it has got me really excited for the rest of the DeStress Fest. It really opened my eyes into other mental health conditions and was a great way to get talking about personal experiences with people in and around his work. It was very powerful and emotional work exploring his time when he was sectioned, but you get such an understanding from it. Having struggles with my own mental health I always feel very emotional and become very thoughtful around reading other people’s stories, and it is so important to talk about your own wellbeing and know that you are not alone.  

It’s time to talk about mental health, we need to relate as human beings and try to help and understand each other; the festival is an important contribution to that conversation. Mental health in the arts is a very good collaboration with the academic side of counselling and therapy, and there is great value in them working together.  

G says ‘We need to see what the wounds look like in order to know what we are healing’. The DeStress fest allows us to study the mind and body through the lens of art. The work is engaging and comfortable to see and delivered in a human way. It is definitely worthwhile paying a visit over the rest of the festival and take some time to think about your own mental health. 

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