It’s time to get creative and make a film about mental health on Positively Scottish

 

IFC awards still

If you want to change how mental illness is seen and talked about – get into film.

Now’s your chance to steal the limelight in the International Film Competition for the 2017 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. Entries, which are open to global applicants, close on March 31.

One tip for this year’s entries, says producer and film festival curator, Richard Warden, is to capture hearts and minds.

“We’re particularly keen to see films addressing mental health with personality and verve – work that is brave, open, and takes chances. ‘Challenging but accessible’ is one way I put it. But we consider all engaging approaches.”

Now in its 11th year, the competition provides its award winners (and selected other entrants) with the opportunity to showcase their films to festival audiences.

With winning films screened during the Scottish festival in October 2017, and honoured at the International Film Competition awards ceremony, it’s the perfect way to get your work out there and seen by the right people.

Competition is fierce. Last year, the festival received 1600 entries from over 100 countries. Speaking about the mass of global entries, Richard says it’s one of many highlights of his work on the competition. “It’s a privilege to view compelling stories from around the world. We had to start programming beyond just the winners, as there was so much more we wanted people to see. ”

Claire Lamond w IFC award still

But just by entering your film, you can also be part of the emerging, global discussion about mental health. Claire Lamond’s film All That Glisters won Best Animation in the 2012 International Film Competition, and Sea Front picked up the same award in 2014.

“It’s a fantastic forum to help film-makers and service users addressing important, sensitive issues and I can’t praise enough the political awareness-raising side of it,” says Edinburgh-based Claire (below).

“I know it’s said a lot but we need to talk about mental health: again and again and again and always. The stories that I am drawn to are about people striving to exist and making sense of the world around them. Wee stories about wider society. And this means that mental health often plays a part in the telling of them.”

Claire says film-making and studying creatively has helped her beat her own anxiety and depression; for a time she had to stop work. When she eventually began to recover, she attended Stepping Stones (now replaced by the Alma Project), an arts-based mental health project.

They had a film-maker in residence, Robbie McKillop, and with his support Claire made a feature that won Best Drama in the 2007 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. “As I recovered more,” says Claire, “the project supported me to go study and I found myself at Edinburgh College of Art.”

For Claire, to have her films recognised in the competition was personally very empowering. “For me it was a testament to the power of art in healing and a personal lesson in the incredible work that arts projects are doing in the area of mental health.

“The actual awards ceremony is an amazing night. It’s such a treat to get to meet a whole pile of film-makers, all with something important to say. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for escapist dramas but that’s not my place,” adds the winning film-maker.

SEA FRONT stillLast year’s winners were shown at the CCA in Glasgow, Edinburgh Filmhouse and other venues, and accompanied by post-show discussions which Richard says is another highlight of his work.

“These conversations can involve film-makers, film subjects, those with lived experience, mental health experts – the audiences are wide-ranging, and the forum is an open one. They’re an opportunity to witness the immediate impact that cinema can have.”

So, what are you waiting for? Go on, enter. Perhaps you too can be an award winning film-maker and start up important conversations about mental health that win hearts and minds across the globe.

For more details on the competition, go here

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Down on the ‘free-for-all’ farm that offers a spiritual twist in Positively Scottish

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“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus.

For me, the invincible summer can be found in Lesmahagow, some 25 minutes south-east of Glasgow, just off the M74, writes ERICA CROMPTON, in Positively Scottish.

Here I discovered a spiritual eco-farm retreat through Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming (WWOOF), a global collection of farms where you can work the land in exchange for accommodation and food.

The Krishna Eco Farm in Lesmahagow, or Karuna Bhavan, is home to a community of over 30 people, made up Hare Krishna monks, families, volunteers and the wider Krishna community.

It sits atop a steep hill. If you’re coming by bus and walking here, expect to feel the burn as you reach the entrance. To begin with, you’ll find a navy and white sign letting you know you’re in the right place and acting as a gate to the women’s ‘ashram’ (ashram meaning home in Indian, where the Krishna religion originates). It’s in front of the men’s ashram (the two houses are divided as that sort of thing isn’t allowed here on the sacred grounds).

thumb_img_0997_1024Accommodation is basic, and shared, but often there aren’t many travellers stopping over so you may find you have a room to yourself like me. The heating is on, and my abode for the next five nights is stencilled with elephants and peacocks with plenty of floral fabrics in a rainbow of pastel and primary colours. I could be in India with all this 1970s wicker furniture and wooden floors…although a glance outside at the plump and heavy Scottish rainclouds reminds me I’m not.

You don’t have to be devout or don the tangerine robes to reap the spiritual benefits here, though many do after escaping the rat race or leaving behind troubled pasts. The WWOOF scheme means you can help harvest crops for six hours a day, five days a week in exchange for a bed, and the meals (much of which are made from the crops here).

13423885_10154315812036907_5156835934155131328_nVolunteers are a staple in the running of the temple. Head gardener Bhakti Vinode (above) says: “Labour on the farm has helped us in a big way and we couldn’t cultivate the amount of land without the volunteers – we’ve been depending on them and they bring life to the farm.

“Personally I feel enthused when I see things growing. I work hard to cultivate the land then plant the seeds, so it’s nice to see the seeds germinate after all the hard work. I feel I’m doing something for the world, like I’m contributing. Everyone needs food so I like to grow food and teach others how to grow food. We can feed the hungry but we also have to educate people how to grow food. Growing food gives me a purpose in life.”

Earn your keep, take a working holiday, or stay as long as you want while you get back on your feet if unemployed or homeless. It can even help those with mental health problems, says Bhakti. “We do some horticultural therapy here too. People with mental health problems come along and we encourage them to grow food as it makes them feel more positive.”

For those who don’t want to do the farming, you can pay £10 a night for the same deal and explore the surrounding areas. However you’ll be still be expected to observe the house rules, such as no alcohol, no meat, and no sex.

thumb_img_1060_1024Those rules are keenly observed by the monks and you can’t miss them dotted around the grounds in their orange robes, sometimes chanting “Hare Krishna”. They mostly cut lithe, warm figures with their shaven heads fully focused on their work. The farming is also known as ‘Bhakti yoga’. It’s done with devotion for the Hindu God Krishna and forms a crucial part of the devotees’ lifestyle.

Bhakti takes his spiritual name from Bhakti yoga. Of the practice, he says: “Working on the land keeps me fit and it helps regulate my life. I have to be there every morning to water, feed, and weed the seedlings. Most important is I love what I do. Practising Bhakti yoga means I grow food with love and whoever eats the food feels the love while eating.”

You’ll often find Bhakti working in one of two large greenhouses that sit aside the women’s ashram, a little further up the hill and framed by a winding path to the temple right at the top.

Chanting, meditation and yoga take place in this colourful and diminutive temple with intricate carved deities covered in garlands which are made on-site with the marigolds that Bhakti and the volunteers’ harvest.

The marigolds only add to the colour to the site. I also visited this summer for the Hindi Festival of Lights. With monks and friends, we threw coloured paint at each other while singing and dancing. The best part was sitting in the farm grounds around a campfire with sheep until late. But it’s not uncommon for a devotee to rise at 2am to start their mantra rituals.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner follow the early birds at 8.30am, 1.30pm and 7.30pm. The food is all vegetarian and much produced on site, such as the spinach and the potatoes. They call it ‘Prasadam’ and it tastes a little like curry – think saag paneer rather than vindaloo, as it’s all very mild.

Of the food, Bhakti says: “Prasadam means everything to me. It’s spiritual food, and when I eat it, I feel the love! I like to serve Prasadam to others. The Beatle George Harrison said he hopes in the future there will be Prasadam restaurants and takeaways on every corner and I can see that happening in the future, because it’s great food.

“Everyone that comes to the Krishna eco farm gets Prasadam and it’s always such a nice occasion sitting and eating it together – it’s enthusing to see after growing the crops and makes me feel happy and peaceful while bringing the love out in my heart. It’s so easy and everyone can take part.”

I, too, took part. Healthy eating was welcome on my stay and after five days without coffee, booze, and meat I do feel energised and not a little lighter (it must be all that bending and stretching over the spinach).

Sanctuary and peace don’t cost the earth on the Krishna eco farm. So free-loving, colourful summer vibes can live on through the wildest of winters.

For more information on the Krishna eco farm, go here.

 

Hip Trip Edinburgh Published in Fused Magazine

Edinburgh. It’s a culture vulture’s paradise with a festival for every fandom. Bookworm? Check (Edinburgh International Book Festival is on 15th – 31st of August). Comedy fan? Check times gazillion (The Edinburgh Fringe Festival falls on 7th – 31st August) Ghost hunter? They got the ghosts busted all year round (The Edinburgh Dungeons). Punctuate your trip with great food and drinks, and decorate with some of the world class art on display at one of the galleries or museums – the blue and white cross flag doesn’t seem to do this bright and colourful city justice, but the Fused Hip Trip guide should highlight some of the best it has to offer…

Hip-Trips

WHERE TO STAY…


Wallace Art House Surround yourself with art at this reasonable priced, unique B&B and enjoy the company of Wallace Shaw, the charismatic owner. 41-4 Constitution St, Edinburgh EH6 7BG 07941 343714
The Royal Britannia Less than 2 miles from Edinburgh Castle, this west End hotel is nestled on a riverside and just across the road from the National Museum Scotland. It’s also one of the few hotels in the UK where you can still enjoy smoking rooms. Behold and inhale! 69 Belford Terrace, Edinburgh 0871 221 0243

WHERE TO EAT…


Nonna’s Kitchen Established by Gino Stornaiuolo and family, Nonna’s Kitchen offer great food with a highlight being the pumpkin ravioli in gorgonzola and hazelnuts (drool at the thought). It’s modern and airy yet homely and intimate space plus the waiting staff have an uncanny knack for reciting long specials lists off the top of their heads! 45 Morningside Road, Edinburgh EH10 4AZ 0131 466 6767.

WHERE TO DRINK…


Treacle Head here for the best Edinburgh cocktails and a drinks menu that features an eclectic list of ingredients such as egg whites, sherbet with dipping lollipops and Hibiscus. 41 Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3JU 0131 557 0627

THINGS TO DO…


The Edinburgh Dungeon Shiver through an 80 minute journey of 1000 years of Scotland’s haunted history with actors, storytelling, exciting rides and thrilling special effects. Features the tale of murderous twosome Burke and Hare as well as gruesome details of the plague in the city’s “Streets of Sorrow”.  31 Market St, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 1DF 0871 423 2250
The Fruitmarket Art Gallery Be sure to check the current Phyllida Barlow show (on until 18 October 2015) – it’s a dreamy, pink-tinged installation that brings the artists memories of the space to life and it gives you the feeling of entering the private parts of a woman’s brain (men take note!) 45 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DF 0131 225 2383
The Scottish National Museum of Modern Art Don’t miss the important paintings of modern art history on display here. Of note is Expressionistic artist Oskar Kokoschka’s Self-Portrait as a Degenerate Artist (1937), a long-term loan from a private collection. It was painted in response to the Nazi’s attack on modern art, which had deemed Kokoschka and others as “degenerates”. 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DR 0131 624 6200

TIPS


The kindness of strangers Allow the friendly locals to show you around: ditch the guidebooks and official tours and let one or two kind strangers be your tour guides – they’ll have insider tips, doused in humour, to impart.
A Scottish tipple Get into the Edinburgh spirit with, errr….. a spirit! Try a highland dram of whisky such as The Ardmore Legacy, the perfect introduction to peated single malt whisky with notes of creamy vanilla, followed by smoky charcoal and savoury spices. Available in multiple retailers including Tesco and Morrisons (RRP £29.99).