The last hurrah!! London Anxiety Festival 2014


Welcome to another of Matthew Mckenzie’s blog post on caring within the mental health field. However this particular blog post is about the London Anxiety Arts Festival 2014, which has been running from June until a few days up from July. I have attended a few of the Anxiety Arts festival events and if you check the sites video section, you ll see one about the Catjun Project.

I thought to do this last blog of the festival as one last review. So far I have attended around 6 of the events starting with the “An evening of wellness: your mind, your health”, which was shown at the Maudsley Learning center and the last event which took place over at the Horse Hospital over by Russell Square. The Horse Hospital is a three tiered arts venue in London incorporating The Chamber Of Pop Culture.

Before I continue my round up of the Anxiety Arts festival, what is this festival all about?

Well Anxiety 2014 is a new London-wide arts festival, curated by the Mental Health Foundation. Taking place at multiple venues throughout June 2014. Although their main programme has now finished, they still have a few events and exhibitions in July and beyond.

You can check up more about them at their site, which is

So ok, what can I say about the festival due to the 6 events that I have been to? I can most certainly say that I have enjoyed each event due to several reasons.

1. Learning about anxiety.
2. Experiencing the wonders of Art
3. Meeting friendly people
4. Getting involved and spreading the word
5. Being part of something

Let me elaborate on each of the reasons I have listed. I am sure most of you know what anxiety is, we have all experienced anxiety at different levels and as a carer, I have been anxious about many things, I admit we all have different levels of anxiety, but how many of us out there just cope with anxiety and not look into what anxiety is any further?

As you may already know, some people out there experience anxiety at very high levels and one of the ways they can express their experience with anxiety is through art and creativity. I felt that I was almost experiencing as close as it can be on how such artists were experiencing anxiety.

A good example was the work of Liz Atkins over at the Maudsley Learning Centre, which is called “curdled” being a solo exhibition commissioned by The Bethlem Gallery as part of the Anxiety 2014 Arts Festival. This was the first event I went to and experienced. I was lucky enough to chat to Liz Atkins on the 2nd of July at the closing festival and learnt more about her work and why she displayed her art.

You can learn more about Liz’s work here

The next event was when I met the lovely Anna Sexton who is the Learning and Communities Curator for the festival.


I met Anna at the “evening of wellness” event over at The Ortus, at the event we got to hear more about the festival and a few other projects.

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The next event I went to was the “Cathja Art Exhibition and film show“, which was about the Friends of Cathja community boat, where we had a  talk from their experts about mental health, creativity and unique community of makers.

Cathja Art Exhibition

Then we where shown a premiere of artist Albert Potrony’s film about this unique creative community based on a Dutch barge between 6.30pm – 8pm.

The premiere of an ethnographic film ‘The Potential Space’ about the Cathja community by artist Albert Potrony, the inaugural performance of Dave Auld’s Shanty written especially for Cathja.

For the 4th event, I turned up for the CoolTan Arts Largactyl Shuffle Midnight Walk, which was a fun, guided midnight walk through South London. We stopped along the way for talks and games on ‘mad’ buildings, night working, surrealism and the anxious city.


Then the 5th event was the screening of Asylum documentary where I met Anna B. Sexton. The documentary made by Peter Robinson entered radical psychiatrist R. D. Laing’s controversial Archway Community – where the inmates literally ran the asylum.  We also heard from Dragon Cafe’s Declan McGill and a few others.


Then the last event, which again featured lots of art was a wrap up of the festival and a celebration and goodbye from those involved, where I remembered the lovely speech from Errol Francis who is the Festival Director.

So you can see, with all these events, I learnt so much about art, creativity and anxiety.

On “Experiencing the wonders of Art“, I can certainly admit I am not so much of an artist myself, but some of the works I have seen have been startling, inspiring, amazing and thought provoking. Each expressing their field to the highest degree and I have been proud to view either painted works, song or movement as an expression.


On “Meeting friendly people“, I am glad to say that Anna Sexton has worked so hard in speaking to people at each event and making them feel welcomed. I have watched how professional she was in her role and how she enjoyed her work in meeting people and explaining things.

Meeting Errol was also a great pleasure, since he was always smiling. Plus also meeting Scarlett Avia who is the Festival Projects Assistant, where she was so busy tweeting and working so hard via social media and other things.


Since I was “Getting involved and spreading the word“, I have used a range of methods to archive this, being video blogs or vlogs as Anna calls them, plus taken many pictures and wrote up reviews. Plus at the events I also talked to many participants. I have enjoyed every moment.

Lastly I am proud that I was part of something for the community, for London. I felt part of a celebration, a festival, almost a movement. Mental Health still is almost an ignored field out there. There is so much stigma against mental health, that we can only be glad to know that the Mental Health Foundation are working hard to break the stigma. The festival is truly needed and I hope they return next year.