Monday 10th October 2016 – World Mental Health Day – saw the debut of Shadow Road‘s new mental health awareness mini-festival, UNBROKEN at Theatre503. In addition to the main event – which showcased several pieces of new writing, spoken word, music and dance all examining the important issue of mental health from a variety of different angles – the festival also featured an art exhibition which the audience could both look at and, if they were feeling brave, contribute to, live music from our festival musician, and a post-show panel discussion, chaired by Andrew Shepherd, Theatre503’s Executive Director who previously worked for the charity Rethink Mental Illness for three years.
This mini-festival was the first of its kind for Shadow Road and our main aim was to increase awareness of the issues, to reduce the stigma surrounding them by opening up the conversation, and to confound expectations as to what a production about ‘mental health’ might involve! Given the company’s enduring concern with the vital issue of mental health, however, we were always hopeful that this would be the first of many similar festivals and, following a sell-out Showcase and fantastic feedback, we were delighted to see the festival returning in 2017.
The 2017 festival, expanding from one day to three, returned to Theatre503 and new venue The Frontline Club from Saturday 28th until Monday 30th October, with an exciting and extremely well-received programme of events.
We were particularly pleased that one of these was the inaugural UNBROKEN Short Film Prize, which allowed us to explore the issues surrounding mental health via yet another art form and – when the winners chose to donate their prize money to charity – to support the wonderful Mind!
In 2018, we were delighted to move to a new venue – the OSO Arts Centre – which enabled us to bring all of the festival’s events under a single roof in beautiful surroundings. That year the festival took place from Friday August 31st until Sunday 2nd September – the first step on our way from October to May in order to coincide with UK Mental Health Awareness Week.
Our 2020 plans were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic which led to us producing the Short Film Festival online for the first time – a rousing success that, with the greatest number of entrants and votes we’ve ever received, surpassed even our expectations! We hope to continue screening our shortlisted films online in future years, along with our in-person screening once it is safe for us to all gather together again.
Photos from all our previous festivals are available on the Gallery page and you can read some of the feedback from both audiences and participants on the Reactions page. We are incredibly grateful to all of our wonderful volunteers, speakers, participants, donors and audience members for their continued support of the UNBROKEN Festival – without each and every one of them, it simply wouldn’t happen – and we are hugely excited to see what the next festival may bring! We do hope you will join us there – and, in the meantime, we would be very grateful for any donation you might feel able to make, no matter how big or small (please visit www.gofundme.com/unbrokenfest), to help kickstart the fundraising for UNBROKEN 2022! 🙂