8 Feb 2017

The second annual mental health arts festival ‘Walls, Muriau’ took place at the Millennium Centre in November.

Walls Muriau 1

It was a partnership between Disability Arts Cymru, which organised the event, and Voluntary Arts Wales which recruited and supported volunteers to ensure that all ran smoothly.

Walls Muriau 2

The festival provided a 'safe space' to explore a variety of issues through performance, seminars, workshops, visual media and interactive sessions. Many of the artists performing had 'lived experience' of mental ill health, which influences their work.

As part of the Volunteering Spirit Wales project Voluntary Arts Wales set out to develop volunteer recruitment management processes that would support this event and which would also provide a model way of working for future festivals of this kind.

One of the challenges was recognised as being to provide the right support for people whose mental health may be vulnerable. 

Janina Kukzys, volunteer co-ordinator said 'we thought the content of some performances and sessions might perhaps trigger adverse responses in those attending. It was important to be ready for that'.

Volunteers were invited to attend prior training which focussed on mental health awareness with a session on etiquette in working with disabled people.  On the day a quiet room was made available for anyone who needed 'time out' from the fray. Mental Health First Aiders were to hand and volunteers knew who these were and how to find them if needed.  All volunteers were briefed on the day about who to respond to different situation and were given lanyards with emergency information.

As it turned out, the quiet room was barely used and, thankfully the first aiders were not needed, but  having a well prepared volunteer and staff team surely helped to create such an  inclusive and welcoming friendly  'safe space' .

Frances, a complementary therapist and a poet, is passionate about the importance of artistic expression for our mental wellbeing. She volunteered to help out at  two  days of the festival.

'I thought that as a volunteer we would be standing and observing, so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to join in with the sessions' she said. 

Walls Muriau