First Fortnight 2016

Snooker legend Willie Thorne, broadcasters Eoghan McDermott, John Bowman and Diarmuid Gavin, acting royalty Mary McEvoy, Olympic star Kenneth Egan and acclaimed musician Jennifer Evans are among a number of high profile names set to challenge mental health stigma this January as part of the 2016 First Fortnight mental health arts festival.

Now in its seventh year, First Fortnight 2016 will see live music, film, theatre, discussion and arts events staged to create open discussion and understanding of mental health problems, and challenge prejudice and discrimination.

Among the events taking place across Dublin and selected venues nationwide will include Proclamation – a unique evening of talk and music on New Year’s Day in Christ Church Cathedral in partnership with Mental Health Ireland. The event will feature a number of well-known Irish faces, including Diarmuid Gavin, Mary McEvoy, Chris Donoghue and Eoghan McDermott. The event is being staged in association with New Years Festival Dublin.

If Elected, a discussion on what the political parties will do for mental health in this coming election year, will take place in Dublin on January 13 in partnership with Mental Health Reform. The debate will see all the major political parties go head-to-head in a public debate chaired by RTE broadcaster, John Bowman.

Acclaimed Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy will be screened in cinemas nationwide in association with See Change, the National Mental Health Stigma Reduction Partnership, while First Fortnight will once again return to St Patrick’s Hospital for a series of unique events in association with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. This will include It Made You – a live performance featuring songwriters of SPMHS and Sean ‘Doctor’ Millar, Gavin Glass & Kevin Nolan.

Musicians who will feature throughout the festival include Jennifer Evans, We Cut Corners, Saint Sister, State Lights, the High Hopes Choir, Sean ‘Doctor’ Millar and Gavin Glass.

RTÉ TV and Radio presenter Eoghan McDermott, who is an ambassador for First Fortnight, said of the festival: “I’m delighted to be an ambassador for First Fortnight. First Fortnight’s call to challenge mental health stigma is something that really resonates with me. Like many people, there have been times in the past when I’ve been depressed and unsure how to get better or who to turn to.

“I know what it’s like to feel like you can’t ask for help. I know what it’s like to be embarrassed by your own feelings, but I also know what it feels like to have that weight lifted off your shoulders by talking to someone. Talking helps. There is no shame in experiencing a mental health problem, it happens to a lot of us.

I’m delighted to join the call of First Fortnight and all the great artists and acts taking part in this year’s festival to make 2016 the year when we end mental health stigma.”

Other First Fortnight 2016 events include a children’s workshop around the themes of emotion expressed in the movie Inside Out; discussion on sports stars and mental health featuring Willie Thorne, Kenneth Egan & Breifne Earley; the Irish premiere of Gabriel starring Rory Culkin; the European Premiere of Buried Above Ground, a new documentary exploring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in association with Science Gallery Dublin; comedy from Alison Spittle; award-winning theatre productions Big Bobby. Little Bobby & Overshadowed (in association with BodyWhys); Co-Motion – a musical walking experience;  stunning visual arts and dance events; and much, much more The full line-up can be viewed at

The festival will once again be centred around Dublin but will also host dance, theatre and film events in Galway, Wicklow, Limerick, Cork and Kildare.

The 2016 First Fortnight festival is partnered by Mental Health Reform; St Patrick’s Mental Health Services; Mental Health Ireland and See Change, the National Mental Health Stigma Reduction Partnership.

Launching the official festival programme, First Fortnight co-founder and project manager JP Swaine said:

“The First Fortnight team are proud to announce this diverse, smart and important series of events for January 2016.

First Fortnight has become synonymous with fresh, creative and innovative ways to spark the national conversation on mental health. Each festival that passes seems to encourage a new crop of artists to work creatively in response to mental health as an issue in Irish society and it has been hugely encouraging to meet with artists who have been developing their work with the expressed purpose of contributing to the First Fortnight.

Changing attitudes to mental health in Ireland has grown into a movement. First Fortnight and its mental health partners proclaim that considerable work remains to be done to make Ireland a more tolerant, compassionate and empathic place for those living with the experience of mental ill health.”

Among the highlights of this year’s festival will be:

  • Proclamation – a night of music and discussion as a host of well-known faces issue their proclamation for our collective wellbeing on New Year’s Day in Christ Church Cathedral.
  • Ahead of the General Election, RTE broadcaster John Bowman chairs If Elected: Where do the political parties stand on mental health?
  • Meet Willie Thorne – One of snooker’s best known players during the game’s heyday in the 1980s, Willie Thorne will bare his soul, talking openly about the dark days, his suicide bid and his inspirational recovery from the brink
  • Love & Mercy tells the story of Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson and his success which came at extraordinary personal cost.
  • Rory Culkin stars in Gabriel, a heartfelt portrait of a vulnerable teen at his psychological breaking point, struggling to keep it together in the wake of his father’s suicide.
  • Kevin Nolan, Sean Millar, Gavin Glass & the songwriters of St Patrick’s Mental Health services present It Made You – collaborative songwriting project
  • Award-winning plays Big Bobby. Little Bobby and Overshadowed look at our inner demons and eating disorders respectively.