All in the Mind Festival goes all online


All in the Mind Festival is an outdoor mental health arts festival organised by Fluid Motion Theatre Company. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, All in the Mind will be taking place online this year on 12 September. Disability Arts Online spoke to Leigh Johnstone, Artistic Director of Fluid Motion Theatre Company about the switch to online.

White woman with blonde hair performs to a small audience in a caravan, a person holding a paper fan can be seen in the foreground

A performance from last year’s All in the Mind Festival.

All in the Mind Festival was established in 2016 by Fluid Motion Theatre Company and usually takes place in Basingstoke. It has quickly established itself as one of the leading art festivals focused on mental health. After 5 years of festivals at Eastrop Park, Basingstoke, the festival will this year take place online.

Leigh Johnstone explains the decision to forge ahead with the festival as an online-only event:

“2020 has been a year like no other. Coronavirus is having an effect on us all, especially on our mental health. We were adamant that the festival should take place this year in some way, shape or form – the topic of mental health is so important, now more than ever. Even though lockdown restrictions are easing, and we are finding our way in this new world, large gatherings still can’t take place. Our festival has grown so much over the past five years – with around 1500 people coming to last year’s event – so I am delighted that we are holding the event digitally, instead of postponing. It means our acts will still be able to perform and enable us to bring the diverse and quality performances to a wider audience.”

With the festival’s focus on mental health, Johnstone and the Fluid Motion team are adamant that events such as this need to go ahead in some capacity:

“We are all trying to come to terms with the new world we are living in and make adjustments in our lives. We want to be able to bring some positivity at a time, which has been hard for many people. Events like the All in the Mind festival allow people to escape and have some fun for a few hours, while discussing a really important topic, which at the moment, is at the forefront of our minds. Theatre and the entertainment industry have been decimated by the pandemic, so it’s also really important for acts from across Hampshire and the UK to still be able to perform and have a place to express themselves.”

Colourful illustrated poster showing a full festival line up

All in the Mind Festival Line up

Switching from an outdoor to an online festival is not without its challenges, Johnstone explains the steps they’ve been taking to recreate that festival vibe:

“We are developing a new website that will enable multiple live acts to perform at the same time. This will be the first multiple live streaming platform built for festivals and will allow visitors to go from stage to stage to see the acts they wish to see, just like they would at a live event. I’m really excited for people to see it. One of the best things about a live event is the atmosphere and a digital event will not have that same feeling. But by allowing people from move from stage to stage to see what’s happening, as it happens, will hopefully enable some of that atmosphere to return.”

Naturally, being online presents a pretty unique opportunity for All in the Mind to broaden its audiences way beyond those who would have been able to attend previous iterations. It’s a prospect which is an exciting prospect for Johnstone:

“Over the years our audience numbers have grown from just 50 people attending the first event to just under 2000 last year. However, the outdoor festival is only limited to those who can physically attend. This year we have the opportunity to reach people isolated at home who may not normally get the opportunity to come along. In addition, we can reach out to the world. We have already had ticket sign ups from Canada and the United States.”

Providing digital access features has been on the agenda for All in the Mind this year, and Johnstone is keen to outline the measures on offer:

“Performances have been subtitled where possible and some artists have also provided downloadable copies of scripts, exhibition labels and song lyrics, which audiences can view alongside the performances if they wish too. The website will be able to use the accessibility functionality of the operating system, for instance, Apple’s voice command. Screen readers will also be available.”

A white woman in a red outfit performs a dance piece in front of an audience sitting around on a grassy space

A performance from last year’s All in the Mind Festival.

It would seem remiss for the programming of the festival not to in some way reflect the current situation. All in the Mind has commissioned work made during the pandemic as well as existing work for the programme:

“We have commissioned several pieces that have been made specifically during this time and I am really pleased we have been able to give artists the opportunity to do so. These include ‘Sue from Sexual Health’ by award winning theatre maker and HIV Activist Nathaniel Hall, ‘Ponder Box’, a mini-series of mindfulness videos with ambisonic sound by Hippana Theatre and ‘Poet-Tea @ Home’ by performance maker Dewi Evans.”

These are uncertain times for the entire performing arts sector. But Johnstone is buoyant about the future:

“We are a resilient and resourceful bunch. Things will look different and it will take some time, but the creative sector will ultimately emerge stronger and more resilient as a result. This isn’t a time for complacency though, we need to work harder now than ever before and all take a look in the mirror at the work we create and who we create it for. I have written a blog called ‘Making everybody Count’ on our website which lay out our plans to change the way we work and how we reflect the changing nature of our sector and society.”

All in the Mind Festival will take place on Saturday 12 September. Digital doors open at 10.30 with the first acts going live at 11am.