To kick off our blog, Freedom Of Mind Festival founder Ella Marshall talks about the ideas behind the project, what she’s learnt so far and where we’re heading.
Freedom Of Mind Festival began as a vision – the kind that you elaborately plan in the shower and then usually do absolutely nothing about once you get out and dry yourself down. I wanted to run a social justice themed festival, where all the people of Bristol could come together and have fun, support local businesses/talent and raise money for the most vulnerable in our society. After proposing the idea to a few youth workers/entertainments type people, I was told to scale down if I wanted it to happen. One person recognised how passionate I was about having mental health recognised as equal to physical health and she suggested that I shrink the focus of my festival to revolve around this and to encompass a few events over a period of a couple of weeks.
Ten months later, my vision is shared by a strong committee of ten talented individuals and a hundred volunteers. It has been incredible experiencing my vision come into fruition and evolve in front of my eyes. I remember being overwhelmingly excited by the initial graphics that were mocked up for the festival, not realising that a few months later I would have someone working full time to bring everything together. That someone is Katie Finch.
Katie deserves the biggest shout out for being the driving force behind Freedom of Mind festival and being equipped with the largest selection of Sharpies I have ever seen. I first met her in the summer of 2015, after she emailed the Bristol City Youth Council (of which I am a member) in order to ask about how we might collaborate on our mental health campaigns. She sat in a coffee shop and let me (poorly) communicate my vision for Freedom of Mind, as a series of a events that would aim to create conversation and awareness around mental wellbeing. That is now exactly what we are constructing for the people of Bristol. Here is what I’ve learnt during the process so far:
I compromised my original idea in order to pursue something with greater focus and viability. Without taking this step, Freedom of Mind festival would still just be an idea floating around in my shower. Along the way many compromises have been made, which have meant that Freedom of Mind festival is now truly a collaborative effort. There is nothing more beautiful than something being achieved by a collective.
Throughout this process, I have maintained that we must support and work with local organisations and reach out to the most vulnerable demographics. Although the festival may not be social justice and welfare themed, we will very much be serving the community through where we base events, themes of social inclusion and by using independent businesses as often as possible.
I find it really difficult to let go and let others take responsibility for things that I will be putting my name on. I have always been the person who, when asked to create a presentation in a group, will delegate and give others responsibility for certain slides and then edit them all to my standard the night before we present to the rest of the class. I’m pretty sure this makes me a terrible person but I’m working on it. Freedom of Mind Festival has forced me to learn to trust others. I am currently probably the least active member of the committee due to upcoming exams but I’ve learnt to accept that my way is not the only right way to do things.
Our biggest hurdle from the beginning, as you may expect, has been finance. We are largely relying on the generosity of organisations and individuals to provide subsidies for certain events/to work on a voluntary basis. This means there is a very generous and proactive spirit amongst the team but the practicalities of running a two week programme of events with small donations here and there is proving to be a challenge. It’s frustrating that we have to meet corporate expectations in order to secure funding but we are also holding fundraising events like our upcoming pub quiz to ensure that not only is the fabric of the festival a collaborative effort but our monetary basis is too.
Freedom of Mind festival has definitely been a real learning curve and has allowed me and the team to grow in a number of capacities: as human beings, business people and community activists. Already, it’s been both hugely challenging and rewarding but has proven to me the value of sharing ideas. We are using our website as a platform to do just this. Every week running up to the festival, we will have an in-house or guest blogger providing a different perspective on mental wellbeing. Next week, Katie is going to be sharing with you an update on the progress we’ve made so far. If you have something to say about mental wellbeing then do please get in touch to feature! And don’t forget to get a team together for our pub quiz at the White Bear on the 5th May at 19.30 – it’s going to be competitive!
That’s all from me for now. I have some AS Levels to pass but make sure you watch this space as we publish insightful blogs and start to launch the main events.
Follow Ella on Twitter for more updates.
Want to get involved in Freedom Of Mind Festival? Pop your details into this form and we’ll be in touch soon.