Bursledon man’s traumatic childhood inspired festival

The 'All in the Mind' performing arts festival will 'shine a light' on Mental Health


Leigh Johnstone pictured here whilst performing his play ‘Rum in the Gravy Boat’

A performing arts festival organiser from Bursledon has told how his love of drama helped him to cope with family trauma   – and inspired him to start a festival to help others to ‘shine a light on Mental health’.

Leigh Johnstone founded the free ‘All in the Mind’ festival four years ago and on 14 September more than 30 theatre, dance, visual art and musical acts from around the UK will descend on Basingstoke for one day only to explore mental health themes and to break the stigma that still surrounds many aspects of mental health and personal well-being.

Leigh’s own play “Rum in the Gravy Boat” is also part of this year’s line-up and is about his experiences growing up. His mother was an alcoholic and he had to raise his two young sisters. This had a profound effect on his mental health. The stress caused him to lose his hair and he experienced severe depression and anxiety. He now knows he also experienced post-traumatic stress.

Leigh said:

 “My childhood was a very traumatic time, which took its toll on my mental health and wellbeing. It was incredibly tough and sad. But I found comfort in drama. It allowed me to deal with what was happening in a safe space and my love of performing enabled me to face a lot of things that happened to me and my family. Through the All in the Mind Festival and Fluid Motion, I want to be able to help others with their mental health – not just the audiences but also the performers as well.

“I am delighted to announce the full line up for the festival – it is going to the most vibrant and exciting event we have put on. All of the acts are extremely talented and will provide fun, engaging and thought-provoking performances.”

Three stages will cover Eastrop Park on Saturday 14 September- the Dance Space, the Spoken Word & Music Stage, and the Theatre Tent. Other act and activities will also take place around the park.

Performances will explore topics such as anxiety, abusive relationships, self-harm and the challenges of caring for people who experience mental health issues.

There will be many activities and performances suitable for younger audiences as well.

Collar & Cuffs Co, who are based in Bedfordshire, will put on a musical sensory and play session for children up to the age of seven, that will explore the themes in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The All in the Mind Festival first started in 2016 with 79 visitors and last year’s event saw more than 1,300 people attend. The 2019 event promises to be the biggest and best yet and has received nearly £30,000 of funding from the Art’s Council.

2019 line up