The Big Anxiety Festival
- To what extent does the festival reach a demographically and geographically diverse community?
- What are the key enablers/barriers to festival attendance and engagement?
- What is the extent to which attendees feel hope, pride, empathy, empowerment and belonging during/following their festival experience?
- Does the festival involvement impact mental wellbeing? stigma? mental health literacy?
The BIG Anxiety Festival uniquely integrates an expansive mental health knowledge translation program with a world-class arts festival. A major addition to the Sydney cultural calendar (on par with the Sydney Biennale of Art or the Sydney Festival), The BIG Anxiety is a recurring festival, designed to build ongoing community relationships and deliver social impacts.
The inaugural festival (20 September-11 November, 2017) program brings together innovators in arts, science, technology and health research and will deliver exhibitions, interactive environments, performances, discussion forums and workshops. In keeping with standard practice in the arts sector, we plan to survey members of the public who attend the festival to obtain feedback on their experience of the exhibits/events.
We have commissioned URBIS to design a questionnaire for this purpose to be made available to visitors after attending. A follow up survey will be administered six months after the exit survey to those electing to participate in a further survey.
History of the project
Mental health is a significant challenge for Australia’s health system. Almost half of Australian adults (aged 16-85) will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime (45.5%), with one in five expected to experience a mental disorder each year. The three most common mental illnesses reported in the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health & Wellbeing were anxiety disorders (14.4%), affective disorders (6.2%) and substance use disorders (5.1%).
There is string evidence that the arts can play an important role in supporting mental health and wellbeing in individuals and communities, including through raising awareness, early intervention, and providing opportunities to actively participate in the arts. For example, a recent Australian study revealed that people with 100 or more hours of arts engagement report significantly better mental health than individuals with no or lower levels of engagement.
In addition, there is evidence to suggest that engagement with artistic activities, either an observer or initiator, can enhance an individual’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states. This festival builds on pilot work 'The Big Anxiety Project' conducted by Black Dog Institute and UNSW Art & Design at Vivid Ideas 2016.
Data will be gathered on the experience of the festival by attendees of one or more festival events; members of the general public. The exit questionnaires will be completed online or via hard copy (available following every festival event).
Follow-up questionnaires will be emailed to all participants at 6 months post festival and will also be available online via the festival website.
University of New South Wales Catalyst Funding Philanthropic Funding Awarded to Professor Jill Bennett, Festival Director