#21 Normal? Festival of the Brain

I jumped on a train to Folkestone to Normal? Festival of the Brain.

A collaboration between Living Words, Quarterhouse Folkestone and Folkestone Fringe and offered a programme which explored the brain from all angles. With mental health and dementia covered, the workshops, discussions and performances aimed to stimulate and spark new debate.

I was keen to attend, as really great art and performance was at the heart of it all. From Bryony Kimmings’ Fake it ‘Til You Make it – a new show about depression and about love – to artist Annie Ho Cooper’s textile showing the unraveling of a beautiful old tablecloth – I saw so many interesting pieces.

My favourite moment was premiere of spoken word poet Leah Thorn’s film Watch. This is a glorious, insightful, vulnerable poetry film that uses spoken word, photography and found footage to consider a daughter’s relationship with her father and his dementia. It’s so thoughtful and so personal, and like nothing else I’ve seen about the condition.

Often poetry or art about dementia is shown through fragments. Text on the page loses meaning, words drop off the end of sentences. Or stories are half told, or it’s a confusing jumble of images or text. This, of course, is evocative. It depicts the perceived state of mind of someone experiencing the illness. But while this can be evocative and also accessible, it also reduces the experience to one idea. It focuses on what’s been lost rather than what has been created.

Leah’s work is absolutely about her father’s creativity. His playfulness, his love of jokes. It’s a celebration of the man, who he was and embraces who he became, too.

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