The Huddersfield Literature Festival and partners have commissioned an animated film and handmade banner to explore ideas around creativity and mental wellbeing.

It’s an impressive literary line-up by anyone’s standards: Kit de Waal, Joanne Harris, Jackie Kay, Lisa Luxx, Nikesh Shukla and Lemn Sissay all feature in a new film commissioned for this year’s Huddersfield Literature Festival (HLF2020).

The three-minute animated short has been created by award-winning Huddersfield company, Fettle Animation, as part of the Festival project: The Creative Mind, which explores ideas around creativity and mental wellbeing. It was premiered at the HLF2020 Preview, which took place on Tuesday 25 February at the University of Huddersfield.

The film is a partnership between the Festival and Words in Mind, a National Lottery funded project run by TSL Kirklees, which helps local community groups, care homes, hospitals and libraries work with volunteers to host therapeutic reading groups. These groups use extracts from all kinds of books, poetry and writing to help people connect with memories and emotions, and promote good mental health, using a process called creative bibliotherapy. There will be two free Bibliotherapy sessions run by Words in Mind during the Festival (on 21 March and 24 March).

The Creative Mind project has also received support from Woven Festival: a biennial celebration of innovation in textiles across Kirklees.

The Creative Mind banner

The Festival has also commissioned a banner from the One World Craft Group, where refugees and local people get together to create beautiful craft work reflecting shared ideas and talent from a broad range of cultural backgrounds. Like the film, this project has been supported by funding from Woven Festival.

The 2.1m x 1.2m giant handmade banner features Lemn Sissay’s contribution to the animated film and will be unveiled at an event with the poet and Festival Patron at 6.30pm on Wednesday 11 March at the University of Huddersfield. Organised by the University’s School of Human and Health Sciences, the event will see Lemn Sissay talking about and reading extracts from his critically acclaimed, bestselling book: My Name Is Why: A Memoir. Tickets for the event are free and can be booked through the University at: https://bit.ly/2GKVJfR.

The Festival is also working with the One World Craft Group’s creative writing branch, Sharing Our Stories, for a photographic exhibition of refugees at Huddersfield landmarks, taken by Ismail, a refugee from Turkey. This will be free to view at the Lawrence Batley Theatre (21 March) and Huddersfield Library (23-28 March).

Festival Director, Michelle Hodgson, said: “Our Festival audiences often tell us about the positive and long-term benefits they experience from listening to writers and poets speak, or taking part in workshops, from creative writing to Bibliotherapy. The Creative Mind project not only features wonderful contributions from major writers and poets exploring creativity and mental wellbeing, but also brings together a number of organisations within the town, in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation.”

Elaine Duffy, Project Co-ordinator for Words in Mind, said: “We are pleased to be partnering with the Festival again to showcase the healing value of reading and writing for mental health and wellbeing. And we’re delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Fettle and such well-known names from the world of literature. Our taster Bibliotherapy sessions will be run by two of the Words in Mind volunteers who help facilitate some of the 47 groups that we run across Kirklees.”

Jean York, One World Craft Group and Sharing Our Stories women’s refugee writing group, said: “We are thrilled to be given this opportunity to link into our local community in such a creative way. Our group members represent 10 different cultural backgrounds bringing a wealth of skill, talent and experience with them from their own countries. We hope that our participation in the Festival will enable more people to become aware of the courage, dignity, strength and resilience of the creative members of both of these groups.”

HLF2020, which takes place from 19-29 March with some pre-Festival events, has an exceptionally strong programme this year, including 2019 Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo, “Queen of Crime” Val McDermid, and Strictly pro and bestselling novelist Anton Du Beke. Plus Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister, Being Mr Wickham, Celebrating Toni Morrison, a Moomins puppet show and a Qawalli Night, along with workshops, performance poetry, several free children’s events and a variety of discussion topics.