SMHAF Writing Awards


Three authors scooped distinguished prizes as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival Writing Awards. With over 150 entries this year, the judges whittled them down to a final 11 who showcased their work at the ceremony. The event sponsored by Bipolar Scotland handed out awards in three categories including an overall jury prize.


The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) drew to a close on Thursday night with the annual writing awards in partnership with Bipolar Scotland in Glasgow.


Singer songwriter Kathryn Joseph kicked off celebrations on the night with a set of three stunning songs performed on piano including tracks from her recent album “for you who are the wronged.”



The writing awards themselves were presented by Scottish writer, Catherine Simpson who stated that this year there had been over 150 entries amongst the three categories with the final 11 having their moment on the night to share and shine a light on their work.


All entrants had the choice of submitting fiction, poetry or creative non fiction to the competition this year and the theme for submissions was “gather.”


The 11 shortlisted entries were: Comparing Hands by Cailean McBride, Carapace by Lindsay Johnstone, The other side of the door by Eilidh Morris, Convening the Parliament by Christopher Queen, Lighting the way by Isla Blackley, Home by Tom Newlands, Like-minded people by Mia Farlane, 239 screenshots by Iona Bowden, I don’t know why by Bernadette Maybanks, Three hundred miles by Angela Wright and end of lockdown haiku by Donal McLaughlin.



Overall winner in the fiction category was Mia Farley who unfortunately couldn’t attend on the night - owing to being in New Zealand. Mia's piece Like-minded People transports you into the consciousness of someone dealing with social anxiety.


Iona Bowden picked up the prize for poetry in front of a delighted audience for moving snapshot, 239 screenshots. On her win Iona adds: “I’m very humbled, surprised and happy. It is nice to take something good out of something bad. I used to write a lot when I was younger but it was too much effort and this is the first time that I’ve ever entered a writing competition. I was surprised and never expected it in a million years. It gives me the confidence now to enter things in the future.



Triumphant on the night was Eilidh Morris, 31, who not only won overall in their category of creative non fiction but struck gold with the jury award for best overall winner for their piece, the other side of the door. It delves into the issue of being diagnosed on the autism spectrum in your thirties.


A delighted Eilidh said: “I’m really happy because I had only just got over the fact that I won in my category. It was really nice to get another one as well. I didn’t expect it but it is really validating and encouraging because all I want to do is write. I’ve been writing all my life but to myself and it was only about three years ago that I started sharing it more as spoken word with my bandmate. We are in a band called 2 Stoned Birds and we do mental health and fantastical storytelling to music, so it hasn’t been that long since we have been sharing stuff. We are based up in Dundee but it was nice we got to perform in Glasgow at the start of this festival and perform everywhere.”



Having scooped not just the individual award but the jury prize on the night, Eilidh adds: “It means so much to me. I didn’t think that creative non fiction would be an area that I would really write in as I used to focus on short stories but it is really reassuring as it was about something that is so personal to me. It was only last year that I was diagnosed as autistic and to be able to share a really positive experience and then get an award for it is just really great.”


All of the shortlisted entries can be viewed online on the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival website.



By Holly McCormack


Photography by Ingrid Mur




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