The NOW Festival was founded in 2015  by Kath Thompson as part of her work with the RAISE Mental Health Promotion Team at Merseyside Youth Association. Kath envisioned the idea of an arts festival whilst teaching Performing Arts in South Africa where she worked across several young people’s arts festivals and saw first-hand the empowering effect these festivals have on young people. “They provide an amazing platform for young people to tackle difficult issues and have their voices heard, whilst also engaging in and producing work that they can be proud of”, Kath says. “The arts were so important for me as a young person growing up, and I just wanted to see that opportunity open to the young people in Liverpool”.

The NOW festival aims to engage young people in a creative discussion around the topic of mental health, through whatever ‘NOW’ issue is chosen by the team and young people’s steering group.

Previous themes have included ‘Mental Health and Technology’, ‘Mental Health and the Rights of the Child’, ‘My Education, My Mental Health’ and ‘Rise Up: Adverse Childhood Experience’ . This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health & Belonging’.

The aims of the event are to:

  • Empower young people to challenge stigma about mental health
  • Educate young people about mental health
  • To give them a voice and an active lead role in devising their pieces
  • Knowledge and ownership on the NOW issue and how these can affect mental health
  • Build confidence and self-esteem by taking part in the process / performing on stage
  • Ultimately, have fun and enjoy the whole process of talking about mental health and the NOW theme whilst challenging stigma.

With an estimated 1 in 4 people now experiencing some form of mental distress during their lifetime, the NOW Festival provides a platform from which to raise awareness, challenge stigma, and explore ways of building resilience and improving mental health. The NOW Festival takes place during children and young people’s mental health week and gives young people the opportunity to discuss, learn and explore mental health whilst gaining an amazing amount of experience. The festival incorporates the main message that the CAMHs partnership share across the city, that ‘Mental Health is Everybody’s Business’. Any school or youth group are welcome to take part. Each group is required to create a 15 minute or less piece of devised drama, music, film or dance all based around mental health and the NOW theme.