Dublin folk artist Aoife Scott plays Joy In The Park in Fitzgerald’s Park this Sunday afternoon. Photo: Sean T O Meallaigh

It's Scott to be magic

“I think it's really important to talk about our mental health. I talk about my own mental health on stage and my own bouts with depression.”

Acclaimed Dublin folk singer Aoife Scott is fearlessly candid regarding her struggles with mental health and believes the subject must be spoken about openly in society. It’s no wonder she is billed as one of the highlight acts for this year’s Joy In The Park festival.

After an incredibly successful and sun-drenched inaugural outing last year, the festival, which celebrates life while putting the spotlight on mental health, returns this Sunday to Fitzgerald’s Park.

One of the organisations taking part again this year is Minding Creative Minds, Ireland's first wellbeing support programme for the entire Irish creative sector, who were there for Scott during lockdown in her time of need.

“I rang them during lockdown because I was feeling lost, and that service was there for me,” she explains.

“I didn't know a way out; I didn't know what to do. I just found the number and they were able to talk me through the time I was having. From there I got the tools to start looking after myself a bit more.

“It's nearly like exercising, you go to this thing once a week to be able to stretch your mind out, because if you don't let out the stuff you have running around your brain all the time, it's going to become overwhelming and then you're not going to know what to do with it,” adds Scott.

As was the case for many of us, lockdown was a difficult time for Scott. When the concept of a lengthy lockdown was first introduced to the world, many assumed the more creative of our species would be in their element, free to think and to express themselves without distraction. But as weeks turned to months and then to years, it became clear that it wasn’t quite as simple as that.

Artists like Scott struggled for an outlet and dearly missed the thrill of performance, underlined by the basic need to share their art with others in a physical space.

“I didn't have a good lockdown,” shares Scott. “I took it bad, and I got very low. It didn't suit me. It might have suited certain people, but it definitely didn't suit me.

“Everybody was saying, ‘oh you're going to be writing loads of songs’, and I was like, 'no, I'm actually not'. I was really uninspired, and I was very lonely, and I missed my job as a performer. I wrote one or two (songs) but it wasn't a good time for me

“You have to mind yourself and make sure you don't get lost in the music train. As an artist, you're selling yourself and it's tough. It can become very commercial then when you're trying to churn out things just because you're supposed to be churning out things.

“I think there is a mental health fallout from what happened with Covid and there are still people who are very fearful about things. You have to acknowledge what happened, you can't just forget that that loss happened, it was a big loss. There is definitely a trauma there and nobody wants to talk about it because we don't talk about Covid anymore!

Scott, who is “slowly but surely” putting songs together for her next album, will join the likes of John Spillane, Pontious Pilate & The Nail Drivers, Karen Underwood, Misneach Girls, and the Frank & Walters on the John McCarthy Stage in Fitzgerald’s Park this Sunday.

Scott says: “I'm really delighted to be part of it, it's a massive privilege to be asked, and such a line-up as well. Coming down for it is going to be great craic. We're going to turn it into a really lovely celebration.”

Joy In The Park is a free event hosted in partnership with Cork Mental Health Foundation. As well as live music, visitors on the day can enjoy spoken word, children’s entertainment, circus, storytelling, arts and crafts, food stalls, wellness activities, and a mental health support hub.

Balancing that sense of fun with connection and understanding, the afternoon will provide an engaging programme of wellness, sensory activities, and workshops, through the various support groups and organisations involved. The mental health hub will be a hive of activity with various arts and craft workshops taking place throughout the afternoon.

Cork Mental Health Foundation will be joined by a number of mental health organisations and local support groups offering information and advice throughout the afternoon, where the public can meet face to face the teams behind all the services including PIETA, Shine A Light, Aware, The Samaritans, National Learning Network, MyMind, and Minding Creative Minds, as well as GROW, SHINE, Cork Counselling Services, JIGSAW, and the HSE Community Groups. The Cork Independent is print media partner for the event.