The BPS Community Psychology Festival: not your everyday academic event

This is a brief review of the 3rd BPS Community Psychology Festival held in Bristol from 15th – 16th September 2017. A longer review of the event will appear in the next QMiP bulletin

From the minute I arrived at Bristol’s Arnolfini and donned my entrance wristband, the Community Psychology Festival felt friendly and relaxed. As I took my seat for the welcome talk I was approached by a woman equipped with glitter and glue, who introduced herself as Sally and asked if I would like my face painted – not your everyday academic event experience. This lovely lady turned out to be Sally Zlotowitz, Chair of the BPS Community Psychology section.

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Getting into the festival spirit!

The conference opened with welcomes from Sally Zlotowitz and organiser Miltos Hadjiosif as well as a talk from Asher Craig, Bristol’s Deputy Mayor on Bristol’s whole city approach to mental health and wellbeing. The fun, festival feel did not in anyway detract from the varied social issues that had brought everyone to the event.

Pressing global and local social issues were at the fore of every talk and workshop which only made the methodological and theoretical elements more engaging as I found myself asking “how did you help to tackle that problem?” rather than “what did you do with that method or apply that theory?”. Compared to many other psychology events, the talks here were longer, more interactive and most definitely more critical. The fact that the afternoon sessions on the final day were over-subscribed was a testament to how engaging the event was as whole.

My personal highlights were talks by: Carl Walker, questioning ‘Are we critical enough?’ as community psychologists; Lucy Johnstone on alternative ways of understanding mental health ‘disorders’ and also the moving performance by the Housing, Austerity and Mental Health network.

The multiple streams of talks and workshops made it impossible to attend everything of interest though the closing activity facilitated by the UWE Music Therapy Team brought everybody back together into the same space.

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An energetic end to the Festival and a chance to reflect.

Fueled by liquid nitrogen based ice cream (thanks to Bristol based twins ‘Brozen‘) we were led into some energetic singing, stomping, clapping and instrument playing. I’ve never spent so much time on my feet at a psychology event and certainly never played a maraca at one before! When asked to contribute lyrics to sum up the event, delegates suggested ‘Weltschmerz’ (the topic of Amelia Ince’s earlier talk, a German word which roughly translates to ‘feeling the world’s pain’) ‘inter-dependent not independent’ and ‘solidarity’. A good choice of words to capture what I too felt the Festival highlighted.

Thanks to all involved for making the festival so welcoming and for facilitating a space to discuss issues that matter (and ways to address those) with a shared enthusiasm and passion!

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