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UHI Inverness project exploring benefits of skateboarding plans to launch exhibition and series of short films

By Niall Harkiss

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An Inverness-based project to explore the beneficial impact of skateboarding on mental health and wellbeing has announced plans to launch a series of short films at Eden Court later this month.

The UHI Inverness initiative has also planned an exhibition of photography and poetry, which will form part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival in October and November.

UHI Inverness psychology lecturers carried out the project over the summer.
UHI Inverness psychology lecturers carried out the project over the summer.

Psychology lecturers at UHI Inverness launched the project during their summer break at the city’s skate park in an effort to explore the benefits of skateboarding.

In collaboration with the Highland Skate Parks Association, the UHI Inverness psychology team held three summer engagement sessions with skaters.

The team applied to the Knowledge Exchange Challenge Fund to fund the activities which helped build trust with the skating community in preparation for future research on the impact of the pastime on their mental health and wellbeing.

During the sessions, photographs were taken by Shona Graham-Taylor, Rhys Campbell and Matt Sillars of The Inverness Community Darkroom.

A poetry writing workshop was also led by published poet, Cáit O’Neill McCullagh.

The photographs and poems will be exhibited at UHI Inverness in the ‘A Different Gravitation: Exhibition of Summer Engagement' project in the Learning Resource Centre at the Inverness Campus. The exhibition will run form October 2 to November 10 as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.

As part of the same festival, and to mark World Mental Health Day, UHI Inverness, the skate park association, Creativity in Care and Mikeysline will screen a series of film shorts on October 15 between 3pm to 5pm at Eden Court in Inverness.

The films shall focus on skateboarding and mental health and will feature – ‘A Different Gravitation’ – a film short on the summer photography and poetry collaboration at the skate park.

Another of the films – ‘A Land for Everyone’ – follows former psychology student Hannah Bailey and Lyndsay McLaren on the winding roads of Torridon.

After the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session about skate park use, physical activity and mental health. It will feature discussion panel members Sarah Fielding, a trustee of charity Mikeysline, and Dr Paul O'Connor, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and author of Skateboarding and Religion.

Psychology lecturer Mari Todd said: “We ran the summer engagement project at the skate park as a way of building relationships between the users and our team, in the hope that we can work together in the future to research the benefits of skate park use for mental health and wellbeing. We hope that any research we do will be able to support the association’s search for a premises to create an indoor skatepark within Inverness.

“We found the whole skate community locally and internationally to be hugely welcoming. It has been inspiring to see how much work is going on to promote mental health amongst the skate community. The Ben Raemer's Foundation has been really helpful in giving us permission to use their SMiLe films to promote discussions around mental health.

"It has also been really exciting to learn about the link between skating as an activity and recovery from trauma which is highlighted in the 'Why so Sad?' film. This link between skating and wellbeing makes this a great collaboration with the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.

“We are really grateful to everyone who has been so generous in their time and support with this project.

“It is also great to be able to feature a film created by one of our former psychology students, photographer, environmentalist and skater Hannah Bailey, whose film 'A Land for Everyone' encourages people to get out and skate and or explore, engage with and protect our natural environment.”

Mari added that the team plans to run an online survey exploring skatepark use, identity, belonging and mental health in the hope that this will be a first step in continuing the relationship with the skateboarding community.

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