Tongues on Fire launched their new report on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Southeast Asian artists and the wider community at City Hall.
Labour’s London Assembly Health spokesperson, Dr Onkar Sahota AM, said it was “a privilege” to host the event alongside “an esteemed panel of speakers” to discuss “the importance of the arts and culture sector to boosting mental and physical health particularly during a time of crisis”.
Tongues on Fire is the producer of the UK Asian Film Festival and during consecutive lockdown periods saw many of its annual events and programmes disrupted.
The organisation’s new report, ‘Mental Health of South Asian Artists: Reimagining the Arts for Good Mental Health’ reflects on how it adapted to the pandemic and offered virtual dance workshops, group sing-along sessions, poetry recitals and film screenings as a way of supporting Southeast Asian artists and members of the community who were left socially isolated.
The UK Asian Film Festival also went a step further and set up a Talking Therapy helpline, whose participants were given a secure place to discuss issues such as job loss, loneliness and anxiety, bereavement and being unable to perform traditional death rituals for loved ones because of coronavirus restrictions.
The report was presented to guests at City Hall by Dr Toyeba Mushtaq and discussed by a panel of speakers, including Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry MBE, Chair of Tongues on Fire, Rakhee Joshi, Bollywood Actress, Banita Sandhu and author of Mad Tales from Bollywood, Professor Dinesh Bhugra.
Dr Sahota has praised the report for its focus on putting the principles of social prescribing into practice. In December 2020, he published his own report, Social Prescribing and Covid-19 looking at how community activities and support networks can help to alleviate some of the mental and physical health impacts of future waves of the pandemic.
The launch marked one of the last events to be held at City Hall before the Greater London Authority moved out of the building in a few weeks’ time.
Dr Sahota said, “We had an in-depth and lively discussion about the importance of the arts and culture sector to boosting mental and physical health, particularly during a time of crisis, and I commend the report’s focus on putting the principles of social prescribing into practice.
“Despite having its usual schedule of events turned on its head during the pandemic, it was inspiring to hear how Tongues on Fire and the UK Asian Film Festival readapted its focus to reaching out to the most isolated in our communities through a raft of virtual group activities”.