Dials Festival: the Southsea music event that's good for your mental health

Hayler Alker of Curl, who are playing the Lord John Russell stage at Dials Festival. Picture by Paul Windsor
Hayler Alker of Curl, who are playing the Lord John Russell stage at Dials Festival. Picture by Paul Windsor
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Thirty-nine acts will be taking to five stages along Albert Road, Southsea, tomorrow, for what is fast becoming a festival fixture in the calendar.

Dials Festival was originally created to fill the gap left by Southsea Fest. And while that is much-missed, Dials has carved its own identity and is now in its fourth edition.

The blend of local acts and rising national stars includes headliners The Blinders, Another Sky, Arxx, Black Futures, Fake Empire, Haze, Hussy and many more.

The event prides itself on its inclusivity and building a community through music. It also fundraises and raise awareness for mental health charity Solent Mind.

Jon Callender, is the drummer with Anglo-French electro-rockers Curl, who play at Lord John Russell tomorrow. He has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, and tells why Curl support the work of Mind.

Jon admits that when he was younger, ‘I was very much in the school of thought “pull yourself together, what’s wrong with you”.’

But then things changed: ‘About 12 years ago, I went through a succession of very traumatic things in a very short space of time like bereavement of parents, a divorce, a baby, moving house, all areas of life, you know.

‘One day I was in the supermarket and I kind of fainted and I’d never fainted before. It was only for a split second but it felt like someone had driven a lawnmower through my head. I can’t describe it, it was scary but wasn’t painful.’

From there he it got worse: ‘It was traumatic, for about two months I had this sensation of impeding doom all day, every day for the whole time I was awake. It was horrific; I would not wish it on my worst enemies.’

Although John had support from his family and friends, it still took him two years to recover.

 ‘There are a lot of people out there who can’t, won’t or don’t know how to communicate, that must be a really really lonely place to be. Therefore any organisation out there that can provide a listening ear, whether it’s to someone feeling suicidal, like the Samaritans or a mindful organisation, I think is absolutely brilliant. People shouldn’t be frightened of reaching out, or speaking to them, because doing so will help to repair themselves quicker, way quicker by sharing.

‘This is an area we all feel strongly about and are keen to help promote it, and organisations like Solent Mind that are offering practical support to those who need it.’

For festival director Abbie Eales, who has also had depression ‘for years’, teaming up with Solent Mind was an obvious choice.

‘Music has always been hugely important to me throughout everything. In retrospect I think I was probably also depressed as a teenager, but music and art had always been an outlet for me. Indeed for a while I was playing guitar, singing and getting out gigging with friends.

‘Fellow musicians were also using music as an outlet and it was seemingly an unwritten rule that you had to be battling some demon to be a musician – or in true cliched fashion thought it might get you boys or girls. Some of those friends lost the battle with their demons along the way.

‘Mental health and music are intertwined. Listening to music can make you feel uplifted, connected and can be a truly cathartic release. 

‘Recognising you might need support is also important in that link.

‘Dials partnering with Solent Mind was an entirely logical step for the team.

‘They offer a range of services from advocacy and talking therapies to peer support and sign-posting.

‘So many of the musicians we work with have an immediate connection to the charity and have been really vocal in their support, some even waiving their fees to play for the festival.’

For more information about the charity go to  solentmind.org.uk. They will also be at Dials.

Tickets cost £20 in advance, £25 on the door.

Dials Festival

Various venues, Southsea

Saturday, October 5

dialsfestival.com