SadFest: Not Just A Sob Story

Liam MacDevitt and Sebastian Gonzalez enjoyed the Genesis of a celebration of sadness

Earlier this month Genesis Cinema in Mile End hosted Sadfest, the world’s first festival dedicated to sadness and how to express it.

SadFest kicked off on Friday 3 March, and continued through till Sunday. The weekend included appearances from guest speakers, sad movies, and performances by musicians and poets who specialise in melancholia.

You may be asking, what’s the point of celebrating something so morbid? Well, founder of the event Steve Todd had plenty to say about why sadness shouldn’t be the emotion we run away from.

“I think everyone’s running away from sadness and there’s a problem with that, in social media people put on a bright shiny exterior but at the end of the day we have to realise we’re just human. Sadness is the one universal thing, and I think it’s healthy to own it and accept it and come out the other side, ” Steve explained.

He had the idea a couple of years ago, but he put it all together in the past three months. Steve’s main motivation was his love of sad cinema. That and the way a friend was concerned about him crying at a sad film – as if that’s not the whole point of going to see it!

Steve said it really hit home how disconnected we are with our sad emotions and how much negativity is loaded into sadness. He wanted to hold this event to educate and perhaps update people’s attitude to sadness as being something we avoid, turning it instead into something we should embrace.

For every SadFest ticket sold, £1 was donated to the Samaritans charity. Mark, representing Central London Samaritans, said there was anatural synergy” since “SadFest is about people processing and talking about their emotions, and that’s kind of what we are about.”

Mark raised some concerns about the smiley-face expectations surrounding social media and the way that sadness has become even more disapproved of. It has even affected the Samaritans charity: some people are no longer showing emotion for fear of being ridiculed on social media. In this context, events like SadFest are even more important in teaching people to accept emotions and enable their expression.

From speaking to a number of performers, musicians and guest speakers, we learned that they certainly weren’t afraid to shed a tear every now and then: it was the main inspiration for their work! For example, musicians Ana and Lou declared that some of the best songs are those that draw on listeners’ emotions: as a community and a culture we come together and feel together.”

After a weekend of tear-jerking movies, emotional musical performances, sorrowful poetic expression, and from speaking to many of those in attendance, iSadFest 2017 seem to have been a highly successful event.

Sadly SadFest may remain a one-off: its return in 2018 is not yet on the cards. However, at a time when social media appear to dictate the avoidance of sadness at all costs, we need events such as SadFest to give people the supportive outlet they are so often deprived of.


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