No One is Coming to Save You (2017 – 18)

A self-initiated residency devised in partnership with Kate Genever and funded through an Arts Council England award. Match funding and funding in kind was also received from the Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester Metropolitan University and Axisweb.

This residency was based in an NHS in-patient unit for young people with acute mental health issues in Lincolnshire. Our aim was to explore if creative invitations, interventions, and provocations have the power to build resilience during times of crisis, and if art can save you when everything else has failed. We developed a creative community, which in addition to the young people who were residents in the unit, included their teaching, clinical and auxiliary staff. We worked closely with the unit’s art psychotherapist, Katie Brown and were supported by arts and health researchers Dr Clive Parkinson and Professor Amanda Ravetz.

Working within an NHS inpatient unit was a steep but rewarding learning curve; during the residency, we often found ourselves treading a delicate path, gently disrupting institutional ways of working. We realised early on, that our practice occupied a space in the ‘unknown,’ without predetermined outcomes and at times this was a difficult, uncomfortable, and risky place to be. As we worked predominantly in stitch, a dichotomy that we constantly had to navigate was that the tools and materials that had the potential to generate new and hopeful insights to build resilience, also provided routes to self-destruction. Risk was managed with care, compassion and honesty.

Building and maintaining a trusting, safe and supportive environment was integral to the success of this residency; we learnt that this requires the sensitive articulation and role-modelling of personal values. We also learnt how to better care for ourselves by recognising that although it can be joyful to see the transformational power of creativity within a residency such as this, it is also psychologically challenging and emotionally demanding work. We benefited hugely from building in opportunities to collectively debrief during our time in the unit and now have the confidence to ask for clinical supervision when we undertake similar work.

The outcomes of this project included:

  • The production of 13 new artworks (including drawings, prints, stitched objects, wearables, and writings)
  • An exhibition at York Teaching Hospital
  • An online resource sharing artists’ approaches to building resilience
  • 2 Artists’ events, ‘Why Come Together; Can Art Save Us?’ which explored the resilience of the Artist
  • A presentation at the Textiles and Place conference at Manchester School of Art

You can view a slideshow of images from this project here.