A programme of arts and events exploring the way the city shapes our mental health is to take place across Manchester from Monday 19 April – Sunday 16 May 2021.

MINDSCAPES will explore how the world around us – our homes, our streets, our cities – affects our mental health and the way we feel about our lives, in both positive and negative ways.

A series of five newly commissioned artworks and online events, MINDSCAPES will take place outdoors in Moston & Harpurhey, Manchester City Centre, across Manchester’s Metrolink network, and online to reach local, national and international audiences. Conferences, film screenings and conversations will take place online in line with current Covid restrictions.

All MINDSCAPES events are free to attend but some will require registration at the festival website.

The festival has been commissioned by SICK! Festival in Manchester and funded by DutchCulture in partnership with the Dutch Embassy in the UK. It is the result of a two-year collaboration between arts organisations and artists in Manchester and The Netherlands who have been working together and within local Manchester communities.

Helen Medland, CEO and Artistic Director of SICK! Festival says,

“MINDSCAPES takes a bold look at our city, working in and around local communities and artists to understand and inform debate around the power of environment to shape us and our mental wellbeing. From the use of green spaces and urban gentrification to the role of architecture and even our interaction with the benefits system, our programme takes a magnifying glass to the issues that affect our sense of self, our mental health and our place within society.

“Our interaction with physical spaces – whether in our homes, private or public spaces – has been dramatically altered by Coronavirus. We believe that now is a really important time to look again at the ways in which the physical spaces, confinements and institutions in our cities shape and affect our mental health.

“We are grateful to be funded by DutchCulture in partnership with the Dutch Embassy and look forward to delivering a programme that will have a profound effect on the communities and partners involved.”

Cees de Graff, Director of DutchCulture says:

“MINDSCAPES festival shows us in an inspiring way what the positive effects of the arts can be on mental health. A unique collaboration that strengthens the connection between Manchester and Rotterdam and provides a platform for English and Dutch artists to jointly present their creativity to make the world a better place”.

Roel van de Ven, Cultural Attaché at the Dutch Embassy in the UK says:

“MINDSCAPES has given Dutch artists an opportunity to take up work with and in Manchester, so as to produce new works of art based on their observations. In these difficult times I praise SICK! Festival for boosting the contribution of culture to well- being. All five art projects are making us aware of how our built environment impacts our mental health, in positive and negative ways.

Because this issue is also relevant in the Netherlands, I am incredibly pleased that MINDSCAPES is not just a Manchester-based arts festival. While some of the physical works can only be admired by the people of Manchester, a debate about the projects – and the findings of the artists – will also be shared in Rotterdam. Thus MINDSCAPES connects Rotterdam with Manchester in a very special way and helps to strengthen the ties between our countries as North Sea Neighbours.”

The first MINDSCAPES event starts on Monday 12 April to Friday 16 May with Manchester Mood Drawings, an amazing selection of artworks displayed across the Metrolink network. Visual artist Jan Rothuizen has worked with a broad cross-section of residents across five neighbourhoods within Greater Manchester who have experienced mental health issues; mapping out their inner worlds in relations to their homes, their neighbourhoods and the wider city. Rothuizen is an award-winning artist whose work layers detailed observation of the physical environment based on deep research into the personal experiences and perspectives of the people who live there.

Monday 19 April sees the release of MINDSCAPES’ Soundpaths – Moston and Harpurhey app created by sound artist Yonatan Collier that encourages people walking around parts of North Manchester to enjoy their surroundings with a soundtrack that evolves based on GPS location. Working with local communities and creative music charity Brighter Sound, Collier incorporates the sounds of the urban landscape into his music to boost physical and mental wellbeing.

Monday 19 April sees the opening of Streets of Poetry by Manchester’s poetry collective Young Identity and Dutch artists Elten Kiene and Sjaan Flikweert; new poetry will be blasted on the pavements of Moston, Harpurhey and Manchester City Centre through the process of ‘clean/reverse graffiti’. Dutch and UK poets have worked with migrant communities in Moston and Harpurhey to create the new poems that reflect their sense of place and identity. Visual artist Jess Loveday will transform these poems into beautiful designs. Maps to locate the street poetry will be available online by signing up to the newsletter here.

Monday 19 April also sees the unveiling of a ‘living zine’ //OUTSIDEIN// produced by Amsterdam-based theatre youth group, Theater DEGASTEN. Young people growing up in care are the focus of the ‘zine which explores experiences of their homes and bedrooms, spaces internal and external during the global pandemic. Amsterdam- based artists Elza Jo and Raul Balai create portraits of the young people taking part, giving further voice to those who want to speak, rather than be spoken about.

Monday 19 April also sees the release of While Waiting, Wait Here, an online game exploring the frustrating, dehumanising experience of accessing Universal Credit. Developed by artist Merel Smitt based on the experiences of staff and service users at Yes Manchester, While Waiting, Wait Here has taken the reality of lives kept on hold and powerless to expose the systems, language and policies on which Universal Credit is based, and to see if they can be changed into a more human and humane experience. An online adventure grounded in reality.

In addition to the programme of newly commissioned artworks and installations Mindscapes is running a series of online ‘in conversations’ with the artists involved. Jan Rothuizen, Yonatan Collier, Theater DEGASTEN, Merel Smitt and Elten Kiene & Sjaan Flikweert will all be talking about their projects with input from local communities, Manchester artists and experts in the fields of mental health


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