‘Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there’

DSC_0286The Whitworth has three emerging artists who are paid members of the core group; Whitworth Young Contemporaries. Each artist has been undertaking outreach with a young people’s group as part of their role. Digital artist, Sophie Mahon has been working with Manchester Youth Council and House of Manchester to create a short film about Mental Health. Here is what she has got up to…

As an Artist in residence at the Whitworth part of my role is to work with different organisations across Manchester to engage young people in the Arts and make them aware of the Whitworth as a place for them.

I choose to work with Manchester Youth Council and House of Manchester and have developed a 12 week project working collaboratively with both groups to develop a digital project where they have been able to learn new skills they may not have previously seen as connected with the arts. The project has been lead by issues that affect them, with the group choosing their own subject from a range of issues voted as the ‘top ten issues that affect young people in a larger campaign by Manchester City Council where 875,000 11-18 year olds across the country voted on what mattered to them.

DSC_0323We decided we wanted to focus on mental health as this was an area we felt wasn’t talked about enough, especially with young people, and decided to make a short film, made by and for young people. After much discussion we focused on the issue of anxiety as we felt there was a lack information available to young people on this subject but that it was something many young people experience. The group also recognised anxiety as something which could lead to other mental health issues and were keen to encourage other young people to address mental health problems early on. After several sessions of working out what we wanted, and didn’t want our film to be like, we were ready to write our script!

I held several workshops on scriptwriting development where we focused on language, structure and content, using real life case studies from other young people who had suffered with mental health issues. The group did some incredible work in creating a script which incorporates spoken word, statistics and advice and got great feedback from the mental health professionals at 42nd Street Manchester. A real strength to the project is that is has been completely lead and developed by and for young people, something which I feel sets it apart from other projects. I have found working on the film really rewarding and have enjoyed the challenge of creating a film from concept to production stage with such a large and diverse group.

DSC_0292Having the opportunity to work with a range of people and organisations across Manchester, has also been a fantastic opportunity for me. It has  furthered my own understanding of how seemingly quite different organisations can work together and how beneficial this can be. The workshops have been a good opportunity for the group and myself to learn more about mental health and the overall process has inspired a real passion for continuing to create work which is not only socially inclusive and functional but could also improve general wellbeing.

Next week we will be auditioning actors from all over Manchester for our film, something the group is particularly excited about! The group were especially keen to use the film as an opportunity to showcase young, northern talent and we have had over 50 responses from our call out including actors from local schools, colleges and universities as well as young people who have appeared on television and in theatres across the country. We will begin shooting the film in the next few weeks to showcase at a mental health awareness event for young people in January, where almost 50 local schools will have the chance to see it first hand. I personally cant wait to see what they produce. Watch this space!

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