Art representing hope to raise awareness of suicide prevention will be showcased at leading gallery Turner Contemporary ahead of going on tour around the county.
Organised by the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Team, 11 local artists and community groups will exhibit works – co-produced with people who have experience of poor mental health – at the prestigious Margate venue on Tuesday, 18 July.
After a formal launch, the mix of installations, paintings, ceramics, creative writing, and textiles symbolising that even when living with suicidal thoughts, urges to self-harm, or the loss of a loved one who has taken their own life, there is always hope, will open to the public.
Funded by the Kent and Medway Hope Community Arts Fund, which is backed by Kent County Council (KCC), Medway Council and NHS Kent and Medway, the art works will then be displayed in other venues around the county.
Initially visiting Maidstone, Chatham, and Tunbridge Wells, through late July and August, further exhibitions will be confirmed.
By seeking to encourage people of all ages to open up about difficult emotions, and break the stigma of reaching for support for better mental health, the Hope Exhibition echoes the messages of the major suicide prevention campaign Baton of Hope.
Powerful exhibition which sends a clear message
KCC’s Director of Public Health, Dr Anjan Ghosh, said: “By giving individuals an opportunity to express themselves, feel valued, and grow, art can quite literally be a lifeline, which is why the Hope Community Arts Fund was launched. The result is a powerful exhibition that sends a clear message – that even in the darkest times, there is always a chance for loss, loneliness, trauma, or conflict to be overcome.
“We also want these works to raise awareness of the support available so more people talk openly about their mental health, or know what to do when someone shares their struggle, or is clearly in a difficult place.”
Kent and Medway Hope Community Arts Fund grants totalling £21,000 were divided among the successful applicants to help bring the vision of hope to life. Across Kent, 7 projects received a combined £10,000, with 4 Medway initiatives securing a total £11,000.
Sharing the positive message of hope
Cllr Teresa Murray, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Health and Adults’ Services, said: “We understand and appreciate how art and other creative mediums can help people who are having difficulties with their mental health. I am pleased that the Hope Exhibition is shining a light, showcasing how people can overcome struggles with their mental health and share the positive message of hope. There is a wide range of mental health and wellbeing services available for Medway residents, they are not alone and I would urge them to access the support available. I will enjoy seeing the exhibition in Margate and look forward to welcoming the inspiring exhibition to Chatham.”
Encouraging people to have conversations about their mental health
James Williams, Medway Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “I am pleased that we have worked with local artists and community groups to share this message of hope. Art and creative mediums are important and powerful tools which can really help people come to terms with their emotions and help improve their mental health. I hope that this exhibition will inspire residents across Medway, as well as Kent, and help more people have conversations about their mental health.”
There is hope even in the darkest of times
Kate Langford, NHS Kent and Medway’s Chief Medical Officer, said: “I am personally looking forward to seeing this exhibition and would like to thank the artists who helped people who have seen some tough times to spread their message of hope. Suicide is the main cause of death in young people under the age of 35 in the UK, so it is important that people know there is hope even in the darkest of times.
“I’d like to thank the brave people who shared their stories of hope through art and I hope that more and more people will talk about their feelings, seek help and find hope as the exhibition travels across Kent and Medway.”
Bringing people together
Community artist Hannah Whittaker is from Draw Hope, one of the projects taking part. She said: “I wanted to get involved in delivering one of the Hope projects as it's a chance to connect with and bring people together. It's been amazing having the chance to help and guide people artistically as they look to express themselves and share their stories. Working over a series of workshops it has been wonderful to see the artwork evolve and develop, everyone has been extremely supportive of one another and proud of the large piece that they have all contributed to.”
Helen Robertson from Broadstairs Town Shed said: “We understand the wellbeing benefits of woodworking in a safe space where friendships are formed. Our Shedders have embraced the restorative power of woodturning and for them, it’s the spark of joy, camaraderie, mindfulness and meaning needed to make everyday a good day; it gives them hope.”
The Hope Exhibition tours Kent and Medway from Friday, 21 July. You can see the art works for free at Fremlin Walk, Maidstone from Monday, 24 to Friday, 28 July; Chatham Community Hub from Monday, 31 July to Friday, 4 August and Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells from Monday, 7 August to Friday, 11 August - please note that Monday, 7 August is a set up day.
The exhibition is also open to all between 4-6pm at the Turner Contemporary on Tuesday, 18 July.
The Mental health and wellbeing support available in Kent and Medway includes:
- RELEASE THE PRESSURE – free expert advice from trained counsellors is available for every mental health concern, including anxiety, money and debt worries, at any time through Release the Pressure. Just text the word “Kent” or “Medway” to 85258 or phone 0800 107 0160 for free confidential help.
- LIVE WELL KENT AND MEDWAY – run by charities Shaw Trust and Porchlight this local support network provides free mental health guidance for younger people and adults, including with money and debt.
- EVERY MIND MATTERS – if you’re suffering with stress, anxiety, low mood and sleep issues, the Better Health Every Mind Matters website has lots of information to help you stay on top of your mental wellbeing, including a simple five question quiz to get a personalised mental health action plan with tips and advice.
In an emergency, if someone’s life is at risk, always call 999.