Making a stand with Balmy Army

23 August 2023

There’s a movement happening and it’s called Balmy Army. It’s about youth-led mental health and calls out how the social system is failing young people with mental health and disability challenges.

Through art and activism, Balmy Army has given voice, power and support to young people with lived experience of mental health struggles.

Our Co-Artistic Director, Kevin, is honoured to be part of it, and to make stand alongside all those involved.

Kev tells us more…

Hi Kev, in your words, tell us about Balmy Army.
Balmy Army is a movement for youth-led mental health. The project has worked with young people exploring art and activism through the prism of mental health and disability justice.

The project has looked at how the mental health services, particularly CAMHS, is failing young people, and the systemic challenges and poor quality of services that the young people have to endure.

How were you involved?
I was one of the facilitators on the project. My role was to support, hold space, give supportive and constructive feedback, inspire, facilitate conversations and help the young artists to develop their artwork and the things that were important for them to discuss.

What has the project achieved?
The project has achieved many things.

Many friendships were born, and a wonderful, beautiful sense of solidarity, love and care was nurtured within the project.

The young people felt able to express their authentic self and discuss and create art about issues important to them.

Together, they have made amazing art in a myriad of forms, which has culminated in an incredible exhibition at the main gallery space at HOME in Manchester.

The exhibition space is so inviting, comfortable and nurturing, but when you zoom into the work and read, listen or observe, then you can see the depth of expression in the work.

Alongside the exhibition, there has been live performances happening under the framework of Manchester International Festival.

We have also demonstrated through Manchester on a march. We made placards and created chants around our feeling on mental health services and the experiences of the young artists. It was a brilliant thing to be part of and I will always feel privileged to have been part of it.

Why does the project matter to you?
This project matters to me because it gives voice, power and support to those whose voice is less heard or represented. To create art as activism and as a tool of for social change is powerful. It’s a very special project and I learned and gained so much of being part to it.  I will always remember the smiles of joy, wonder and delight of all involved.

Why do you recommend that people go and see the exhibition?
The artwork is amazing, visceral, funny and insightful. There are so many experiences and stories authentically explored through the art that you are in no doubt of the bravery and honesty of all those involved. It is special – please go, you will not regret it.

The Balmy Army exhibition at HOME, Manchester in on until Sun 17 September.

The exhibition is suitable for age 14+. 

Find out more here and organise your visit!

Photo credits: Exhibition imagery – Andrew Brooks | March imagery – Chris Payne

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"10 was such a wonderful experience - I cant wait to see more of your incredible work!" "Effortless grace, strength, humour and athleticism - a visual treat!" "We brought 65 young people to your performance tonight - every single one loved it! What an amazing show!" "This show reminded me why I dance and what I’m constantly working towards! Thank you for this experience!" "Such beauty in the small moments of this show - please don't stop doing what you’re doing"

Thank you to everyone who comes to watch us perform and for all your wonderful comments and feedback!