Researching the researchers…

This project tackles Research and Development in the mental health field.

The Research & Development Department of Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust commissioned Start service users (students) to create art works reflecting their impressions about research in mental healthcare; the work is to be displayed on the R & D website.

Undertaking our own research

To find out more about current research we visited the Wellcome Trust Research Centre in Manchester, where state of the art facilities support clinical research. Health professionals involved in research also agreed to give special talks to Start’s students about clinical trials, and dual diagnosis research. Discussion groups and ‘talking’ exercises helped students think about their own views on the subject and exchange opinions and knowledge.

Said Amy*, Start student: “It was reassuring to learn that research is carefully planned, implemented and evaluated. In fact the whole procedure is meticulous. I can see why research is expensive to carry out, and why new treatments or information take a long time to filter down to the public.”

Ideas and experiments

We generated initial ideas for artwork through practical exercises such as mind-maps.We then helped students to do their own research how the work would be made, with numerous experimental samples being completed before each artwork was finished.

As Keith* explains: “I liked the idea that we were researching too. For instance, I use clay, and I had to find out a lot about the stresses and strains of ceramics before I got the technique to work, and I made a big leap between my second and third piece.”

Tom*, a photography student, wanted to question to what extent researchers regard people as mechanisms rather than individuals, and was keen to explore the concept of uniqueness and personality.“I’m pleased with the results – for example the fine tracery of tree branches, and flowers, are layered over one silhouette, representing the thoughts and character of the individual.”


Artwork was made in all the Start studios; everyone who took part has a story to tell about what they made and why.
Omar* sums up his experience: “I had to think hard about this project – how to achieve the effects I wanted – and I learned a lot along the way.”

*Not students’ real names



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