Start mc awarded RHS Special Commendation



Start at the RHS show

The Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show at Tatton Park is one of the most prestigious Horticultural events in the country; so we were delighted that the RHS offered us free space to exhibit our art installation, ‘Inner Word’, and bring a mental wellbeing message to their visitors.

What was the art installation?

Inspired by a Zen garden of contemplation, the ‘Inner Word’ features 100 hand-made ceramic pebbles. Each of the pebbles has a word inscribed on its surface, which describe the experience of journeying through a period of mental or emotional distress towards recovery. Many of the pebbles reflect the important role art and gardening, and Start’s service, have played in the makers’ lives. The Inner Word was originally displayed at the Garden Of Delights.

What did we do?

A mixed team of staff and students (service users) ran the Start RHS show-stand, using the time to tell visitors about Start, and to recommend the value of creative activity to mental wellbeing. We also tried various ways of engaging visitors to think about their own and others’ mental health. For instance, we encouraged them to try a mental health quiz, we talked to them about health, illness, stress and relaxation, and we gave out self-help literature.

The response

The response to the installation was very positive.

“The fact that the installation is made by Start service-users made it especially moving and inspiring to visitors. They could see real journeys people have taken through very difficult times, and could also observe how it’s possible to learn to care for your emotional health through involvement in gardening and art,” explained Start Ceramics Artist Annie Tortora-Cailey.

Over the five scorching hot days of the show, at least 18000 show goers saw our display, and more than 3000 took away information about our service.

Start students (service users) helping to staff the stand said that the experience had been enormously satisfying because they had a chance to show their expertise, share their experiences positively, and influence people’s beliefs around mental health issues.

The ‘Inner Word’ was awarded a prestigious Certificate of Special Commendation by the RHS judges at the Tatton Show in recognition of the installation’s quality, and the value of Start’s mental health promotion work.

The show manager, Max de Soissons, said that the award was given because so many show goers had described our exhibit as ‘thought-provoking and moving.’

Service Manager Zeph Curwen received the award for Start. She said “Recognition of Start’s work in such a prominent event 

as the RHS show represents another step in the journey that Start Manchester is making to raise the profile of art and good mental health.”

What did our visitors think?

“For many people good mental health is an issue best kept in the cupboard. The work of Start is helpful in gently prompting all of us not to take this for granted. The installation highlighted this in an exemplary manner.”

Mike Garrity, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Salford University

“The use of the self help material was a great idea, and the quiz was exceptionally good at engaging people in thought and dialogue.

People just became absorbed in thinking about mental health issues in a non-stigmatising atmosphere. That is very hard to achieve and was worthy of the very positive feedback you received.”

Frank Margison, Medical Director, MMHSCT 2002-2007

“The Start installation was a moving and forceful experience. It combined simplicity and beauty with practical advice and support.”

Maria Balshaw, Director Whitworth Art Gallery

“The Start exhibit had the highest artistic integrity and conveyed what it is to be human and experience the spectrum of mental health… Start offered visitors to the event a meditative oasis; to take time out and pause to share thoughts about our human condition.”

Clive Parkinson, Invest to Save: Arts in Health Programme, Manchester Metropolitan University


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