MIF23: Balmy Army at HOMEMaja Lorkowska, Exhibitions Editor
It’s a well-known fact that mental health services for young people in the UK are lacking, and quite severely too. From year-long waiting lists to understaffing, young people are often not getting the help they need, with few alternatives available. Enter – Balmy Army!
As part of Manchester International Festival 2023, HOME is welcoming Balmy Army, a movement for youth-led mental health. Combining art with activism, the project gathers 40 people from Greater Manchester, all of whom have lived experience of mental health struggles.
The exhibition is far from the traditional format of viewers simply coming to see art on the walls. Instead, there are lots of opportunities to participate in the events directly, meet people, discuss feelings and explore shared experiences.
The non-traditional setup continues with activities that include making placards, poetry, social media takeovers and generally speaking – acts of civil disobedience, shared with anyone willing to join in. Balmy Army are keen to promote the space as a safe haven for trying out ideas, planning protests and performing. The results will feature tangible artefacts such as drawings and writing as well as fleeting moments and experiences to remember and cherish. Community is the driving force behind Balmy Army’s actions so this show needs you and your ideas!
Importantly, it’s not just about people who themselves are struggling with their mental health. If you know or are supporting someone going through a difficult time, or just want to find out more (because we could always benefit from knowing more about mental health!), this event is for you. The communal approach to gathering ideas and sparking action really emphasises the importance of community care and reminds us that, no matter how isolating it may feel, mental health is not just about individuals. Healing is easier with others around us.
Balmy Army are starting off at HOME on Saturday 1 July for a Welcome and Sharing session, followed by a Movement and Call to Action on 15 July. New events and opportunities will be added closer to the time, so do keep an eye on the MIF23 and HOME websites.