How we brought art and research together to communicate Wellcome’s complex message about mental health.
Back in August of last year, we published a research report with Wellcome looking into the ways young people successfully managed their mental health during the Covid-19 lockdown. We developed several inventive methods of capturing the young participants’ experience, and learnt a lot about their resilience and creativity - from creating art, to taking up new skills, to connecting with family members. You can read more about it here.
The report was a success, but we knew there were other more emotive and accessible ways to communicate the information. Wellcome wanted to create an artwork which could communicate our findings, appeal to a young audience online and work on a bigger screen for festivals and presentations.
Creativity and Science
Exploring the ways in which art can challenge or inspire the public to engage with health science is an important part of Wellcome’s mission, where mental health is a key focus.
In creating our report, we heard an incredibly diverse range of perspectives: participants from 32 cities in 15 countries told us about their experience of the pandemic. Each testimony was unique, but as we spoke to more people, certain themes began to emerge.
Perhaps the most interesting was that this time had not been wholly negative - that while young people had started from a place of fear and uncertainty, they had learnt new things about themselves and what they “needed” in times of potential anxiety.
This dovetailed with Wellcome’s own work on “active ingredients” - the things young people can proactively and positively use to help manage their mental health.
As we brought this narrative thread to life, we looked to find the universal story of collective experience whilst also honouring each of the individuals and their own unique experience.
What We Did
We decided to harness the empathetic and expressive power of spoken-word poetry, and bring it to life with sensitive visuals. The result is our animated film Something New.
We understand young audiences online seeking to learn about mental health. They’re interested in personal stories told creatively. They want to see diverse perspectives represented. They look for authenticity, and know it when they see it.
With all this in mind, we reached out to South African poet Koleka Putuma and invited her to write a poem inspired by our research. The resulting recording of the poem, performed by Koleka, became the basis of our film. A team of creatives added visuals and sound that complemented and enlarged upon Koleka’s words, capturing the expansive potential of the material.
Why does it work?
The findings of the research have been translated into content that is bright, creative and designed to meet its audience on the online platforms they favour.
The creative team engaged with the research and respected its subjects. Because Koleka sat with our findings and committed to honouring them, her poem is able to authentically represent the participants and give voice to their insights.
By entrusting our participants’ testimonies to a talented and diverse team of creatives, we facilitated their collaboration on a piece of work designed to amplify the voices of the young people and represent the paradoxical spirit of their story - at once personal and collective.