Can You Hear Me Now?
Manchester Central Foodbank.
Since January 2020 we have been working with Manchester Central Foodbank on a large-scale creative campaign called Can You Hear Me Now? focused on giving access to creative expressions related to experiences of poverty. In the first phase of the project, our outputs were twofold.
When access to mental wellbeing and entertainment resources was limited during the pandemic for many, we created activity packs designed to get people thinking creatively and critically. These activity packs promoted reflection on topics like personal identity, community and politics all in a creative and friendly way. Surpassing our initial target of 400 activity packs, we have now distributed over 1150 activity packs and counting to individuals living in poverty in the Central and North Manchester regions, thanks to extended funding from Manchester Council. You can read more about our activity packs here.
In addition to our creative packs, we sat down with foodbank users to collect their stories and experiences of poverty, working towards creating a world without foodbanks. We assembled these transcribed interviews and written testimonials into an archive, spanning content including interviews, photos, collaborative art pieces and reflections.
The library of stories is here to view, and an opportunity to browse stories of individual experiences of stereotypes, navigating the system and the stigma surrounding foodbanks, pictures of ‘A Day in the Life’ and art related to expressions of poverty created through activity packs and online workshops. We aim to challenge and dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding rising levels of poverty, demonstrating those people who never imagined they would ever visit a foodbank and how they have experienced the receiving of this support. Often media narratives emphasise an idea that people using foodbanks or receiving benefits are somehow undeserving or to blame for their situation. The testimonies show how easy it is for circumstances to change outside of your control and the impact of false and upsetting stereotypes.
We were also invited to present our work to Andy Burnham last year as part of the People's Powerhouse This Is The North conference in support of the project.
Phase 2 brings many more exciting projects, continuing our work with the library of stories and activity packs. In this second phase we aim to build power behind our campaign through creative sessions with our users, public consultations and collaborative art pieces on public space and how inequalities feed into accessing them, partner projects across Greater Manchester and a series of pop-up events and interventions. To keep up to date with the project, follow us on Instagram here.