New exhibition celebrating 30 years of Salford charity helping mental health using art and creativity

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START has been using art and creativity to improve mental health in Salford for three decades - and a new exhibition is celebrating its work and its service users’ achievements.

A Greater Manchester charity which has been using creativity and art to improve mental health for three decades is celebrating the milestone achievement with a new exhibition at a cultural venue.

START was founded in 1993 as a pioneering ‘arts on prescription’ service and in 30 years has helped tens of thousands of people in Salford improve their lives with creativity and connection to assist with recovery.

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Now Salford Museum and Art Gallery is putting on People and Portraits of Salford, a celebration of the charity’s hard work over three decades by showcasing a huge variety of artworks as well as shining a spotlight on what START does.

It celebrates the hard work and dedication of the staff as well as the many achievements of its service users.

What is the People and Portraits of Salford exhibition?

People and Portraits of Salford is an exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery which includes works in a wide variety of mediums including painting, drawing, textiles, mosaics, ceramics, sculpture, print and photography.

There are a mixture of individual portraits and large-scale collaborative works reflecting the experiences of START’s members over the years. Key members of staff, volunteers and service users and members from over the years are represented in artistic form in the exhibition, including Bernadette Conlon who founded START back in 1993, the charity’s late caretaker John Ball and one of the longest-serving volunteers, Paul Jordan.

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Paul, who is 69 and from Little Hulton, created one of the key works in the exhibition, which is simply called John. Paul went through the service himself and enjoyed the art sessions so much that he went on to gain a first in a degree in visual arts from the University of Salford. He still runs events at START passing on his artistic skills to the current service users as well as providing support and welfare advice.

Paul Jordan and START founder Bernadette Conlon at Salford Museum and Art GalleryPaul Jordan and START founder Bernadette Conlon at Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Paul Jordan and START founder Bernadette Conlon at Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Most of the works have been created especially for this exhibition by START with additional funding from The Arts Society.

START is commissioned through what is now the Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership and it has helped many people turn their lives around and go on to become volunteers, peer mentors, board members, staff and tutors. The charity is located at Brunswick House on Broad Street, just down the road from the gallery where the exhibition is running.

A number of ex-members have gone on to become artists and poets, including Salford poet ‘J’ Ahmed. He attended the opening of the new exhibition and performed two of his poems to an audience of more than 300 people.

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The exhibition runs until 24 September. To find out more about it visit the Salford Museum and Art Gallery website.

What has been said about the exhibition?

START’s founder Bernadette said: “So many have helped make START a success over the last 30 years. We’re delighted to hold the exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, with which we have a special bond. The team has supported us over the years and it’s the best venue for these works of art to be appreciated.

“We were delivering art on prescription before it became a recognised form of therapy. For that we are very proud and we know it works, and the people who have exhibited and been through our services over the years are testament to that.”

Claire Corrin, exhibitions manager at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, said: “We are delighted to be working with START to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Salford Museum & Art Gallery has a long history of exhibitions and events that engage local communities, visitors and artists.

“It is important to us that we continue to support and represent local communities by working in partnership with organisations and artists in Salford and beyond.”

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