As part of the BENCH Project between Southampton’s Business Improvement District, GO! Southampton and Solent University’s Showcase Gallery, 16 benches have been transformed into works of art and installed along Above Bar Street.
Local creatives, including Solent’s alumna Jojo Lewes, have collaborated to create new public artworks to shift perceptions reinventing the ‘humble bench as a free social resource that enables people to be outside longer, supporting their physical and mental health and importantly to be part of the flux of city living’.
Jojo interpreted this project to highlight the support available to Southampton’s residents from the leading mental health charity, Solent Mind. The bench features Solent Mind’s Wellbeing Helpline number, alongside the words ‘Take a minute, take a breath, call a friend’.
The BA (Hons) Fine Art alumna explained:
Throughout lockdown on social media, helplines are being shared to access support. I thought this would be a brilliant opportunity to show that to the community that may not be online, or out as a key worker, in a more permanent and reachable way. Pieces like this are a step in the right direction for a positive impact on the community.
Having experiences mental health issues and using mental health support services previously, Jojo is passionate to get others to understand the importance of reaching out and starting a conversation. With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health issue in any year in England, it is especially important to share this message during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Solent Mind has extended their operating hours of their free Wellbeing Helpline as the pandemic continues into 2021. This service offers support to anyone feeling anxious, low or lonely during the national lockdown. Residents in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can contact a trained Wellbeing Advisor on weekdays between 8am and 9am or 5pm and 8pm. On weekends they can be contacted between 9am and 5pm.