Illustrating Futures

Illustrating Futures

Illustrating Futures investigates the relationship between comics, graphic narratives, mental health and wellbeing among young people aged 8-25 in the Liverpool City Region.

The Challenge

A 2017 report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing found that ‘the arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care’. Work led by Dr David Hering in the field of ‘graphic medicine’ (the intersection between comics, graphic art and healthcare) has delivered public exhibitions that have brought together institutions from across the education, funding and arts sectors to increase awareness, implementation and funding of graphic medicine projects in the North-West, with an eye to creating a national model of best practice.

Research Action

Dr Hering, in collaboration with North West-based social enterprise Comics Youth CIC and Tate, devised and hosted a series of public workshops, symposia and exhibitions that communicate to the public the importance of graphic medicine in practice and engage with secondary bodies (government, funding organisations, schools, art galleries, universities) to drive changes in practice to incorporate graphic medicine into syllabi and health policy as well as unlocking funding for social and charitable bodies working within the field.

Working in Partnerships

Collaboration is essential to the project and interaction between UK academics, social enterprises and national arts institutions (Tate, VGM) have helped to raise the profile of the exhibitions and driven a developing agenda for the collaboration from local (North West events in 2017-18) to national (a London exhibition and symposium in 2019).

Outputs and outcomes

The project has been successful in unlocking up to £300,000 of funding for Comics Youth CIC, and the exhibitions and symposia (three at Tate Liverpool in 2017 and 2018; one at Tate Modern in 2019) have been or will be attended by representatives from the Royal Society for Public Health, national funding bodies including Big Lottery Funding and comics artists and creators. Dr Hering and Rhiannon Griffiths from Comics Youth have now been invited to write a book chapter about their practice for a forthcoming volume on Graphic Medicine from Penn State University Press. 

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