Loneliness Connects Us: All our emotions are important

The Loneliness Connects Us youth co-research developed by researchers at ESRI and young people from 42nd Street has been republished as part of the Co-op Foundations’ new report All our emotions are important: Breaking the silence about youth loneliness – below. The report supplements the arts-based, qualitative research with a survey of 2,000 young people on perceptions of youth loneliness and barriers to talking about the issue.

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Loneliness Connects Us – Bury Seminar, 23rd June

Building on the Loneliness Connects Us research and in particular the Youth Seminar, we are supporting groups in Bury, Greater Manchester, to host a participatory seminar to develop community-based strategies for reducing loneliness.

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Loneliness Connects Us – Bury Seminar event is being run by St Michael’s and St Bernadette’s Parish, with MMU and 42nd Street.

23rd June, 10am – 4pm, St Michael’s Hall, Whitefield, M45 8JN

The starting point is that loneliness is of major concern and not only affects the old but the young and the whole community.

The event aims to raise awareness and explore effective support within the community.

The intended audience are teachers and councillors, parents, GPs, social services, mental health services, young people, youth leaders, and members of the community.

This will be a collaborative event, full of research-informed and arts-inspired, activities to help us collectively create solutions to reduce loneliness.

So join us for an interactive seminar that will enable you to voice your ideas and opinions to end loneliness.

For more information and to register visit the Eventbrite page

My Hulme: Book Reading and Film Screening

Pete Bradshaw, former Birley High student and author of Rise and Rise Again A Birley Legacy reads from his new book and talks about his memories of Hulme. Following a brief Q&A, there will be a screening of The Spirit of Hulme from the Hulme ‘sweet’ Hulme project by Reel Mcr. The film about the community response to housing developments in Hulme from 1960s to 1980s is by internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker Paul Sapin and is told by residents of all ages.

ThuRsday, April 19, 2018, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Brooks Building, Manchester Metropolitan University



Loneliness Connects Us – thank you

We’d like to thank everyone who came along to the ‘Loneliness Connects Us’ Youth Summit and Project Celebration events on 22nd February, at Federation. The aim of the event was to invite young people and people that work or live with them to join us in continuing to rethink how youth loneliness is represented in relation to the types of recommendations that we are able to make to open more appropriate forms of resource and relationship for young people seeking to navigate experiences of loneliness.

The summit began with a wonderful performance from Clean Break Theatre – thanks all! A work in progress, the performance explored youth loneliness through a series of scenes interspersed by dance sequences where the young women moved in flow and against one another. The performance perfectly communicated our orientation in the research that arts-based and in particular theatre practice enables young people to explore and communicate the complexity of the pain, striving and intermittent connections that young people might experience while feeling lonely.

Janet Batsleer and youth co-researcher Kurtis Angell presented our research findings – see slides below – before young people from Barnados, Off the Record, Clean Break, Fresh R&B, and the Proud Trust led world café/ living library discussions on the loneliness and connection focused projects they participate in and lead.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to developing and exploring scenarios of young people and the spaces, actions and reactions of experiences and attempts to navigate or endure feelings of loneliness. These scenarios challenged us to think beyond the simplicity of other people’s problems in suggesting that lonely people should just make friends or tell people how they feel. The biographies, the constrained spaces, the reduction in funding for services, the social and emotional dynamics of loneliness can frustrate the obvious and by grounding our responses to youth loneliness amongst these complexities we aimed to develop more relational and realistic engagements with youth loneliness.

Through the research we identified that youth loneliness is never simply a matter of young people being alone or feeling lonely. As we worked towards ideas for action or recommendations it became apparent that most went well beyond went initiatives that focused on loneliness amongst young people. Some of the ideas bordered into manifestos for re-ordering society wholesale:

This ideas will be taken forward in the form of a second performance piece around practical and political action on youth loneliness. We have been working with young people from the emerging Greater Manchester Housing Association Youth Assembly to plan this new performance and also to begin a dialogue on youth loneliness in and through youth democratic structures feeding into the Greater Manchester Combined Youth Authority.

An aim of the research was to work with young people to develop new perspectives based in their experiences and testimony and open up new ways of engaging with youth loneliness. We were happy that ITV Granada, ZDF and That’s Manchester joined us to report from the summit. This is the news report from ITV Granada:

Following the summit, we co-hosted a project celebration with Metropolis – thanks Veronica and Kai! Cllr Rishi Shori (Leader of Bury Council, GM Lead for Young People and Social Cohesion) opened the meeting, linking the research to the significance of empowering young people to engage with issues such as youth mental health, anti-radicalisation and youth loneliness. Jim Cooke from the Co-op Foundation outlined the foundation’s plan to engage with youth loneliness through its Belong network. Simone Spray (42nd Street) then gave an overview of the severe challenges facing the youth mental health and well-being agenda in Greater Manchester.

This blog is an extended opportunity to thank all the people that made the research possible. Our roll call of honour and gratitude!

Janet Batsleer, James Duggan, Kurtis Angell and Simone Spray

A conversation about comics and health with Cathy Leamy and Tony Pickering

Join us for an afternoon with two comics creators who have both used the medium to explore patient experiences. Although they take very different approaches, Cathy’s and Tony’s comics illustrate the power of the medium to not only provide health information and raise awareness, but also to offer reassurance and stimulate discussion.

Cathy Leamy is a Boston-based cartoonist specializing in autobiographical and health education comics. Her work includes the Suzie and Ray wellness webcomics for Massachusetts General Hospital’s DiabetesViews blog and the humorous health education comic Diabetes is After Your Dick!, as well as and research and co-writing for the Marvel Comics collection Women of Marvel: Celebrating Seven Decades. She is a long-time member of the comics collective Boston Comics Roundtable.

Cathy’s website

Tony Pickering created Diabetes: Year One as part of his MA in Illustration at MMU’s School of Art. Diabetes: Year One is a ‘comics-anthology’ combining comics and poetry to chart his first year since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The work offers a patient perspective to explore the design of the patient-practitioner interface, aimed at developing awareness and understanding of the patient experience for new diabetics, parents and family, medical practitioners and, in a wider sense, patients.

Tony’s website


Loneliness Connects Us: Young people exploring and experiencing loneliness and connection

Youth loneliness is an issue that has come of age; indeed, loneliness might be seen as the issue of the age. With the appointment of the Minister for Loneliness it is apparent that recent media, civil society, research activity and not least the campaigning and advocacy of the Jo Cox Commission is ensuring loneliness is taken seriously. But what kind of issue is youth loneliness? And, how might we take it seriously? The Loneliness Connects Us project is youth co-research project that brings the voice of young people into the growing conversation about youth loneliness and answer these questions.

Research Aims:

  • To develop new narratives and ways of thinking and talking about loneliness, beyond medicalised discourses and towards more inclusive ways of belonging.
  • To locate youth loneliness within contemporary experiences of precarity, poverty and austerity politics in addition to settled truths about social media and isolation.
  • To bring the diverse voices and perspectives of young people into dialogue and decision making about addressing problematic and painful forms of loneliness.
  • To work with young people to explore and develop youth-led approaches to reducing painful forms of loneliness and develop more cooperative ways of being with one another.

We worked with a group of 14 youth co-researchers from 42nd Street and MMU programmes, exploring issues related to youth loneliness through arts-based and creative methods. In total we spoke to 133 young people in Manchester, Rhyll, Ballymena, Glasgow and Great Yarmouth.

For more information read our report Loneliness Connects Us: Young people exploring and experiencing youth loneliness and friendship.

Download (PDF, 6.74MB)

A significant part of the research was the belief that as loneliness is a sensitive and stigmatised experience, arts and creative methods are invaluable in working to research and communicate issues relating to youth loneliness. The research developed ‘Missing’ a playful and immersive theatre experience for young people to explore experiences of loneliness and participate in discussions to develop new understandings of youth loneliness. For more information on Missing, watch these films:

This was a youth co-research project and that aimed to explore youth loneliness from the perspective of young people, developing the research agenda and research methods according to the preferences and interests of the youth co-researchers. As part of this we spent a day ‘taking over’ Reform Radio to record ‘Conversations that Matter’ on youth loneliness. To listen to the show click on the image: 

This was a project that aimed to understand youth loneliness and create new knowledge and practices to help young people to navigate painful experiences of loneliness. We recommend:

  • Develop new ways of thinking and talking about youth loneliness, beyond medicalised discourses of epidemics and towards more expansive understandings of youth and more inclusive ways of belonging.
  • Arts-based and creative methods create spaces and relationships where young people can find connection and navigate painful forms of loneliness.
  • Restore threatened youth work provision and fund a plurality of options so that all young people have someone who knows and accepts them for who they are.
  • Re-imagine interventions beyond individual funded projects and towards commons spaces and social movements to bring into being more co-operative and convivial communities.
  • Youth led social action is necessary to develop the practical and political change, benefiting youth participants and their peers.

Download (PDF, 1.68MB)

Janet Batsleer and James Duggan 


Loneliness Connects Us: Youth Loneliness Summit

We invite you to join us to develop practical and imaginative strategies for reducing youth loneliness at the Youth Loneliness Summit: research-informed, arts-inspired, youth-led social action to reduce youth loneliness.

22nd February, 10am-4pm at Federation House, Manchester, M4 4BF.


Youth loneliness is increasingly recognised as a significant social issue, with claims of a ‘silent epidemic’ of loneliness affecting as many as one in three young people in the UK.

This event is part of the ‘Loneliness Connects Us’ project, a youth co-research project exploring youth loneliness from the perspective of young people. The aim of the research was to provide young people and those working with them new knowledge and strategies to reduce loneliness and increase belonging and solidarity. The research explored the diverse perceptions and experiences of youth loneliness in relation to social conditions such as poverty, transitions in life, and relationships of support and connection. A key finding was that although loneliness is an important part of life, we must take practical and political action to come together to reduce youth loneliness.

The aim of the Youth Loneliness Summit is to build on the research by working with young people from the Greater Manchester Housing Providers’ Youth Forum to support them in developing creative social action projects to reduce loneliness in their communities.

We invite people young and old to join us in imagining new ways of being friends with one another, supporting young people that don’t seem to fit in, and create common spaces and communities so everyone feels they belong somewhere.

The day will begin with a short performance on loneliness from the excellent Clean Break Theatre, then presentations from a range of youth projects before the focus shifts to developing the ideas and strategies that will be brought to life by the young people in the Greater Manchester Housing Providers’ Youth Forum.

Come along and help us re-imagine more convivial and caring communities across Greater Manchester and the UK.

If you would like more information please email James Duggan (Research Fellow, MMU) on J.Duggan [at] mmu.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter @YouthLoneliness

The Loneliness Connects Us is a youth co-research project, young people exploring the lived experience of loneliness across the UK. The project was developed by ‪@ESRI_mmu and ‪@42ndStreetmcr.

This research and event is funded by the Co-op Foundation through its Belong programme, a national network of projects tackling loneliness among disadvantaged young people.

To register for the event please visit the Eventbrite page

Dr Lisa Procter

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of an inspirational colleague and friend, Dr Lisa Procter. From the moment Lisa arrived with us at ESRI, MMU, just 18 months ago, her fresh and thoughtful approach was palpable. Lisa brought an incredible energy to all aspects of her teaching and research, deeply affecting students and colleagues with her infectious love of learning and a wild, unbounded curiosity for all things.

Her eclectic passions for education, the arts, environmental issues, non-human animals, emotions, spaces and places and social justice (among so many other things) fuelled a tireless enthusiasm for inquiry that motivated her teaching and research work. Lisa’s classroom pedagogies were creative and caring as she approached ideas, probed perspectives and generated an excitement for inquisitiveness in her sessions. Her contributions to reading groups, seminars and workshops were thoughtful and vibrant, as she speculated, offering insights into the distinctiveness of her thinking.

Lisa’s contributions to the Children and Childhood Research Group were significant. Pushing at boundaries and scrutinising taken-for-granted assumptions, she poured all her energy into each project, fully absorbed in the intricacies and intensities of each research encounter. No matter how seemingly insignificant to many of us, Lisa would pay attention to disregarded moments, forgotten gestures and overlooked places to dig deeper and wonder harder.

Lisa was a force of life. Her loss will always be felt and memories of her short time with us at MMU will be entangled with, and continue to inspire our work.

Interdisciplinary research about children, place and space


Arts based cross-disciplinary research on toilets as places of exclusion and belonging


Storytelling and meaning making inspired by children’s experiences of sound in the environment


Young children’s experiences of museums


Rachel Holmes and Abigail Hacket


Tackling dementia through the art of comic books

Tackling dementia through the art of comic books

A new research project aims to develop a comic book to raise awareness of the issues surrounding dementia.

The rise in popularity of comic books shows no signs of slowing, with superhero franchises dominating cinema screens, and adaptations such as The Walking Dead becoming must-see television.

Yet researchers at Manchester Met think that comics can also play serious role in educating us about our health and wellbeing.

Research Associate Sarah McNicol is leading a new research project, which aims to produce a comic on dementia. Developed alongside people who have the condition, the comic will raise awareness of the issues faced by people with the condition, and their carers.

The year-long £10,000 project is funded by the Arts Council, and will see people with dementia work with artists to help them talk about experiences they might otherwise struggle to explain.

Comics can raise awareness of important issues

More than 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia, and numbers are set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. It is one of the main causes of disability later in life, yet much less is spent on it compared with other conditions.

Sarah says the condition’s prevalence, and its potential impact both on the UK population and its economy, are reasons why more should be done to raise awareness.

“I think that educational comics play an important role in healthcare. They are really effective at raising awareness of conditions, offering reassurance, and can act as a means of exploring the impact of illness on family relationships.

“However, not many people know about their use and effectiveness both within the health system and elsewhere. They also carry the stigma that they are light-hearted and just for children and young people. I think this is a shame, as my research has shown that they are excellent ways of helping patients and their families learn and understand conditions.”

“I hope that the comics might help change the perception that exists of people with dementia. There are many who still have ordinary lives, and I want the comic to share their stories.”

Project offers real-world benefit to society

The comic will be developed through workshop sessions where people with dementia from the Beth Johnson Foundation in Stoke-on-Trent will share ideas with Cathy Leamy, a comic-book artist from the US.

Together they will write a script, which will capture the experiences of people with dementia also and from health and social care professionals.

Once complete, the comic will be shared with hospitals, care homes and other organisations to help improve understanding of the condition. It will also help explore how health and social care professionals can use comics further in their practice.

Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “It is terrific to see Sarah in receipt of funding from the Arts Council for this innovative project, which combines art and health in novel and exciting ways.

“We are keen to champion research projects such as these, as they exhibit real-world impact and offer a tangible benefit to society.”

This post was originally posted here 

Giving Up the Ghosts

‘Song Lines to Impact and Legacy: Creating Living Knowledge through Working with Social Haunting’, funded by the AHRC Connected Communities programme, has brought together a team of artists, academics and community partners, including Manchester Metropolitan University, Unite Community, the Co-operative College and folk musicians Ribbon Road.

The project has used the idea of a ‘social haunting’ and a range of arts methods to inquire into how difficult feelings, carried into community life from contested pasts, can be harnessed as energies for benevolent and productive change. Based on community workshops run across the north of England, musicians Ribbon Road have created an original song/image piece.

To celebrate the end of the project, you are welcome to join us at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme on Monday 27th November from 6.00pm where Ribbon Road will performing the songs created for the project. This is a free event, but please email s.mcnicol@mmu.ac.uk or phone 0161 247 5104 to reserve a ticket.