Skip to Main Content

Lonely Together: Reconnecting through art

by Tessa Blencowe | Aug 3, 2020 | in Ideas In Motion
Incubator
Challenge

RDL OUTCOME: Funding approved // Move to RDL


The Problem:
1 in 4 Australians are lonely (https://bit.ly/2Ewawgh), but loneliness is a hidden epidemic. The shame and stigma that surrounds loneliness can prevent us from speaking up and getting the help we need. And with the current Covid-19 pandemic isolating us even further, it’s never been more important to address loneliness in Australia. 

What we know to be true is that loneliness affects us all, regardless of how old we are, or how many friends we have. The more we allow ourselves to talk, the easier it is to see and reach for the help and support that is out there.

The Intervention:I’ve spent the past two years co-directing a public, immersive exhibition composed of photographs and audio stories of loneliness in London, UK, (www.londonislonely.com). The exhibition was designed to reduce shame and stigma by creating spaces for Londoners to listen to real, local stories, and, by inviting them to share their own experiences and solutions to tackle social isolation and loneliness in their community.

I prototyped the idea and tested it on the streets of London for less than £100. I was then given the opportunity to pitch for funding and received an initial grant of £50k from International Quarter London. I then received a further grant of £10k from Lendlease and raised nearly £4k in crowdfunding from over 100 sponsors.

London is Lonely comprises 35 stories of loneliness from a broad range of ages and demographics (plus hundreds of written submissions). In the past year, these stories have been exhibited at the Great Get Together, the London Conference, as well as private events for International Quarter London, the Loneliness Lab, and numerous public spaces around London. They have also been featured on BBC 4’s Woman's Hour and have been published in Stylist Magazine and The Independent.

Impact and Proof of Concept:This exhibition is a powerful tool for creating a safe space for people to speak openly about loneliness and to feel more able to reach out for support. Of those who visited the exhibition, 62% of respondents said they hardly ever or never spoke about loneliness, however after visiting the exhibition, 98% said they spoke about loneliness to at least one person or more. 93% of respondents said they were more likely to speak up about their own experience with loneliness as a result of hearing other people’s stories, and several Londoners sort support from their GP as a result of visiting our exhibition. 

The Ask:I’m now back in Australia and I’d like to replicate this exhibition here with local Australian stories so that I can continue to tackle the shame and stigma of loneliness here on Aussie soil. 

This exhibition will feature a selection of Australians across a wide range of ages, abilities, backgrounds, and ethnicities. The stories will illustrate the many different ways loneliness can show up for us to emphasize that we all feel lonely sometimes, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The experience of the exhibition is to listen to the audio stories while exploring the photography. Visitors are then invited to write down their own stories of loneliness and to share ideas, tools, and resources that have helped them to reconnect. This exhibition is designed to create space for listening, talking openly without judgment, and reconnecting through truth, vulnerability, and collective storytelling.

 

What Department are you from?


I am an independent artist and digital storyteller.

Who is your target market?


This exhibition is targeted at anyone, of any age who is struggling with loneliness and looking for a way to process, heal, and reconnect. It’s also designed for anyone working in policy, education, or the mental health space and looking to understand loneliness on a deeper level. The exhibition will be free to access and to take part in and can be adapted online as well.

edited on Jul 12, 2021 by Elise Calavetta
You will need to login to post a comment

Alice Katherine Aug 3, 2020

Not only will these stories reduce the stigma against loneliness and connect us during this pandemic, they will become a part of our history. They will help us process a world forever changed and they need to be captured and shared.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe Aug 4, 2020

Thanks Alice, really appreciate you supporting this idea.

Reply

Asher Aug 3, 2020

Loneliness is one of the most chronic conditions of the western world which is a catalyst for the exponential rise of depression and mental health issues in Australia. We live in a culture defined by individualism and competition to succeed. But as anybody on their deathbed will tell you, the things that make people happy is the deep relationships of life, the losing of self-sufficiency. We need this important reminder that loneliness is commonly felt in a variety of forms, and that this loneliness will be detrimental to our health and a cancer to our larger society. Change begins with awareness, education and the sharing of this important loneliness story in creative ways which connects with a wide range of audiences.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe Aug 4, 2020

You've hit the nail on the head, Asher. Thanks for supporting this idea.

Reply

David Blencowe Aug 3, 2020

The issue of loneliness is even more relevant now given the social interruption caused by COVID-19. Accordingly, this project is both poignant and comforting. Identifying the multifaceted experiences of loneliness through storytelling would achieve real benefit by shinning a light on the too-often hidden, but nonetheless very shared, feeling of loneliness.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe Aug 4, 2020

Thanks Dave, really appreciate the support.

Reply

Tim Day Aug 3, 2020

The shame and stigma of loneliness is real and has only been reinforced by the effects of Covid-19. This is a huge issue, relevant to over 25% of the population (of those that know and are able to recognize that they are lonely). This is a great and proven idea that could help so many people get the help that they need.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe Aug 4, 2020

Thanks for voting on my idea Tim, super grateful for it.

Reply

Beth Day Aug 3, 2020

Connection as humans is essential for good health and well being. We are so connected in many ways with technology today but sadly the truth is people of any age have never felt so disconnected lonely and isolated. An exhibition like this is a brilliant way to bring this serious issue to the surface and allow people in a safe environment to connect, seek help and see they are not alone, and as a community these challenges can be faced together...

Reply

Tessa Blencowe Aug 4, 2020

Really heartfelt Beth - I totally agree. Thanks for supporting my idea.

Reply

Norm Day Aug 3, 2020

It is a sad truth that the human condition of loneliness that plagues so many in this world often goes undetected. This great idea to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and inspire compassion for the neglected deserves commendation.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe Aug 4, 2020

Appreciate this message Norm - thanks for the support.

Reply

Ashleigh Holmes Aug 3, 2020

This is a fantastic idea to uncover and discuss the unseen/unspoken epidemic of loneliness. In a time of uncertainty it is crucial to connect with our community and work towards sharing the burden of loneliness. I can’t wait to see what this project holds and am hopeful its impact will come at a time we all need it most.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe Aug 4, 2020

Thanks for saying this Ash and for your vote! Very much appreciated!

Reply

Nic Watkins 11 months ago

Best of luck, Tess! You are incredible and this needs to be seen in Aus.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe 11 months ago

Thanks so much Nic, really grateful for the support.

Reply

Michelle Watts 11 months ago

This is a really interesting idea and I enjoyed the webinar. I was just wondering how it will connect people with the mission of the Salvation Army to share the love of Jesus? Maybe the exhibition could be set up as a way to invite people to church and share how God is our ultimate hope.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe 11 months ago

Thanks Michelle. I'm so glad you got value out of the webinar as well. I think the core mission of the Salvos: caring for people, creating faith pathways, building healthy communities, and working for justice is already embedded in the exhibition design, so there's a strong connection there already. With the aim of addressing the shame surrounding loneliness and to prevent isolating people further, this exhibition is designed to be inclusive of all, no matter your faith, background, culture, age, ability, or ethnicity. Showcasing this diversity is really what makes it the most powerful tool for connection. Really appreciate your feedback and contribution :)

Reply

Josh Hab 11 months ago

I support this initiative

Reply

Tessa Blencowe 11 months ago

Thanks so much Hab! You legend.

Reply

Thomas Blencowe 10 months ago

A very intelligent and engaging way to to highlight a widespread but often silent issue. Removing the stigma and sharing the stories will no doubt allow society to tackle this problem.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe 10 months ago

Thanks so much for sharing your support on this Tom. Means a lot to me!

Reply

Kristen Bounds 10 months ago

I was able to see how impactful Tessa’s UK exhibit for London is Lonely was, and I have no doubt that that same framework will be just as impactful for those in Aus.

Reply

Tessa Blencowe 10 months ago

Thank you so much Kris for your continued support. I'm so grateful for it!

Reply

Neri Morris 3 months ago

Status labels added: Incubator, Challenge

Reply

Share