Past Project

Oliver East – ‘Stamford Street’ Paint and found wood, 2018

Delivered by Portraits of Recovery in collaboration with participant recruitment partners Change Grow Live, Inspiring Change Manchester and cultural partners The Whitworth.

This project connected 10 people in recovery from substance use issues with cultural venues, creative professionals and artists from Greater Manchester. Sounds at the Edges supported social re-integration, increased employability and promoted wellbeing through high quality hands-on learning and engagement with contemporary art.

The project facilitated face to face learning in professional environments. The programme was designed to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions and continued to develop as the situation evolved. 

What was it?

Recovery is a process of transformation that reconfigures a person’s identity. Working with the transformative qualities of materials can parallel this process. We used creative thinking together with art making, to explore participants' recovery journeys. Utilising the visual arts as a tool for health and wellbeing, we seek to open-up new ways of knowing and understanding recovery.

What happened?

A unique and innovative series of creative experiences and events offered opportunity for practical learning and cultural engagement. A series of artist-led workshops re-evaluated ‘self’ through everyday materials and objects, exploring achievable processes and transforming them from the mundane and ordinary to intriguing and thoughtfully provoking artworks. Together we worked with a film maker to capture our experiences and reflect on the journey of the project.

Our volunteer co-ordinator introduced and explored the idea of self-reliant groups as a post-project way for participants to continue their creative journeys, and at a final celebratory event, designer/maker Joe Hartley led a co-production clay workshop followed by a screening of a film we made together. 

Artists involved in the project and details of their workshops:

Ben Green: Ben’s workshops focused around themes of identity, judgement and what we choose to conceal or disclose about ourselves. The process led to intimate portraits, by filmmaker Ben, which are both visibly and emotionally moving. Participants were encouraged to generate their own content and contributions to the project film, developing their visual and reflective skills and gaining insight into the filmmaking process.

Claire Tindale: Claire’s mindful process and intimate experience with tactile materials created a meditative space for a community bonded through shared experience. Activities included needle felting, a process that converts loose wool into a solid form, through repetitive action, creating a house in sculptural form. 

Oliver East: Oliver asked participants to engage with an in-depth visual enquiry of their immediate environment. Through processes of building and reframing, they explored how to reimagine the view of your own background. Working with cardboard to create structures, they studied and worked with the architectural features, colours and perspectives in their landscapes, recording the process through photography.

James Ackerley: James’ workshop reflected the desire to shine light on shared experiences, whilst also recognising the value of material making and practical skills to mental wellbeing. Participants engaged with simple woodworking and construction methods to create their own individual, working light. Key themes included material reuse, finding purpose in things that would often be discarded and learning principals that can be applied in other areas of life such as DIY projects and home repairs.

Freya Goodwin: Freya’s workshop reflected the desire to share stories through making and stitch, recognising individual creative voices whilst acknowledging these unique elements have strength and impact together in one unified artwork. Inspired by notions of domestic objects and quilt making, this workshop included ‘tile’ production using textiles, carpet and simple appliqué techniques, to create individual outcomes which have the potential to be curated as a whole. 

When & Where?

Workshops took place at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, from 7 April on Wednesday mornings until 26 May 2021. 

About you and Eligibility

  • Be over 18 years old, creative or have an interest in the arts
  • You will be in abstinence-based recovery with a minimum 3 months clean time
  • Be in receipt of Universal Credit, other benefits or no earned income
  • Live in Greater Manchester and have residential UK status


Managed by the WEA, the Greater Manchester ESF Community grant programme will help thousands of people who face additional barriers in the workplace to improve their employability, move closer to the labour market or gain permanent employment.

Images courtesy of Oliver East and Claire Tindale.