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Artist Call: Barmy Army – Liverpool Biennial, Manchester International Festival & the vaccuum cleaner

Barmy Army Identity Brief


This is a call out for a designer/artist or someone with a strong visual sense with mental health experiences to help develop an exciting new art and mental health project. 


My name is James, I make art and activism mainly about mental health, based on my own experiences and challenges. I work under an alias ‘the vacuum cleaner’. I’m starting a new project with the Liverpool Biennial and Manchester International Festival which is called Barmy Army (Working Title), and I need someone to help create a visual identity for the project. I’d love it if this was done by a young person (16-25) from Greater Manchester or Merseyside who has struggled with their mental health. The fee is £3000 plus mentoring.

ABOUT BARMY ARMY (Working title)

Let’s be clear – although there are many cool people working in mental health – the care isn’t good enough, and never has been. I know this from when I was in CAMHS, and it ain’t getting much better. Obvs Covid has made things way worse. 

Inspired by the Children’s Climate Strike, I want to support young people to imagine how they should be supported with their mental health, how they could campaign to make this happen and then make a series of high profile creative acts to demand and inspire this change.

I would love to work with over 100 young people from across Greater Manchester and Merseyside to create a radical, honest, fun, silly and effective art and activist group. Barmy Army’s mission is to create the mental health care that young people deserve. Its methods are creative, beautiful, safe, sustainable, careful, risky, peaceful, a little bit cheeky and from the heart.

At the end of this period these young people will create art activism that changes their worlds, and create networks and groups that could last into the future. 


To launch this project and help it head in the right direction I am looking for a young person, or collective, or group of friends to help create an identity for the project. 

Maybe you are a student, or recent graduate, or maybe you couldn’t finish Uni or College but are passionate about things looking hot. Maybe you couldn’t afford to go to college in the first place or didn’t want to, but know you got the skills to make amazing stuff.

We have £3000 and mentoring to help you create something that could have a huge impact. 

We need the following making, but can support you with this if there are specific elements that aren’t your strong point. 

  • A colour scheme. 
  • Visual language, including typeface and layout style. 
  • Suggestions of images to be used for marketing.
  • Suggestions on tone of language – such as keywords. 


Lived experience of struggling with your mental health*

Radical imagination. 

An email account. 

To be based in Greater Manchester or Merseyside.

Aged 16 – 25. 


Send an email with answers to these two questions and a link to some social media of things you’ve made (or online portfolio – if you have one, tho not essential). 

  1. Share with me how you talk about or define your mental health experiences? (In whatever language, extent or way you feel comfortable) In about 100 words.
  2. Share with me 3 examples of other artists, designers, musicians or zines who you feel have a strong look. (can be links or whatever
  3. Share with me some of your work if you feel confident to do or – don’t spend ages putting something fancy together, can be snaps from a drawing book, insta page or something simple. 

The work needs to be completed by late May 2021, and we’ll work with you to create a timeline that works for all. 

Please let us know if you have any other access requirements. 

Email – us by the 28 February on barmyarmy@thevacuumcleaner.co.uk 

We won’t be able to offer specific feedback to anyone, but we will let everyone know our decisions and try to be totally open about our decision making process. 


Barmy Army has received support from Baring Foundation, and it is in development with the Liverpool Biennial and Manchester International Festival

If you would like to hear more about this project or would like to get involved click here

*What do I mean by lived experience of mental health?

The language around mental health is always changing and everyone has preferred terms – by lived experience of mental health I mean the following and more. That you’ve struggled with your mental health, or had a mental health problem, or been diagnosed with mental illness, or not diagnosed by you know it’s something you find hard, and been even hard to talk about or hard to identify in yourself. You could have used or heard terms like disability or mental health disability, depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorder, bi polar, ADD, ADHD or self harm. It just means that you have some experience with your mental health and it has affected you in your life. I use the term inclusively, so please don’t feel you have to have seen a medical doctor, or a therapist. If mental health has affected you personally, I’m talking to you. I also use it without shame or stigma, I love the term Madpride (that we shouldn’t be afraid of celebrating who we are, even though some of those experiences are hard, sad or plain old crap)