The Covid-19 pandemic has had an immense impact on peoples livelihoods, something that those who work in the arts know all too well.
University of Salford graduate Heather Bell studied photography until June 2019.
After leaving university, she was selected to take part in the graduate scholarship programme with Castlefield gallery in Manchester, which she completed just over a month ago.
When the pandemic began earlier in the year, Heather adapted her work in light of the extraordinary circumstances.
She said: “For the past 5 years, I have focused my photographic work on social and cultural history and the profound impact it has had on not only our culture today, but also our memories.
“However, when Covid-19 hit, I knew I couldn’t ignore this. I needed to take my love of history and respond to the history being written right in front of our eyes.”
A project designed with everyone in mind
Like many people, at the beginning of lockdown, Heather’s mental health began to suffer:
“I stopped creating and my passion was lost.”
This was until a general email from Islington Mill explained the idea of ‘Masks For Life’ to its tenants. A project which immediately sparked Heathers interest.
“After the first meeting, I fell in love with the idea and also the people involved.”
Masks For Life is a project involving a group of talented Islington Mill artists, who have lost some, or all, of their income as a result of Covid-19.
They sell limited-edition face masks that the artists design and make to fall in line with the current health guidelines.
With each face mask sold, the group make additional masks that can be donated to people in need, with a special focus on people in Salford.
Heather explained what makes Masks For Life so special:
“We are currently reviewing a pass on/buy one/donate one scheme. So not only is the Manchester/Salford community getting donations straight from the group, but we are also working on how to make it easier for people to donate.”
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“We don’t just sell masks, we sell to create and donate,” she added.
The team, who are not currently allowed to all meet up due to Covid-19 restrictions, have been overwhelmed by the reaction to the project.
Heather said: “From the moment our website went live, we have experienced overwhelming support from the community, fellow artists and organisations. We were genuinely shocked by the response.
“My role is to collect and find organisations in need with the help of Jess Coulson – who works at the Islington Mill – as well as managing and monitoring both social media queries and ideas. When I need to meet up with makers to collect donations, I have a system in place for cleaning before donating.”
Christmas at the Mill
Masks for Life are currently taking part in the Islington Mill virtual Christmas Market, which runs up until the New Year.
“Islington Mill has definitely been our biggest supporter and this is just another one of their amazing ideas.
“Supporting artists is crucial, especially in this time. The Mill has made it so much easier for people to do so while keeping up with the celebrations of course!”
You can find out more information and view the masks here.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with the team.