A graphic novel celebrating the historic Peel Park is set to launch on the 18 of November.
The idea for the graphic novel ‘We Love Peel Park’ started two years ago when the University was approached by Salford Loaves and Fishes, a local charity, who expressed that their clients felt a need for a creative space.
Ursula Hurley, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford said: “They didn’t just want to be seen as people who had problems but people who had things to say and had creative potential.
“They wondered if the university would help and they eventually found their way to me. And that’s what I love to do.
“It’s my thing, I love storytelling and I really believe that storytelling and exchanging our stories can strengthen our social bonds and make us feel more connected to each other.
“So, we started very simply by just going over to the Loaves and Fishes premises every week with a small number of staff and students who felt the need to be better connected with the local community.
“We kicked around some ideas and we were really getting somewhere, but then of course lockdown started to happen and that hit some of our friends at Loaves and Fishes very, very hard”.
With the whole population having to self-isolate, the weekly meetings moved online but soon enough loneliness hit those involved, who felt a need for a social connection to the community.
Hurley said that this is where the idea for using Peel Park as the meeting spot came from and what eventually led to the idea for the graphic novel.
They said: “We started to do that and people found it extremely valuable to be in a green space and to have that social connection in nature.
“It was the idea of our friends at Loaves and Fishes, it was local people who said could we start some sort of story about being in Peel Park and we said okay let’s do it!
“The University supported us with some Advantage Fund money and we were able to bring in a graphic novelist.
“And through many meetings, many walks, many drafts, bits of artwork and conversations, it’s taken over a year but we are now at the stage where it’s pretty much ready to go to print.”
The graphic novel, ‘We Love Peel Park’, just as the name suggests is a tribute to Peel Park and aims to celebrate the positive effects of green spaces on mental health.
Studies have shown how time with nature can have many positive effects on both mental and physical wellbeing, such as reducing stress, improving self-confidence and feeling more relaxed.
Hurley said: “There was some recent research that said in more deprived neighbourhoods, even though people in those neighbourhoods tended to be closer to green spaces physically
“They were also less likely to access them, so we thought one of the things with the novel and the activity was to open up about the park and to show that it is there for everybody”.
This work comes from a partnership between local charity, Loaves and Fishes, creative facilitator Ziggy’s Wish, students and staff from the University of Salford and local residents.
“It was really important for local residents to actually become the writers and illustrators; through the help of YouTube and experts, we’ve put them in touch with.
“I think that’s the most exciting bit about it, people who have never written or drawn before can now say we have written and published a graphic novel”, said Hurley.
The graphic novel is due to be released on November 18th and an informal show and tell, the panel discussion is to take place for a chance to interact with and ask questions of the authors and illustrators.
Residents are free to join the panel free of charge on the Eventbrite website.