New Open House ‘Birthing a Better Future’ talks to AOH

All Creation Groans by Amanda Greavette

All Creation Groans by Amanda Greavette

Your Open House exhibition is called Birthing a Better Future – can you tell us about the ideas behind this exhibition?
The Birthing a Better Future exhibition was established to increase public awareness about the key issues and importance of the first 1001 days of life from conception to age two. The ‘1001 Critical Days’ is the UK’s first cross-party children’s manifesto which proposes important ways to improve the lives of babies.

Where has the exhibition been shown previously?
The Houses of Parliament (June 2016) and the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford (Nov 2017 – Jan 2018). After the positive response to these previous successful exhibitions, we felt encouraged to develop the exhibition further and make plans to take it nationwide.

Building on these two exhibitions, our revised portable exhibition model shines an even clearer spotlight on the importance of these first 1001 days, in a compelling, engaging and accessible way that lends itself equally to senior level policy makers and budget holders, local practitioners, parents and the general public. Our new pop-up model is launching during Brighton’s Artists Open Houses Festival in May.

Mother & Child by Richard Ansett

This pop up exhibition consists of 18 beautifully designed, double-sided exhibition banners, covering key topics for contemplation that invite you to consider new ways of thinking about pregnancy, birth and parenting. All text is underpinned by expert opinions and scientific research and is accompanied by thought-provoking art. Click here to view The Zero2 Expo Banners.

Science proves beyond doubt how important the 1001 days are for optimum brain development, an outcome which is most readily achieved through exposure to healthy environments and good relationships. These positive early connections last a lifetime, and are vital in creating successful, happy and healthy adults.

Visitors expressed how they found the exhibitions informative, educational, moving and inspiring, even prompting changes in behaviour.

The Lancet has published an official report stating that 80% of people who saw our exhibition found it had a big effect in raising awareness about the 1001 days.

The Channel by Melody Garreau

Would you like to explain how you feel art can be useful as a medium to communicate medical and scientific concepts?
Art is a powerful form of communication because it engages directly with the heart as well as the mind. We are able to connect with and express our intimate thoughts and feelings and make them visible in the external world, via a tangible object as evidence. Art can move and inspire people into action, as in the old saying ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words’. For this reason, art can be a great way to convey all kinds of messages from difficult subjects to invitations that empower the viewer, when words are just not enough.

Yoni Magic by Alex Florschutz

It has been proven how important this time from conception to age two is for healthy child development. Our exhibition shows thought-provoking art backed up by scientific research and people’s lived experiences. It engages the audience on all levels, offering invaluable food for thought while conveying a powerful public health message.

‘There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence that proves art enhances brain function. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world’  . Art, therefore, may influence the viewer on a much deeper level than we realise.

Pregnancy and birth are deeply instinctual experiences, part of nature spanning millions of years, but we are rapidly losing touch with our instincts and body wisdom. Our exhibition looks at how we can reconnect with the ancient, natural human life cycles and translate them, in a positive way, to our time.

Not Just Blue by Ali Ferguson (detail)

How did you select the 30 artists and 30 scientists for the exhibition?
We put out a call for submissions through our various platforms asking for artists who explore themes from the first 1001 days, e.g. perinatal mental health, abuse/maltreatment/neglect, domestic violence, nutrition/breastfeeding, pregnancy and birth, family and relationships.

We invited scientists and experts known for their research or practical work in this area to support the project. These included Prof. Vivette Glover (Professor of Perinatal Psychobiology at Imperial College London), Prof. Monica Lakhanpaul (Professor of Integrated Child Health, UCL, GOS Institute of Child Health, London), Soo Downe, OBE (Professor in midwifery studies at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)), Beverley A. Lawrence Beech (Hon. Chair of AIMS, Midwife).

How did the artists and scientists interact – were outcomes surprising?
We paired compatible artists with scientists to create a synergistic partnership  for the Parliament exhibition. The Oxford exhibition showed a selection of these artists/scientist partnerships. Our current ‘pop-up’ exhibition model includes most of the original artists and scientists with some new additions. The text has been simplified for the general public, with scientists full abstracts, papers and articles available on their own page on the Zero2 Expo website. I have curated the exhibition content to maintain its coherent message wherever it travels.

What specific benefits are you hoping for by taking part in the Artist Open Houses festival?
Our mission is to inspire changes in how we treat the first 1001 days of life to help create a world where every child has the best possible start in life.

Domestic Bliss by Gill White

We believe that by taking part in the Artists Open Houses festival, we will be able to engage an exciting new audience and raise more awareness. As a public engagement project, our exhibition not only offers a profound message, but it enables art to be accessible to all age groups and is suitable for children, young people and adults.

Our exhibition is available for hire (either 1, 3, 7, 14, or 30 days). We can pop up anywhere: gallery, community space, university, business, conference, or support your event.

Our project aim is to engage all stakeholders from policymakers to health-care professionals, third sector organisations, parents and the general public, in understanding why new approaches to the first 1001 days of life are needed, and encouraging greater investment in early interventions, with a joined-up thinking, life cycle approach.

The project aims to increase general public awareness of the key issues of the first 1001 days of life. It is envisaged that this will lead to:
Healthier, better adjusted and happier children, mothers and families.
Better decision-making and budget allocations in early years.
More integrated and informed service provision.
Greater understanding between general public, service providers and stakeholders.
Less long-term strain on welfare services.

Father and Son by Andy Kent

What days will your exhibition be open?
We will be open for four days at the start of  the AOH festival only:
Friday 3rd May: 12 – 5pm (Private View 5-7pm)
Saturday 4th May: 9am – 5pm
Sunday 5th May: 1 – 5pm
Monday 6th May: 9am – 5pm

Film: Friday 3rd May
Steve Biddulph – The Secret of Happy Children
Time: at 8pm (Doors open at 7pm so you can view the exhibition)
We welcome a voluntary contribution at the door to help support our campaign

Exhibition Venue
Friends Meeting House
Ship Street

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
My personal journey was the catalyst for the work I’m doing today. It was the result of living in Bali where I conceived my son in 1999. I was pregnant there for the first 6 months and then my husband and I moved back to Brighton, where I gave birth in January 2000. The huge contrast of being pregnant in a culture like Bali and the UK was a life-changing experience…

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Birthing a Better Future Open House