Balmy Army

The Balmy Army – Introduction

Ever been told to ask for help? Only to be told help wasn’t available. 

Ever been told you’ve got a problem, but something inside you says, hmmm am not quite sure it’s JUST me? 

Ever get the feeling young people’s mental health care could be so much better? 

Enough excuses. We aren’t the problem.

The Balmy Army is an art, activism and mutual care project for pissed-off people. 

For young people struggling with your mental health, your friends and families, and those working in mental health who are on your side.  Our aim is to work together across Greater Manchester (now the whole of England) to imagine and make real a simpler, kinder, easier to access mental health support and care, that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are currently prevented from doing.

Begun in 2022 young people, artists, madpride organisers, radical dreamers, disability justice inspired doers and everyone else trying to cope have come together. What do they want? Mental health support that works. When do they want it? About 15 years ago…

Balmy Army is a long term project mixing art, activism and mutual care.

Message from ‘the vacuum cleaner’ about why he wants to do this:

“I went through mental health care as a young person, it was crap then and it’s crap now. Nothing seems to get better, however much those in charge say it has. I was in an adolescent  hospital 20 years ago, has the mental health care got any better since then? Not enough, let’s put it that way. (I totally acknowledge there are some cool people doing good shit in young peoples mental health care – I’m not attacking them, we need you sooooo bad).

How many more excuses should we accept?

I want to work with YOU to imagine, dream up and then make real the mental health care you desire, that your friends deserve and that adults just don’t seem to be able to give you.

Enough excuses.

I’m starting a long term project called Balmy Army. It’s part art, part activism and part mutual care project. I want to help you fight for what should be a basic right…. good mental health care. I want to do this because I know how much bad mental health care affected me. (i’m lucky to still be here). It’s going to start in Great Manchester – but hopefully could be a national thing…

SO, let’s do this thing, let’s make an army of young people who are struggling with their mental health. Let’s not be ashamed of who we are, let’s be fucking proud of what we can do together. Let’s imagine something brilliant and kind and that actually works.

Let’s do thing safely, sustainably, let’s do it right and take our time… but not like 20 years (lol).”

A note about language… the vacuum cleaner says

“The language around mental health is still in debate, I think it always will be. In a similar way to how it is around race, gender, sexuality and so. That’s a good thing, we’ve always got to get better at it, and try to reduce harm.

In a lot of my art work I use the language around mental health in a playful way, words like mental, mad, barmy, crazy. For me personally I want to reclaim these words as something to not be ashamed of. Perhaps in a similar way to how Queer has been reclaimed. I understand not everyone is down with this. But I also want you to know that I use these words with love. Because I love crazy people. We are amazing. We are really good at surviving, and helping others, and being empathic, and standing in solidarity with other people who face mainstream BS. Being mad isn’t easy, and it’s really important to be honest about that, but equally I’m not going to be ashamed of who I am, what I have been through, and how I want to talk about my experience. I want to be able to love my madness – so much so I did a project called Madlove. I’m not going to let it define me, but I’m also not going to ignore it.

So that’s why you can see these kinds of words all over my website, I’m not belittling your struggles, I’m acknowledging them, I’m standing in solidarity with you. And I’m not ashamed of that.”

Want to get involved ?

Aged 12 to 25(plus), want to get involved in a huge art project about the state mental health care and be involved in trying to make it better for yourself and other? Balmy Army is back in 2024.

If you would like to get involved in this please email –

Balmy Army – Part 1 for Manchester International Festival

Balmy Army – Exhibition, Action Lab and Space for Mutual Care

Balmy Army – A Movement. (The first Balmy Army march through Manchester City Centre, Summer 2023)

The first iteration of Balmy Army was made for Manchester International Festival, 2023.

From sharing poetry to making placards, to social media takeovers and mass acts of civil disobedience, Balmy Army made an action lab during Manchester International Festival where anything (safe) can happen. It’s a space for the Balmy Army to play, plan protests, give performances and even print ‘madidas’ t-shirts.

During the festival there was a serious of events to get involved in, and an exhibition you could visit at HOME.

Events included….

Balmy Army: A Welcome and Sharing 

NHS staff. How are you? (No really, how are you?)

Balmy Army Intervene in the City – so illegal we can’t talk about it…

How Do We Create A Movement For Mental Health? 

Inspired by the Balmy Army, Guardian Live bring together a host of names to explore how we shift the dial on young people’s mental health. Video coming soon.

Carers and parents. How are you? (No really, how are you?)

Prepare to Move Together 

Balmy Army: a Movement. Join the Balmy Army as we create the world’s biggest and silliest march for less crap mental health support for young people

What is Balmy Army anyway? Balmy Army isn’t a model of working in mental health, but what is it?

This will be an informal event involving sharing of critical reflections and conversations and is designed for disability activists, researchers, young people, disability organisations, artists, partners and mental health workers. Led by Tara Brown and Nicky Sim, Balmy Army’s critical friends, alongside lead artist, the vacuum cleaner, and organisers of Balmy Army.

Balmy Army Podcasts

Hannah (with closed captions in English)

Ellie (with closed captions in English)


To date Balmy Army has been made by 80 young people from Greater Manchester, with the vacuum cleaner, Kevin Edward Turner, Lizzie Chapman, Toni-Dee, Caz Hughes, Evyn Seaton-Mooney, Rory Aaron, Rosalyne Norford, Gráinne Flynn, Cara Looij, Sascha Gilmour, Charlie Clark, HOME, Factory International, Contact, 42nd Street, Gorse Hill Studios and the Hope and Horizon Wards at Fairfield Hospital.

Special shout out to Lucy and Lisa from HOME – the best.