What's On

‘It begins with a metaphor’ – in conversation with Mary Morris

By January 8, 2021

Community. Manchester.

I chatted with Leeds based arts facilitator Mary Morris on her audio feature ‘It begins with a metaphor’. The audio-feature broadcasts 20 voices from the UK and beyond, reflecting on their lives, wellbeing and mental health during the first COVID-19 lockdown. It beautifully combines dialogue, sound and music to highlight the diverse range of emotions experienced by each one of us. 

Credit: Cara Looij

“The pandemic is when you walk through the kitchen and you’re wearing some socks and those socks are keeping your feet warm and comfy, and then you step in a puddle of a little bit of water on the floor, and it gets all in between your toes, except it stays like that for 6 months to two years. Just permanently having a wet sock, can you imagine that. That would be fucking horrible.” 

“It’s kinda like wars right, there are still wars raging constantly but when they don’t touch you and they’re not near you you don’t really think about them”

“I want to see people getting used to being around people again”

‘It begins with a metaphor’ explores how the pandemic has impacted mental health by recounting mutual lived experiences but also intimate personal ones. Within fifteen minutes, Mary effectively  captures a plethora of intergenerational, diverse voices. Stories are told from all aspects of life and stages of the pandemic.  From initial reactions, to voices from prisons and the frontline, to the milestones that were missed. 

She effectively balances experiences of loneliness, uncertainty and anxiety with some of the more positive outcomes of lockdown, such as prioritising our own wellbeing and establishing those boundaries that may have gone amiss during “normal life”. Conversations within the feature toy with the idea of “normal”, what is “normal”? Do we really want to return to normal? Leaving the listener open to ponder. 

“I feel I have come out of this lockdown in a more positive place, I’m much more capable of sitting on my own”

‘It begins with a metaphor’ was commissioned by N.I.A.M.O.S – a radical arts and cultural centre based in Hulme, Manchester as part of their programme ‘Starvin’ Artist’, dedicated to local artists who are devoted to their craft and have lost opportunities due to lockdown and in tandem with (In)sane MCR. A multi-disciplinary arts platform exploring mental health through different creative practices. 

Mary tells me “I wanted this to be a community-built, collaborative piece which gives people a platform to share their stories openly and honestly. Allowing each person the space to speak about the impact of COVID-19  and inspire others to do the same”. She adds “The title was born from an acknowledgement that conversations about mental health can be challenging to word. Metaphors are figures of speech, not literal explanations. But for the purpose of this project, the metaphors throughout the podcast symbolise that person’s mental state; they explain exactly what the pandemic has been like.”

Underpinning the sentiment across Mary’s work, is the fundamental belief that creativity can be an empowering, transformative process. She says she created this feature because “I am not an honest person. I do not lie; I just do not reveal the truth. I admire those who are brave enough to have open and truthful conversations about things which impact them. I want to be that person. Listening to others, hearing them acknowledge the state of their mental health, inspires me to try.”

Accessibility was front of mind whilst creating the audio feature, ensuring both those with hearing and visual impairments were able to connect in a way that is suitable and effective for them. Leeds based Graphic Designer Olivia Leonard has created simple but powerful audio captioning for individuals who need additional support.

The release of “It begins with a metaphor” in the same week the UK has entered a third national lockdown is poignant. The calamity of the situation at present has hit us all, albeit in different ways. Prioritising/acknowledging our own mental health, as well as others, is more necessary than ever. This will pass and better days are ahead.

“Take the time to acknowledge your feelings” 

“Carry on being patient”

“Keep messaging your friends, they know that you’re there, they know that you’re a bit shit on your phone, but a short text or a short call, goes a long way” 

Take a listen to ‘It begins with a metaphor’:

Feature with audio captioning:

Check out the NAIMOS website here