The social pharmacy
a very brief history
The Social Pharmacy is a project that has been ongoing for over 20 years in various forms. Beginning as a creative social experiment on the difference between want and need, I asked strangers to answer the question 'What are you hungry for?' These personal desires were collated and displayed as a visual precursor to spiritual manifestation, asking the universe to make that request a reality. Strangely, I found that some of these hungers did in fact come true, so maybe there really is power in stating your needs?
These confession of personal needs reflected society in a truthful, non judgemental way. The audience viewing these simple desires would often admit that they felt a connection to these strangers through shared need, confirming that they too felt that way, which created a sense of belonging. The project started to reveal that although we all have such vast, different experiences of life, we are brought back together by basic needs and values. The sharing of words had a powerful affect, what we saw in them was an understanding that we have emotional commonality. We benefit from simple reassurance, and can comfort each other through acknowledgment and acceptance of our human behaviour..
I wondered if I could metaphorically cure these hungers, and in doing so, help the community around me feel, at least, mentally better. Could I become a creative doctor? Could I offer medication through the power of words to bring a sense of connection and belonging?
And so, 'Wisdom Pills' were created, each bottle containing a label prescribing a positive or truthful statement that the reader would hopefully digest, agree with and in turn feel a little reassured. Improving mental health one patient at a time, with nothing but the knowledge that you have a shared opinion, you are not alone, and that you belong to a community.
But that was 2002, that initial handful of bottles are now a whole pharmacy...
How the pharmacy was stocked...
The galleries below show a series of images that document evolving phase of the project. Each label has been created by a member of the general public, from school students to medical staff. Different ages, nationalities and careers come together of offer a personal piece of advice and life experience to connect with, think about and encourage perspective, hope and reassurance.
You can peruse the shelves of the online pharmacy at your leisure: What medication will bring you strength? Visit, select and remember those words of wisdom, power and encouragement today.
In 2020 when we found ourselves living through a pandemic, it felt like the Social Pharmacy was needed more than ever. I began to hold virtual sessions where participants would offer advice on how to get through isolation. These statements became a new medication stock.
I was incredibly lucky to have Initial funding for this through St Helens Arts In Libraries, before being honoured to be promoted across Liverpool by the Independents Biennial. This helped to expand the audience through newspaper and poster advertising across the city.
Creative blogger Messy Lines
also wrote an enlightening account of her session, and thoughts on the pharmacies creation. All the physical medication sculptures can be viewed, forwarded and commented on through Insta@socialpresciptiontracker.
Since lockdown, images of the bottles have been featured in the London International Paste Up Festival, and projected as large scale light shows on buildings in Mosqueiro, Brazil. The physical pharmacy cabinet has been exhibited in Warrington Art Gallery as part of the 2022 Contemporary Festival.
Today the project continues... whether workshops are held in schools, theatres or within the therapeutic Lime Arts studio in Manchester Royal Infirmary, as long as we need reassurance and guidance, the Social Pharmacy will continue to prescribe.
If you are interested in hosting a workshop, please contact me on the email below.