The Holding Time Project 22-23

RCM Awards, May 2023 Lisa Creagh and Dega and Fasia from the Social Engagement Team at Improving Me

The Holding Time project reached new heights in 2023 with an innovative Audio Tour across Liverpool, a new podcast and exhibitions, workshops and live events in three cities in partnership with Improving Me, Creative Lives and Singing Mamas. The project was Shortlisted for Excellence in Public Health by the Royal College of Midwives, 2023.

Here’s a round up of what we achieved in 2023-24:

Open Eye Gallery

  • Kala Sangam Gallery, Bradford

Starting with an exhibition at Open Eye Gallery, part of the Ecology of Care exhibition, an installation of animated portraits of Cheshire and Merseyside mothers was accompanied by a 3D animated timepiece, specially created for the VR version of the installation.

I would have felt as a new mum, seeing those, seeing a picture like that. And I think it would have felt..It would have felt good to see those kinds of images because they just don’t exist anywhere. …so yeah, I think it’s good to kid of be able to encounter that in the public space is good” Mother from the Cheshire and Merseyside evaluation

The exhibitions was opened by Singing Mamas in a wonderful live performance in the atrium outside Open Eye Gallery. This began an ongoing partnership with Singing Mamas.

Singing Mamas open the exhibition at Open Eye Gallery and passers by are invited to join in the chorus of voices

Live Events at Open Eye Gallery

Next, a series of storytelling workshops took place at the gallery each Saturday, culminating in a half day ‘Maternal Wellbeing Afternoon’, with a marketplace of local services, a harpist from Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and talks and storytelling produced in partnership with the local breastfeeding mentoring services and Improving Me.

Maternal Wellbeing Afternoon at Open Eye Gallery

The afternoon was attended by researchers from Liverpool John Moores University School of Midwifery who interviewed mothers and members of the public to assess the impact the exhibition might have on mothers wellbeing and changing attitudes to breastfeeding.

The exhibition was followed by a live event at Liverpool Central libraries, where a Northern Rail partnership for Holding Time, brought mothers from the outer boroughs of Merseyside to enjoy music, singing and talks. The event finished with the launch of the Holding Time Audio Tour, setting off from the library. Read more about the Audio Tour here.

Launch of the Audio Tour at Central Libraries, Liverpool
Setting out on the first Audio Tour from Central Library, Liverpool

Read more about the exhibition at Open Eye Gallery exhibition here

Outcomes: The Audio Tour is still running in Liverpool across 16 venues and the exhibition of framed portraits will be touring Liverpool Foundation Hospitals for the whole of 2023. Conversations are ongoing with Improving Me Social Engagement team (pictured with Lisa Creagh, above) and Jo Ward. The partnership with Dr Maxwell of LJMU is ongoing with new research is planned for 2023/24 involving the VR piece.

The Cheshire and Merseyside project was nominated and then shortlisted for an Award for Excellence in Public Health by the Royal College of Midwives. Read more here.

Read an interview with writer in residence at Open Eye Gallery, Dr Pauline Rowe here

A podcast of the mother interviews from Cheshire and Merseyside was launched. Listen here.

Read the in depth evaluation by Dr Clare Maxwell of Liverpool John Moores University School of Midwifery here…

“Part of taking care of a baby is taking care of the baby’s mother and and that’s what I found lacking in a lot of other sort of breastfeeding support and information”

Mother from the Cheshire and Merseyside evaluation


Kalasangam Arts Centre, Bradford

Mothers perform writing and singing at Kalasangam Arts Centre, Bradford, January 2023

The breastfeeding hub was transferred from Open Eye Gallery to Kala Sangam Arts Centre, Bradford, where more storytelling workshops allowed mothers from Bradford tell their stories in poetry and prose. The workshops culminated in a live event, in partnership with the arts centre Better Start Bradford during Babyweek. A buffet was arranged for parents and members of the public who came to watch mothers perform their work. Singing was provided for the opening of the exhibition by Singing Mamas.

Outcomes: The events at Kalasangam Arts centre were attended by health professionals, including representatives from Public Health. Together with Better Start Bradford and the Infant Feeding Strategic lead, we set up a steering committee for a full Bradford Holding Time Project, with seed funding from Public Health, Better Start and Better Place Bradford.

On frequent visits to Bradford, lead artist, Lisa Creagh was able to develop a network of cultural, academic and community partners. A new Bradford project is planned for Babyweek, 2023 in collaboration with the local South Asian community, Womanzone, Rachel New, Singing Mamas and others.

At the end of the exhibition the carpet and bean bags bought for the breastfeeding hub were donated to a local breastfeeding community group.

The poetry by mothers was recorded and used for radio programmes on BBC Radio Leeds. Listen here.

Manchester Art Gallery

The animated portrait installation from Open Eye Gallery was installed at Manchester Art Gallery in April 2023. After conversations with the Infant Feeding team and the gallery, the Lions Den venue is now a regular weekly venue for the Infant Feeding teams to run breastfeeding clinics.

Animated portraits with music by Helen Anahita Wilson are on show in the Lions Den

The gallery advertised Holding Time storytelling workshops on their website and we had over twenty mothers signing up each week. Taking place at the beginning of the exhibition during April 2023, the workshops culminated in a live event for mothers in partnership with Singing Mamas on May 4th 2023. The animated portraits will be on display until May 30th. Read more about the Manchester workshops here.

Mothers perform at Manchester Art Gallery, May 4th 2023

After the workshops, we asked participants to review the process from start to finish to gain a better understanding of how we can improve. Here’s what they said…..

“I think it did so much to improve my mental health in this moment, to feel seen and human. It made me feel like it’s possible to continue being creative whilst taking care of my baby. Thank you.”

Mother from the Manchester Art Gallery participants evaluation

VR piece

Animated timepiece, 2022 (c) Lisa Creagh, animation: Steve Wilson @ Candoo Studios music: Helen Anahita Wilson

During this time, work continued on the VR piece to accompany the exhibitions with extra finding from Medilink, East Midlands. The VR timepiece was created by animator Steve Wilson of Candoo Studios and sound was created in a 360 space by Call and Response Studios.

Outcomes: We are in conversation with Wolverhampton Art School and the Stork Project about an exhibition at MC Gallery later in 2023. Medilink, an agency supporting innovative businesses enter the NHS have suggested further collaboration in 2024 and I am attending their Innovation Academy to gain a better understanding of Intellectual Property, Efficacy, Data capture and many other relevant areas of health interventions in the NHS.


Listening to the advice of the evaluation by Dr Maxwell, the Holding Time project has been presented several times during 2022-23, including a presentation to the Royal College of Midwives and a presentation to an All Party Parliamentary group on Inequalities in Infant Feeding at Portcullis House, Westminster.

Social Media and Digital stats

Outcomes: August 2022-April 2023 have been the most significant months of the Holding Time Project in terms of digital audience, with a combined social media, website and podcast reach of approximately 12,000 per month (excluding partner websites etc).

The podcast has remained in the top 100 in the UK for parenting and Families.

Improving Me has commissioned a Google adwords campaign to measure the potential long term effectiveness of the digital program