Back in September 2017, the Wall of Gratitude came to Sheffield as part of the University of Sheffield’s “Mobile University” events. The initial idea for a “Wall of Gratitude” had come from a Sheffield Flourish competition “to build a more mental health friendly Sheffield” and was a response to some of the events of 2016 which seemed to really highlight the divisions in society. Could we in Sheffield do anything to respond in a positive way?
So, who was going to build the wall? We enlisted the help of the great Sheffield public, as part of a day-long event on the Moor in central Sheffield. Visitors to the wall were invited to write on a card “3 good things you are thankful for today”. These cards were then stuck on a poster, forming a wall. Lots of passers-by stopped to write down their thoughts, or to read the cards that others had filled in. BBC Radio Sheffield joined us for the day, as they were holding one of their “Good News Friday” events. Presenter Kat Harbourne interviewed several people interacting with the wall, and read out some of the contributions on air – after one particularly moving card, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Throughout the day, we were really pleased with the response that the Wall of Gratitude received from the public. There were over 200 responses posted onto the wall, and lots of people stopped to read the bricks, or to ask us questions about the project. We also had feedback to say that the radio coverage was really positive, and that many of the messages which people contributed were powerful, moving and funny.
We hope that this Wall of Gratitude was a symbolic gesture of how when we share positive messages, this can bring about not only individual benefit, but also a more mental health friendly city where talking about personal issues is accepted and welcomed. It was hopefully an easy and accessible way for people to focus on the positive aspects of life, and a reminder that there are things we can do to change how we view the world. One of the take-home messages is that like anything, this takes practice. These kinds of initiatives won’t have much impact as one-off interventions – if we want to change how we think about the world, we need to get into the habit of remembering to first notice and then focus on things we are grateful for on a regular basis.
Thanks to the University of Sheffield’s “Mobile University” and Sheffield Moor for hosting the event, which was developed with Dr Fuschia Sirois and in collaboration with Sheffield Flourish. We have recently heard that under Fuschia’s leadership, we will be bringing the Wall of Gratitude back for the “Festival of the Mind” at the University of Sheffield, from 20–30th September, at various locations to be confirmed.
Watch this space!