Let's talk sugar
In this collaboration between Amanda Moore from the Healthy Eating & Active Lifestyles for Diabetes team at King’s College London, graphic artist The Fandangoe Kid (Annie Nicholson) and young artists from Hackney New School, Let’s Talk Sugar sought to raise awareness of Type 2 diabetes amongst local African and Caribbean communities.
Photo by Jack Latimer
Through a series of creative workshops, young Afro-Caribbean artists explored the meaning of diabetes in their communities and the value they place on their own health. The participants developed their own interpretations and responses to diabetes through visual art, rhyme and rap. An exhibition of their work took place at SPACE Gallery in Hackney and was accompanied by discussions about Type 2 diabetes and advice about how to live well with the condition. Visitors to the exhibition included academics, NHS health care practitioners, church leaders, parents of participants and members of the local community. The project team encouraged debate and discussion with older generations through the workshops and community engagement sessions.
People of African & Caribbean descent are up to three times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than the general UK population, but report not considering diabetes risk prevention as part of their self-care. Diabetes in this community also occurs at a much younger age, so the long-term consequences are often worse than those for Caucasian people. Improving dietary factors, increasing physical activity and reducing weight can all reduce this risk.
Since the completion of the project, two participants are planning to become community diabetes ambassadors, and the team is discussing the incorporation of the approach into the NHS Health Innovations Network’s teenage diabetes care programmes.
I got involved in this project because my grandmother has Type 2 diabetes and I wanted to understand the illness more and discover ways in which I could avoid getting it, and break the chain. The work I have made shows how to avoid diabetes and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Imari, project participant
I have absolutely loved working on this project with King’s and local young people. They have approached the subject matter with a great deal of maturity and their depth of character is really reflected in their creative output and processes. They have put their heart and soul into their work and it shows real integrity. It’s been an honour to work with them.
The Fandangoe Kid (Annie Nicholson), artistic lead
I got involved in Let’s Talk Sugar because I wanted to understand a disease that affects so many people within my community. The work I made shows how we need to start taking care of ourselves from an early stage, and really consider what we consume, being more conscious about our lifestyle choices.
Gosa, project participant
The young artists from Hackney New School embraced the project wholeheartedly. As each one of them has a family member with diabetes they produced emotionally powerful work, reflecting the impact this condition has on them and their relatives. It’s empowering to learn what you can do to help avoid developing the condition and we’ve heard stories of mums getting off the bus to walk to work, families going for walks after dinner, and members of the group giving up sweets and sugary drinks for a month! I think exploring the topic creatively has developed knowledge in a way that traditional health education never would in this age group.
Amanda Moore, academic lead
I made a series of images about having your blood taken on a daily basis, with very subtle differences between them to express the monotony of having to test and think about your blood sugar levels all the time.
Danielka, project participant
Amanda Moore, Diabetes Research Group
Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine
The Fandangoe Kid (Annie Nicholson), graphic artist