Man on sewing machine sewing a mask for life Islington Mill launches Masks for Life
Islington Mill in Salford have launched a scheme to provide community groups with free masks and help keep local artists making and serving their communities.

Covid-19 has decimated many industries and changed how we keep ourselves and others safe in public spaces. Islington Mill has launched Masks for Life, a Covid response project that aims to provide an income for artists and provide community groups with free masks.

Masks for Life is a new artist led project launched from Islington Mill. The group formed in mid-March to discuss ways of coming together and helping communities weather the Covid-19 pandemic. A  call-out for participants found a medley of different talents that could initiate a mask-making project that would support both the tenants and the community at large.

“As a high-risk patient I found lockdown hard, being on my own and not having a purpose. I wanted to help. Masks For Life has not only given me a purpose during these horrible times but also kept me hopeful. I’m so grateful to be a part of an amazing experience and a fabulous community,”  said Heather Bell, one of the project participants.

The start-up funding for the Masks For Life scheme is part of a generous emergency Arts Council England fund to help keep Islington Mill artists making and serving their communities.

Masks for Life has three parts:

1.  Selling unique face masks made and designed by Islington Mill artists, including those who have lost some or all income due to COVID-19. Masks are quality fabric face coverings designed to protect the public, as advised by official health guidelines. Each design is limited edition, printed and handmade in Greater Manchester.

2.  Donating free face masks. For every order received they produce additional masks to be donated for free to local organisations or individuals in need. They have a special focus on the city of Salford which has been disproportionately affected by the virus.

3. Amplifying. Masks for Life is also raising awareness about worthy projects that ​ are also responding to COVID-19, such as    Manchester Pink Scrubs and  The Big  Community Sew, supporting front-line workers and helping protect the community.

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The impact that the Masks For Life project has on its participants is as important as the products they make and sell. Small online communities like the one they have formed have been lifelines for many people while physically separated.

Jessie Stringer-Fewtrill is one of the artists involved in the project who has benefited from being part of this community.  

“I want to be part of a team who have similar ethics to me in regards to creativity and giving back to the community along with supporting the arts,” said Jessie. 

“A lot of my work and projects are solo so it is a great opportunity to help out with the project with the skills I have. Not only do I want to offer skills I already have but want to develop skills in assistance on setting up and running a project like this. In this current climate I think it’s really important for the arts to bring people together (not only for mental health but for a lasting legacy) and I feel that this project will do that, both within the group for the artist and the people who it will reach.”

The scheme is generating income for artists and will also result in donations to  community schemes and people in need. 

Jess Coulson

Jess is a Project coordinator for the Masks for Life project

The face masks that Masks for Life sell are unique and limited edition pieces. They are designed, printed and sewn by Islington Mill artists who have lost some or all of their income due to the COVID crisis. You can buy them here.

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