Unusual sight on the banks of the Thames as Head Above Water raises mental health awareness

11th October 2018

A 9metre high Head, installed on London's South Bank as part of the London Design Festival has been prompting conversations about mental health issues. Head Above Water by British designer Steuart Padwick was built and assembled by Unusual Rigging, and is intended as a sign of hope and compassion for all those who have experienced or are dealing with mental health issues and the people who support them. Steuart said: "Head Above Water is a symbol of hope. It needed to be big, powerful and prominent... a beacon of humanity caring for others. This is not my Head or about my battles. This is for those who have or have had mental health issues...I want anybody and everybody to relate to it...to open a door perhaps."

Robin Elias, technical director at Unusual explained: "We were approached by Gary White, production manager for this project. We've worked with Gary on several jobs  over the years, big events like Sports Personality of the Year. He tasked us with constructing the Head at King George V Lock, pre-assembling it into four sections using 3000 30mm long screws. Then we craned the four sections onto a barge which made its way up to Gabriel's Wharf on the South Bank. Here we constructed it, one section at a time, and then, when the structure was complete, the electrics and lighting were installed."


What's most unusual about this project is that, despite a team of riggers with over 87 years of experience between them, no-one had ever put in a screw in their career. "We did ask Gary why he wasn't employing carpenters to carry out this work. 'They complain too much' was his response," laughed Robin.

Natalie Alexopoulos, Director at Steuart Padwick added: "When Gary said that Unusual were the best of the best, we knew we wanted them to be a part of this project. On our first meeting with Robin it was clear than nothing fazes him and he is a total professional who relishes challenges. Time has never been on our side from the minute we knew this project was going aHead. We were offered the Jetty in early June – and from this point on it was a vertical learning curve for us. Steuart's day job is as a furniture and lighting designer. Ramboll, the engineers were the first team of experts to come on board. Once we knew we had the best team to help us make something structurally sound, the rest of the team followed. Gary White came on board to manage the build, then came Unusual and somehow the impossible happened thanks to an incredible team of people, coming together for a common cause and the benefit of others."

Robin added: "We were absolutely delighted to be asked to be a part of this project and we hope it has succeeded in generating lots of conversations about mental health. It is an issue that we, as an industry are all becoming more aware of. Within Unusual we are taking a pro-active stance towards helping anyone and everyone who works in our team with what is often regarded as a hidden illness. Lizzie Richmond, our Operations Manager has attended a Mental health First Aid course run by St John's Ambulance, designed to gain the necessary skills to have a non judgmental conversation, recognise the signs and symptoms of common workplace mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support. And in December she's off to a summit entitled "Embedding Mental Health Best Practises in the Workplace", which will incorporate resilience, stress management and first aid."

Natalie concluded: " The Head is no longer on London's South Bank. Instead it is now waiting to be resurrected at its new home – the Northfleet Transhipment Centre, where it will sit and where plants will be encouraged to grow around it – a symbol of recycling and rejuvenation as well as of course positivity, hope and mental health awareness. We are so pleased to have had Unusual on board -  super professional - taking everything they do to an incredible level …great fun and super nice. Nothing was too much trouble - and that is Unusual!"
 

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