Our Nation's Sons

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a semifinalist.

Our Nation's Sons: Large-scale street art project dealing with young male mental wellbeing & apathy

IrelandRoscommon, Ireland
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

‘Our Nation’s Sons’ aims to spread a solution by persuading entire communities to address the very real problem of young male apathy and mental well-being. This street art project goes beyond mere debate and is a pioneering way of focusing Ireland’s urgent need for action.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if a large-scale drawing could re-establish respect for and showcase the capabilities of our nation's sons.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

With emigration, mental health well-being, youth unemployment and suicide at the door of most Irish households, I choose not to stand idly by whilst any young man is left behind. To date I have recruited 54 young men to help work on the project and install the large-scale drawings. Together we have begun to resonate and disrupt the visual landscape of our villages, towns and cities. We have empowered young men and given them a sense of belonging.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

A drawing has the power to go further than words. But a 125ft drawing, as was the scale of our largest installation (seven stories), has the power to pull a passer-by from the mundane, the power to trend and the power to gain real social momentum. Together we have brought much needed debate surrounding suicide, young male mental health and unemployment to the fore. But more importantly we have without question highlighted the potential that resides within young irish men. We have set the conversation agenda within the cities we have installed the pieces through real social action, hard work and visually beautiful works of art.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

This project/social campaign has the focused and deliberate aim of re-positioning the maligned image of a segment of youth in a community. Smacking of the same sort of comfy classicism that keeps certain youth marginalised, recent trends in Ireland have begun to demonise an entire generation of youth, particularly boys, using collective guilt by association and insidiously damning methods of generalisation about their appearance and culture. I don't buy into stereotypes and the current portrayal of young men through the media is shameful. It is not my experience as a teacher. Yes I come across racism, violence, sectarianism, poverty but I also see power, god-given talent, empathy and determination on a daily basis.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date we have installed drawings in four of the major cities across Ireland and have recruited a total of 54 young men. On a micro level the project has created within them a sense of empowerment and unleashed an energy. They have been given a voice within a community in which they have been alienated to an extent. This energy transfers to immediate family and friends and you quickly begin to steer the conversation within that village, town or city. The macro impact of these installations is sometimes very difficult to quantify but we have trailblazed through online press, local and national newspapers and cultural festivals across Ireland.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

It is my aim to increase our installations by 200% in the coming year. Work has already been initiated in Dublin, Belfast, Waterford, Derry, Sligo and Kilkenny. There are 4 street art festivals taking place in Ireland annually, a total of 68 in the UK and there is ever increasing appetite for such events worldwide. Following my success in the Irish market this year, I wish is to install a minimum of three pieces at separate international events in the coming twelve months and increase this by 150% year on year.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Over the past eighteen months I have gained significant financial support from businesses, specifically through CSR funding, and from regional government. It is my plan to continue down this line of fund sourcing for the next 2 years as I grow the sale of artistic work to such a level as to break away from this current model. This hybrid model has allowed significant peripheral development and has generated new income through public speaking.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other projects are in existence nationally that engage with men. However, there is none that target this specific grouping of young men. Neither is there a cross border entity in existence to focus on a whole island approach. Moreover, neither is there a project that can speak to a community so dramatically. There is a significant movement in the area of street art towards the generation of social awareness. The project is Irish but is transferable to many geographical locations. You only need to think of Trayvon Martin or even reposition yourself to Cleveland, Ohio or Ferguso, Misouiri.

Founding Story

I am a secondary school art teacher for just over seven years now and in that short time I have lost five of my kids to suicide. Nothing can prepare you for that. As you stand at the top of the class the following day and comfort your class, you have to impart empathy and absorb the profound sense of shock. You also need to show strength as those students rely on you to walk them through this devastation. It came to the point where I felt I had walked too far and had taken this journey too many times. So I took some time out and began to focus on how this had changed me. I took my greatest talents, being able to draw and being able to develop meaningful interactions with young men & I fused them into a project that can make a difference.


I am the central member of the project. I have a team of young male recruits in each city I install the drawings. Alongside this I have a team of volunteers, photographers, cameramen, film editors, a film director and a composer. The team has evolved as the project moved from location to location. However, some key positions have remained constant. To date we have launched an international film festival & an international assemble of influence
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Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Businesses, Regional government, Customers.

Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

Association of Illustrator's worldwide New Talent Award in Public Realm Illustration 2013
Arthur Guinness Projects Art Award 2013
Bank of Ireland Start-Up Awards National Finalist 2014
Join Our Core - Irish Finalist 2014
Launched the 26th Galway Film Fleadh 2014.
Installed three drawings in Limerick as part of ‘Limerick City Of Culture, 2014’.
Launched ‘One Young World Summit Dublin, 2014’.
Awarded Edinburgh Neighbourhood Partnership Grant 2013.
Speaker at ‘Bright Conference' Amsterdam 2012.
Speaker at 'Other Voices' 2014.
Speaker at 'Resolution' 2014.

Where have you learnt about the competition?

Makers of More launch event in Shoreditch.

Tell us about your partnerships:

Galway Film Fleadh - the Galway Film Fleadh is the most prestigious annual film festival in Ireland. It attracts a huge international audience and this year I launched the Fleadh with two large-scale installations alongside a short film.
Pieta House - Pieta House is an Irish suicide and self harm prevention charity. This year they launched a campaign entitled 'Mind Our Men'. Collaboratively we marked International Men's Day November 19th.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The major challenge I currently face is the successful implementation of our funding strategy. We are moving through the initial stages of a hybrid phase and need to secure significant grant funding as we develop our commissioned/collaboration work and sales potential. I have targeted key social entrepreneur funding agencies and have been active in the development of online sales, key collaborative ventures, targeted crowd funding and exhibitions of documented and original artwork.