Early Lab

Nick Bell and Fabiane Lee-Perrella

Early Lab is an on-going research experiment at UAL that addresses socio-ecological challenges with the people facing them in the place they are happening.

Early Lab members are founders Nick Bell, (UAL Chair of Communication Design) and Fabiane Lee-Perrella, (tutor BA 3D Design, Camberwell College of Arts), plus 8-12 students from the six UAL colleges at any one time.


Mental Health of Children and Young People.


Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) youth mental health service with the NSFT Youth Council (service users); North Denes Primary School; Flegg High School.


On-going from November 2014


Project 1: Field Trip to Norfolk, March 2015; Research Findings Document issued July 2015. Project 2: Field Trip series to Norfolk, Spring 2017; Research Findings Document to be issued summer 2017.

During Project 2 Early Lab will conduct further field trips to Norfolk to scope out the potential of the proposals presented during Project 1.

The three recommendations that propose to transform mental health service delivery by weaving it into the territory are:

  • distributed – decentralising and distributing the youth mental health service across the sparsely populated region activating existing unvalued assets and resources associated with informal relations;
  • user centred – making it a mobile and pop-up service that travels to users where they live or where they prefer to meet;
  • networked – and connecting to them, and from them to each other, through a new digital platform designed to speak in their voice.

In the hope of generating more favourable conditions in the territory for a preventative service, the three proposals on which the enabling solutions can be based are centred on primary and secondary schools:

  • emotional intelligence – scoping the potential for preventative behaviours (in children, that promote wellbeing) through school curriculum developments centred on emotional intelligence and empathy;
  • peer support – increasing mental health awareness in schools to normalise it and build peer support structures and cultures;
  • early intervention – scoping the potential for an extra educational layer of health resource (connecting education with other sectors) to enable early intervention for mental wellbeing in schools, relieving the GP bottleneck.

None of the above is achievable without creating a seamless, integrated service across the sectors of health, social care, education and youth justice. By bringing together representatives from each of these sectors to participate in a co-design process with service users, Early Lab aims to activate the desire all sectors are expressing, which is to share responsibility for the wellbeing of the territory. If it is possible to get sector responsibility overlapping, the gaps in service provision that young people, children, their families and whole communities have been falling through can be closed.