Smiley Movement logo

Woman tours in ice cream van to talk about grief

Words by Smiley Team

An artist known for tackling taboo subjects has planned a UK summer tour in a colourful ice cream van to help destigmatise mental health

Annie Nicholson – a.k.a the Fandangoe Kid – intends to dish out ice cream while having conversations about grief during Covid. Her colourful mobile installation – dubbed The Fandangoe Whip – hopes to encourage people to chat by using the comforting and familiar icon of an ice-cream van to open conversations about our collective mental health. 

“Grief is a part of life and one that comes to us all,” says Annie. “The sooner we find ways in which we can start to share this, the less overwhelming I believe the world will be.” 

[Read More: What it takes to be a serial fundraiser]

Having lost most of her close family in an accident in New York in 2011, Annie has used the past few years publicly exploring the issue of grief and how we learn to live with it. The idea of the Fandangoe Whip was initially conceived in 2020 as a means to mark the 10-year anniversary of her loss, and intended to take place in New York. 

As the project – and the pandemic – developed however, it became clear that the concept of a touring mobile installation beginning in the UK and moving on to NYC in 2022 would be more appropriate, given the far-reaching impact of Covid-19 on our nation’s mental health. 

“The Whip is underpinned by a decade of my own experience in working with mental health and grief, and a deep understanding of the conditions needed to create a safe space for storytelling and sharing thoughts on such sensitive topics,” she says. “The idea of a mobile project appealed because of its capacity to reach the heart of communities across the country, and eventually across the world.” 

The Fandangoe Whip has been developed in collaboration with arts producer Sarah Toplis, with the backing of a combination of artistic and institutional partnerships, and the Mayor of London’s backed Crowdfunder, Make London. 

[Read More: Jiu-jitsu teacher helps kids fulfil their potential]

The artist has worked with young people and marginalised communities in inner-city London for many years and has actively set out to create an environment that will reach those who don’t feel comfortable going into galleries and institutions, as well as those who may be reluctant to talk about difficult subjects such as grief and mental health. 

How does the van work?

Because the ice cream van is recognised as a fun, safe space across ages and cultural boundaries, Annie believes it makes an ideal platform to engage diverse audiences on the subject of trauma as we emerge from the pandemic. 

Visitors can interact with the Fandangoe Whip in a number of ways – you can pop by simply for an ice cream and a chat, sign up for a talk or workshop, and stick around to share your own experiences of grief and mental health. 

“It’s my belief that we need this work now more than ever, as we come through and process this severely painful and disruptive year,” she says. “We have all experienced a loss of some sort this past year, whether it is a physical loss of loved ones or a loss of lifestyle and routine, or both. How have we survived lockdown? How are we processing the grief of all of those we have lost? And how can we do this together?” 

Where can you find the ice cream van?

Beginning in Hackney, east London, the Fandangoe Whip will tour the UK throughout the summer and autumn, working with a number of partners and mental health specialists to offer a creative programme of workshops and events devised exclusively for this immersive public artwork. 

Confirmed destinations so far include a launch at A Portuguese Love Affair in Hackney (with whom the artist has collaborated on a range of ice cream flavours), Metal in Southend and Heart of Glass in St Helens, with plans in the pipeline for appearances in Scotland, Liverpool, Manchester and Margate. 

The Fandangoe Whip is scheduled to be part of the London Design Festival in September, as well as the Canary Wharf World Mental Health programme 2021, and a number of other festival appearances are also likely. 

To find out more, visit

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…