Over 600 pieces of artwork created in lockdown to form nationwide exhibition

The exhibition aims to highlight the power of art on health and wellbeing.

The UK’s largest multi-arts centre, the Southbank Centre in London, today announces a five-month touring exhibition, which will bring over 600 pieces of artwork created during lockdown out of the shadows and into major UK venues to showcase the power of art on health & wellbeing during the pandemic.

“Here at the Southbank Centre we’re incredibly proud of Art by Post and its reach this past year, bringing free cultural activities to over 4,500 people nationwide to ease isolation, loneliness and digital exclusion. Now, alongside 13 delivery partners and over 150 referral partners, we’re bringing over 600 pieces of artwork from our project participants to venues nationwide and an online exhibition to showcase the vital power of art on health and wellbeing. We are hugely grateful to the support of our key partner, the National Academy for Social Prescribing as we put on this ambitious programme. We will use this moment to make the continued case for enhanced community access to art for health and wellbeing.”

– Alexandra Brierley, Director of Creative Learning, Southbank Centre

The ambitious project is the culmination of the Southbank Centre’s landmark Covid-19 initiative, Art by Post which since it started in May 2020 has provided over 4,500 people at risk from social isolation, loneliness and digital exclusion with free cultural activities. Art by Post: Unlocking creativity for our wellbeing will celebrate the power and potential of the role of creativity in people’s lives, their health and wellbeing. It will open on 20 September 2021 before touring the length of the country.

It comes as the Southbank Centre announces its ongoing strategic partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP). This relationship began in June 2019 when the body was formally launched at the Southbank Centre by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. By the end of the year the body will be based at the site, enabling it to carry out urgent work in this area – the need for which has been exposed by the pandemic.

The Academy aims to champion the value of social prescribing by demonstrating the power of the arts, culture, sports, leisure and the natural environment in connecting people and communities. Working with its Thriving Communities programme, online masterclasses for community groups will be held across the country, showing how Art by Post can be emulated by community groups elsewhere, and build local momentum for social prescribing.

The new exhibition is being supported by 13 strategic partners and a further 156 delivery groups nationwide. Touring sites include Banbury Museum & Gallery, The Mill Arts Centre (Banbury), Arts Centre Washington, HOME Manchester with two further venues to be announced. Additional strategic partners include organisations in the health and social care arena; they will help sustain deep community engagement as the project continues to be rolled out to participants. These are Age UK Oxfordshire & Camden, artsdepot, Beacon Arts, Dulwich Picture Gallery, NAPA Arts in Care Homes, Nightingale Hammerson, Philharmonia Orchestra, HOME, Platform, Kings College Hospital Trust, Sunderland Culture and The Barn.

An online exhibition will launch at the same time to showcase the poignant creative responses to Art by Post, connecting those who are continuing to shield, or who are unable to travel, to the regional touring sites. Meanwhile, pop-ups at major NHS Hospital Trusts and care settings nationwide will bring the exhibition back to local communities.

Curated by Persilia Caton, the exhibition will showcase creative responses to the commissioned activity booklets organised by themes such as: nature, hope, sound and movement. Shaped by the isolating experience of lockdown, together the artworks celebrate creativity and resilience.

“As a science-based organization, WHO puts a lot of emphasis on evidence and data. At the same time, we must acknowledge that art has the power to inspire and communicate in ways that guidelines, graphs and charts don’t. To achieve our goals, we must use every tool at our disposal to change behaviors and drive impact.”

– Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization

Conceived at the 1951 Festival of Britain – at the time seen as a tonic for the nation’s wellbeing – through to the present day, the Southbank Centre has long been an advocate of the role of the arts and culture in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.


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