Credits (L-R): Art by Post exhibition SC – CR Thierry Bal; Art by Post participant – CR Robert Darch; Art by Post bus and billboard campaign – CR Robert Darch, Kate Elliott, Eoin Carey

  • Art by Post: Of Home and Hope launches today at Southbank Centre before touring nationwide for five months to showcase the power of art and culture on health and wellbeing
  • Creative responses from over 4,500 Art by Post participants have been selected and carefully curated for this one-of-a-kind exhibition
  • Social prescribing link workers referred people to Art by Post during the lockdown – and Art by Post is a great example of people connecting to activities that help manage their health and wellbeing through social prescribing
  • The ambitious project is delivered in partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) and supported by leading international health bodies, including the World Health Organisation, as well as 13 delivery partners and over 150 domestic referral partners
  • The announcement comes as the Southbank Centre makes the continued case for enhanced community access to art for health and wellbeing

Six more venues have been unveiled who will participate in the nationwide tour of its much-anticipated exhibition Art by Post: Of Home and Hope.

The exhibition launches today at the Southbank Centre in London, in partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), before touring the UK from October.

Touring sites announced today are: The Mill Arts Centre and Banbury Museum & Gallery in Oxfordshire, Arts Centre Washington in Sunderland, The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in Canterbury, HOME in Manchester and De Montfort University in Leicester.

In May 2020, Southbank Centre launched Art by Post, sending monthly creative booklets to 4,500 people across the country who were at risk from social isolation and digital exclusion during the pandemic. Many participants were supported by friends, family members, neighbours, healthcare professionals and social prescribing link workers who were vital in referring people to the initiative and joining in with the activities themselves. Included in the packs were Freepost envelopes, encouraging participants to share their artwork with us. To date, over 40,000 booklets have been sent out and over 600 artworks sent back.

Shaped by the isolating experience of lockdown, the new exhibition, curated by Persilia Caton and endorsed by international health bodies including the World Health Organisation, showcases the power of art on health & wellbeing and celebrates creativity and resilience of participants. It draws on many of the themes included in the commissioned booklets, such as nature, hope, sound and movement.

With participants from Aberdeen to Bangor and Truro to Dover and aged between 18 and 103, the Southbank Centre looks ahead to taking Art by Post on tour to bring the work of participants back to local communities. The tour will be supplemented by a UK-wide poster and bus stop campaign featuring specially-commissioned portrait photography of Art by Post participants.

An online gallery also launches today as the in-person show gets underway in London. This digital exhibition offer will connect those who are continuing to shield or who are unable to travel. Meanwhile, pop-ups at major NHS Hospital Trusts and care settings nationwide to sustain deep community engagement.

The National Academy for Social Prescribing has been instrumental in the roll out of Art by Post since the body formally partnered with the Southbank Centre in 2019. NASP will be based on site by the end of the year, enabling both organisations to carry out urgent work in this area – the need for which has been highlighted 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.

Art by Post is being supported by 13 strategic partners and a further 156 delivery groups nationwide. Alongside the touring venues, additional strategic partners include organisations in the arts, health and social care space. 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.

Art by Post project participant said: “Since starting the Art by Post and putting words down on paper, especially the poems, it seems to be much easier, you have brought out a part of me that has laid hidden for virtually all my life, so for that alone, I thank you.”

Alexandra Brierley, Director of Creative Learning, Southbank Centre, said: “We are so proud to announce our six partner venues for Art by Post: Of Home and Hope as the exhibition gets underway today at the Southbank Centre. Art by Post’s success is down to the participants who have given so generously to the project over the past 18 months and we are delighted to be able to showcase so much of their work in this one-of-a-kind exhibition. Art by Post is demonstrating the transformative power of art for health and wellbeing and, alongside the National Academy for Social Prescribing and over 160 partners, we will continue to make the case for enhanced community access and funding to it.”

James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said: “Art can be powerful and meaningful for many, whether it’s taking part in an activity, learning something new or going to an exhibition.

Art by Post engaged people in their homes, providing a way to feel connected to others. Social prescribing link workers can connect people to projects like this to support them alongside wider health plans. We’re delighted to be working with the Southbank Centre and our touring venues on this inspiring and engaging exhibit, demonstrating the power of art and enabling more people and communities to connect to art for their health and wellbeing around the country.”

Darren Henley, CEO, Arts Council England, said: “We’ve invested in the National Academy for Social Prescribing since its launch, so it’s exciting to see how its work in partnership with the Southbank Centre is helping people across the country to lead happier, healthier lives by unlocking their own creativity.”

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.

Art by Post: Of Home and Hope is open now at the Southbank Centre. Admission is free. Please visit their website for more information.