Who are we?

CNWL Arts in Health is facilitated by experienced clinicians, and artists working in partnership with CNWL commissioned services. We promote any possibility where art increases health and wellbeing. This could be by viewing art, hearing music, doing movement meditations, or participating in a vast array of artistic activities.

We are a rapidly expanding service that is community-based and runs parallel to mainstream psychiatric services. Although we are not a clinically-led service, we find innovative ways to engage participants with the creative arts, to support the overall aims of social services in the London Boroughs of Kensington, Chelsea, Westminster and Brent. We have been supporting patients with severe and enduring conditions during and/or after their discharge from formal mental health services since 2010.

Friday Studios

Every Friday we host a therapeutic space for our service users to create, write and engage with the arts. We hold space for participants to bring their whole self to the session, whether that be singing, dancing, writing poetry or doing origami, we facilitate a safe environment for participants to have freedom in their choice of creative expression.

Although our usual Friday in-person services are currently paused, our team are working remotely and have moved our sessions online to continue to support service users during these uncertain and challenging times.

We work with our service users to shape and build services they want to be part of. During our virtual Friday Studios, our participants have been curating their artwork under monthly themes, some examples of topics we have covered include ‘Through my window,’ ‘Fragility,’ and ‘Bravery.’ This artwork will be available to see in our upcoming Summer Exhibition.

Gallery Visits and Digital Engagement Sessions

Our service users are invited to attend a monthly ‘Art Visit,’ which range from visiting art galleries and museums to seeing live music and drama performance. This is an opportunity for participants to meet each other, see new exhibitions in the community, make artwork together, and share reflections on the gallery.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have moved these visits online by delivering digital engagement sessions and virtual tours in partnership with leading arts and culture organisations in London.

Arts in Health Exhibitions

We are proud to celebrate and commemorate the artwork our service users make as part of CNWL Arts in Health by curating exhibitions of their work. Most recently, we curated a staff and service user joint exhibition, called ‘Home Truths’ at Park Royal Industrial Site. We look forward to holding a Summer Exhibition in the coming months to reflect on the incredible artwork and resilience of our service users during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CNWL Arts in Health and the Arts Psychotherapies are distinctly separated by their funding sources. The Arts Therapies serves as a clinical provision and treats patients and, therefore is commissioned for this purpose.

CNWL Arts in Health is a step-down service, and although not clinical, through its links with community and inpatient projects, we provide therapeutic support using the arts. We work closely with other professionals including Artists, Musicians, Actors, Dancers and Filmmakers, as part of our work to provide quality projects for people facing mental health difficulties.

British Museum Creative Resilience Workshop

In response to the national closure of art and culture organisations during lockdown, CNWL Arts in Health partnered with the British Museum to bring the arts to our service users virtual. Our first digital workshop with the British Museum explored objects from around the world and across eras, to highlight themes ofcreativity, craftsmanship and resilience.

Key objects include early examples of innovation and technology, tools to help us with daily life, and objects used for survival in harsh climates. Masquerade masks and musical instruments used to promote community identity, unusual materials show creative craftsmanship, and selected objects illustrate moments of resistance and resilience. The workshop was an opportunity for our service users to share their reflections on life in lockdown while considering the role of creativity on their individual and collective wellbeing.

The workshop was our largest online participation to date and was well-received by our service users. CNWL Arts in Health have previously worked with the British Museum’s Creative Partnership team before lockdown and look forward to bringing more innovative workshops like this to our service users in the future.

Brent Museum and Archives

Following a gallery visit to the newly refurbished ‘Library at Willesden Green,’ the CNWL Arts in Health team were amazed by an exhibition set up by Brent Museum and Archives Team and the gallery’s space and scope. A simple enquiry led to CNWL Arts in Health collaborating with Brent Museum and Archives on what would become ‘The Friday Studios.’

This led to CNWL Arts in Health’ participants working termly, producing individual artwork, some inspired by the heritage team’s artefacts, and exhibiting the work within the Library’s Foyer Gallery Wall. CNWL Arts in Health and Brent Museum and Archives have also partnered together for London Arts and Health Forum's ‘Creativity and Wellbeing Week of 2018,’ to facilitate creative workshop sessions and ‘science of acting’ workshops within the Library’s Theatre.

The Wellcome Art and Health Collection

In 2017, CNWL Arts in Health partnered with the Wellcome Collection and other arts organisations and independent artists over a yearlong collaboration exploring the relationship between the arts and health. They include the Adamson Collection, work by individuals living with physical or mental illnesses such as Audrey Amiss’ archive, and the archives of organisations like our own, which promote and research artistic creativity, to encourage self-expression, recovery and wellbeing.

For this collaboration, we defined thematic interests, objectives, target collections and outputs in consultation with our CNWL Arts in Heath's participants. This was done through:

  • A CNWL-led workshop, where existing interests and themes were developed and built on
  • A collage workshop and conversation
  • A tour of Wellcome’s Reading Room and Library, followed by a conversation at the Wellcome Collection

Our registered charity number is 1082989.

“Visual and performing arts in healthcare environments help to reduce sickness, anxiety and stress.” - All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Report of 2017

Research increasingly shows that taking part in creative activities has a positive effect on physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, and that the use of the arts in healthcare can:

  •  Improve quality of life
  • Maintain levels of independence
  • Build participants’ sense of wellbeing
  • Increase self-esteem and confidence
  • Mitigate the effects of social disadvantage
  • Provide an opportunity for self-expression
  • Create an improved working environment
  • Reduce stress, and increase social engagement
  • Improve outcome of people experiencing mental or physical health problems*

*Sourced from London Arts in Health Forum, and the APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing

Regardless of culture or time, people have always made art, which strongly indicates that the process of art-making is an essential part of our humanity. Creative activity engages the imagination, enhances social skills and improves self-esteem, which may have a profound impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing.

“The organisation of this was immense and has enabled vital therapies to continue during this difficult year.” - Ryan Kemp, Director of Therapies at CNWL NHS.

Inaccessibility to creative tools and materials posed a difficult challenge for our service users when moving online for our Friday Studios. In response to this need, our team worked tirelessly to create art packs for participants isolated at home, to still have access to creative therapeutic treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our work was kindly nominated by colleagues under the category of AHP/Therapies Innovation of the Year at the 2020 CNWL AHP/Therapy Awards. Our team are thankful to have been selected by the shortlisting panel as one of the finalists for this category among nearly fifty other incredible nominations.

An example of a CNWL Arts in Health’s art pack


Art Pack.jpeg

Who facilitates the CNWL Arts in Health Friday Studios and monthly Art Visits?

CNWL Arts in Health is co-facilitated by the Arts in Health team, we are a mixture of Arts Psychotherapists, Mental health practitioners and students in training, and honorary volunteers. You can find out a bit more about the team below.

Our monthly Art Visits are facilitated by the arts and culture organisations we partner with, artists, creatives and musicians, working in partnership with the CNWL Arts in Health team.

How am I able to get referred to CNWL Arts in Health?

Many of our referrals are received from secondary care services, from our colleagues with the Arts Therapies, as a step-down care service for participants who are looking for an ongoing creative outlet. We also receive some primary care referrals, and occasionally self-referrals though typically from current or previous CNWL service users with the Trust’s remit.

Am I able to join in remotely?

Definitely, at the moment our Friday Studios and monthly Art Visits are all accessible remotely through Zoom. We welcome participants to join via the Zoom on desktop or mobile app, or dial in from your mobile. Participants are free to turn off or on their cameras and mics depending on how they feel.

Do I have to join every week?

There is no pressure for service users to join every week, we welcome participants to join the Friday Studios, Participants’ meetings or monthly Art Visits when they feel ready to. If you have any concerns or questions about your attendance, please feel free to contact our team at cnwlartsinhealth@nhs.net, or call us at 020 8438 1740 or 07845 499282.

Do I need to be an artist or just enjoy the arts?

You do not need to be an artist to join the CNWL Arts in Health sessions, we welcome participants of all backgrounds and experiences with the arts. Participants

are well to be creative through whatever medium they feel comfortable with, be that drawing, painting, singing, or writing fanfiction or poetry. Our service users are also welcome to just join to talk with our participants, there is no pressure to be creative during or after the Friday Studios or Art Visits.

Do I have to share artwork I produce in the Friday Studios?

Although we love to see and celebrate the incredible artwork our service users create in our Friday Studios, there is no pressure for participants to share this with us or the group. We do welcome participants to send over their artwork if they feel comfortable, which they can do either in Zoom via direct message, or by emailing or texting us.

How can I get in contact if I have other questions?

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions, by emailing us at cnwlartsinhealth@nhs.net, texting us at 07845 499282 or calling us at 020 8438 1740.

Click on a face to learn more about the team.

CNWL Arts in Health team.png

Since CNWL Arts in Health was launched in March 2010 we have successfully run, developed and lead several projects according to the needs of our participants and service.

Creating Freedom at Horton Haven

Producer and Director, Alex Dower, devised a series of workshops on acting using the science of acting. This included four weeks of workshops and one week of filming producing a short narrative film and a documentary, which premiered in West End, London.

Creating Freedom at Horton Haven 2.0

Following its success in 2012, a similar project was created for a larger participant group, to have workshops and undertake filming of a short film set in the 14th century. The premiere of the film was held in the Everyman Cinema Belsize Park and Epsom in December 2013.

Home Truths

A joint exhibition between staff and service users entitled ‘Home Truths’ at Park Royal Industrial Site.

Horton Recording Project

Over a series of three months at Horton Haven, the singing group worked with a Music Therapist, to create a full album produced on CD with original music from residents at Horton Haven and choir covers.

Light Graffiti

A community project at Brent Museum with an artist creating light images with participants from a variety of backgrounds with a celebration event at Willesden Library centre and exhibition.

Mapping Shoe Stories

A community project led by the artist, Caroline Lee, to create a temporary exhibition at Brent’s Civic Centre. It included a celebration event featuring the Horton Singing Group and collaboration with Dance Company.

Olympic Torch Project

Working with Brent Council Cultural Olympiad and Mahogany Carnival Design, this was a large-scale project set in the acute and forensic wards of Park Royal. The project included large flags produced for the torch relay through Wembley for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Park Royal Tri-Ward Project

An artist led project working on three wards of Park Royal to create permanent works of art for all three wards. The project was made by the staff and service users on the wards, and was in collaboration with charity volunteers from Studio Upstairs.

Pine Ward

Staff and service users held a collaborative event on an acute ward in “Park Royal Centre for Mental Health.” This was an innovative artist-led workshop to create permanent artworks for the ward’s communal areas.

Places I’d like to be at Chamberlayne Road

We held a community workshop which ran for two weeks, featuring artist, Emma Hart, who led a video and photography collaborative project.

South Kilburn artist-in-residence

A collaborative project with service-user led charity to create a permanent piece of work for the Salvation Army.

Willesden Gallery Wall Art Project

We supported the artist, Bar Angelo to hold his first solo exhibition in partnership with Brent Council.

Our Partners

Some of the organisations CNWL Arts in Health has previously partnered with: