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Making Headway through art

Making Headway through art

An East London charity has come up with an innovative way of raising funds for its vital work with people who have survived a brain injury. Headway East London describes its vision as being to create a community in which people with brain injury are valued, respected and able to fulfil their potential to lead full, active lives. Their day centre in Hoxton aims to help its members regain quality of life through a wide range of services. One way they have found particularly effective is through art.


Many brain injury survivors are unable to communicate with the world as they did before their injury. Headway provides them with a creative space in which they can learn to express themselves through their artwork. They pride themselves on being an egalitarian community where there are no set rules or agendas. Members are therefore free to work in whichever way suits them best and to create whatever they feel would be beneficial for them or the group.

Earlier this month, after much hard work, Headway members teamed up with Barclays to present an exhibition of their work at One Churchill Place, the towering skyscraper with spectacular views across the City and beyond, which also happens to be Barclays’ HQ. The title of the exhibition was ‘Concrete Jungle’, a reference not only to its striking Docklands setting, but also to the experiences of the artists themselves, who have, by necessity, had to learn to renegotiate their way through life’s jungle, both physically and emotionally.


The centrepiece of the exhibition was a sprawling cityscape of acrylic on canvas, in which elephants, leopards and gorillas mingled happily amongst some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks. The eye-catching piece was a result of a collaboration between over 20 Headway members and its vibrant colours were reminiscent of the works of post-impressionists like Henri Rousseau.

Other collaborative pieces included four large mosaic-covered sculptures, including a contemplative polar bear and a rather coy looking penguin. All had bags of personality and we hope had found good homes by the end of the evening.


Elsewhere, more abstract works made beautiful use of colour and seemed to luminesce in the evening sun as it flooded the high-rise exhibition space. Further collaborations featured hundreds of multi-coloured fingerprints to create the effect of cherry blossom on two beautifully vivid canvases.

There were also individual pieces, including a number of line drawings which spoke of the artists’ personal experiences.  Sam, one of the featured artists, explained what Headway’s art project has meant to her: “Art is good for my concentration, it keeps me very focused. It makes me feel relaxed and very proud of myself.” Art has also helped in her recovery, as she described how she had “come a long way” through her involvement with Headway.


Miriam Lantsbury, Chief Executive of Headway, explained the importance of Headway members being defined by their abilities as artists, rather than by their disabilities. She also spoke of the importance of using positive labels to describe what people can do rather than what they can’t: “It’s not just about brain injury; we bring people together and help them feel valued.”

All proceeds from the exhibition went directly to Headway; long may their vital work continue.