Community and Connection

Arts Network

Established creative arts charity for people with severe mental illness expands it services to two new south London boroughs

Arts Network is a charity that provides an inspirational and understanding environment for people diagnosed with mental health support needs, and challenges the stigma of mental health. The organisation has been active in Lewisham since 1996.

The charity supports people to achieve their personal goals through creative activities, exhibitions, and events that enable participants to learn new skills, increase self-confidence, and develop relationships.

Funding to expand

In 2020 Maudsley Charity supported Arts Network with a Community and Connection funding award to deliver additional services in Lambeth and Southwark which will enable an additional 200 people to take part in arts and creativity.

Through the programme Arts Network will support people to increase their self-confidence, build new relationships and develop new skills, which will help participants access volunteering and training opportunities.

Matthew Couper, Development Director, explains:

“We are excited about this opportunity to expand our work and to help as many people as possible. Everything so far seems to indicate that demand for services like ours is only going to increase.  Lots of other projects have closed due to COVID-19 or other reasons, so people need projects like ours, they need this support and we’ve adapted to temporarily deliver some of our work online.

“One of the biggest challenges we will face is building new relationships, it’s harder for people to get to know us and build confidence in the same way, when they can’t meet us in person. We are hoping to move some of our work offline again in the future back into studio spaces, once guidelines are clearer.

Accessing services

“We’ve been based in Lewisham for a long time,” explains Mo Saunders Founder and CEO of Arts Network.  “So we know the NHS mental health teams and have good relationships with our GPs. People can be referred to Arts Network by a range of health professionals, primarily through Community Mental Health Teams, and we work with people who have a Serious Mental Illness (SMI).

“A lot of our work connects to social prescribing, helping people to create links and feel part of something this could include going on trips or exhibiting work. As we role out our service more widely in Lambeth and Southwark we will be looking to establish the same links in these areas. Some of the conversations we are having at the moment about how our services are going to look in the future and providing broader access.”

Who uses the service?

Emily Patterson, Project Manager says: “We work with a diverse range of people from 18 – 100 years old, it’s really important for us to be flexible and provide a way people can stay with the service – people with quite complex needs may need time to adjust and grow their confidence.”

Providing further opportunity

Emily continues: “One of the things we noticed was members using the service and getting stuck in a routine, some people were falling through the gaps in a way, so we set up stronger partnerships and  connections with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s volunteering service (also funded by Maudsley Charity), our members can gain training and take up other roles in the local community and get DBS checked, allowing them to volunteer in more organisations and take up more specialised roles within Arts Network –  like helping curate exhibitions and invigilating our art gallery space. We want to make sure people get the most out of being part of Arts Network and have opportunities to develop and become part of the wider community.”

The impact of funding

Reflecting on the funding Maudsley Charity have provided, the team are excited about growing the service and providing access for more people and to support them to achieve their individual goals. Emily said: “I got goose bumps when I heard about Maudsley Charity’s support, it’s a lifeline. Thank you.”

You can find out more about Arts Network by visiting: