Arts Network was was founded in 1996 out of a need to empower mental health service users to design and contribute to their day services. This involved interviewing service users and asking them what they would like to see changed in their day services and what they felt helped improve their mental wellbeing.
Out of these conversations, it became clear that there was a real desire for a space in which people could engage in creative activities as a part of a wider community. Loneliness and isolation being both a cause and consequence of serious mental illness, having time set aside for creative activities in a non-clinical, group environment would be a crucial factor on the road to recovery.
And so, Arts Network (then called Network Arts) began as a pilot project running for 16 weeks with the South London and Maudsley Trust (SLaM). By the end of this period it became clear that the project had addressed a real need, with Arts Network being one of the few pilot projects that saw a growth in its user base rather than a decline. This being the case, SLaM commissioned Arts Network, and by 2011 the project was working with 80-100 individuals living with severe mental illness.
Then, in 2011, drastic cuts to day services meant that Arts Network was decommissioned as part of the NHS.
Arts Network was then set up as a charity, simply meeting up with members in coffee shops until enough funding was secured in 2012 to move to a field location and continue the project.
Arts Network now helps over 200 people suffering from severe mental illness across London each year, all of whom form a community of creative individuals engaged in art and artistic practice.