War veterans’ artworks on display at a new London exhibition | News

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War veterans’ artworks on display at a new London exhibition

As we mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, more than 60 veterans who have received mental health support, attended the opening on Thursday 27 June of an art exhibition of St Pancras Hospital which showcases their work.

All of them have sought and received help from London Op Courage – the mental health and wellbeing service for veterans provided by staff at North London Mental Health Partnership.

North London Mental Health Partnership Chair, Lena Samuels, said: “This exhibition is so important in the year that we mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Not only does it honour the sacrifice so many have made, but it also highlights the importance of the service we provide through London Op Courage to support so many service men and women. It clearly shows the power of art as therapy and its vital role in helping people get on the path to recovery from trauma.”

The Seeds of Hope: A New Dawn exhibits mixed media artwork created by veterans – including serving men and women - as well as friends, family and supporters. The exhibition displays paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, 3D installation, film and poetry.

One of the veterans who is exhibiting his artwork is former paratrooper, Andy Dawling, who served for over two decades in the UK's Elite Airborne Forces with the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. He received mental health support due to his personal struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“For 20 years I didn’t really share what was going through my head and there was a point when my window of tolerance shut,” he explained.

This year, Andy is walking over 350 miles to promote awareness as well as raising funds for the London Op Courage Veterans Service.

He started his pilgrimage on 11 June, which marks the 25th anniversary of the end of the Kosovo war, in which he served. It will take him all the way across England from Hadrian's Wall to Kent.

Andy is more than halfway through his pilgrimage and as he completes the last leg of his pilgrimage, he was able to make it in time for the London exhibition. At the exhibition, he is sharing some photographs of a sand drawing he did last year on Tenby Beach.

This was created during a pilgrimage he made last year along the Welsh coast. It attracted considerable social media coverage and raised funds for the NHS Op Courage and HALO Trust . 

Describing the artwork, he said: “It took us about six hours to complete and the drawings are poppies that represent and make us remember everyone that has died in the war.”

The Seeds of Hope: A New Dawn event was opened by North London Mental Health Partnership’s Chief Digital and Information Officer, Sarah Wilkins. In her speech, Sarah praised the artwork highlighting the difference it makes to staff who work in the building and the service users and carers that we support.

Nearly 200 people, including our C&I Governors Neil Davis and Olga Cecilia Farach, attended the launch event which had a number of special guests including Andrew Machin, Chair of the Central and North West London Armed Forces Accreditation Working Group, war veterans John Allison and Neil Davies and spiritual soul gospel singer Maurillia Simpson.

Peter Herbert, Curator and Manager of The Arts Project, said: “Art brings people and organisations together and this is no exception.

The exhibition is a result of the hard work, collaboration and creativity between so many different partners showcasing the amazing things that veterans create and it’s great that they have the opportunity and space to share this.”

Lead Peer Worker from London Op Courage, War Veteran and Professional Trainer/Coach, John Allison highlighted during his speech at the event:

“The exhibition is all about hope, recovery, new beginnings, and a way of leaving a legacy through artwork for future generations.

It’s also about inspiring other veterans and encourage expression and creativity amongst them.”

The exhibition is a result of the collaboration and support of The Soldiers’ Arts Academy and other Veterans services including London Op COURAGE, The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service at the North London Mental Health Partnership, STOLL, The Fighting Chance, SAA the Soldiers Art Academy.

The exhibition is open to the public until 31 October.

 Andy Dawling photos * Andy Dawling's photographs from his sand drawing at Tenby Beach in Wales.

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