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differently various: exhibition guide

Terrance Barr, Neural Reef Series, 2023.

Celebrating the community and creativity of people living with brain injury, this multifaceted exhibition and public programme asks: ‘who gets to be an artist?’

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Headway East London is a charity based in Hackney that supports over 700 people affected by brain injury annually across 13 boroughs, and has grown into an empowering, creative community for brain injury survivors.

In 2019, the charity became the Barbican’s first Community Collaborator, piloting a partnership based on two-way exchange and learning. differently various – a takeover of The Curve and the first exhibition co-produced by people living with brain injury – is the culmination of this four-year partnership.

The title emerged as an expression that Headway East London member Quentin Goss used to describe their community.

The vision of this exhibition is to recreate the places, spaces and creativity of the community at Headway East London. differently various honours their voices and perspectives through four journeys: Experience, Learning, Creativity and Community.

Sharing the artwork and stories of individuals who have experienced brain injury alongside a series of member-led events, this exhibition welcomes you into the vitality of its Hackney centre and art studio, Submit to Love.

Starting with the question ‘who gets to be an artist?’, differently various has been co-produced with a Steering Group of 11 Headway members and volunteers who have been meeting for over a year. They set the vision and direction and have taken major creative decisions collectively, from choosing the title to recruiting the designers. Actively contributing as artists and decision-makers, their passion shines through in what you are about to experience.


Headway East London

At Headway East London, every member has an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). ABI has many different causes including strokes, meningitis, encephalitis, and brain tumours, but also injuries to the head caused by things like car accidents (known as Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI).

Headway East London’s vision is for people living with brain injury to experience a world which is accessible to them, and where their contributions are valued and celebrated. They believe that every member has something to contribute to both Headway and the wider community. Members participate in occupational projects that inspire new, and perhaps unexpected, identities like artist, chef and musician.

The heart of Headway East London is its centre – a space of fun, food, music, dance and games. From cooking a delicious daily lunch together, to joining in a music jam or singing happy birthday, members are at the core of the community. Everyone – members, staff, volunteers and visitors – are a valued and celebrated part of this powerful community.


Submit to Love
Discovery Through Art

Creativity can be a powerful tool for recovery, communication and self-expression. A brain injury can change how you perceive the world, and how you perceive yourself, leading to new outlets of artistic expression that help people accept and develop from their brain injury, as well as take on new identities: as artists.

At Headway East London, some members discover newfound creativity following their brain injury – undiscovered talents that they develop week after week in the Submit to Love art studio, as named by member Tony Allen. It is a buzzing and open environment, and is home to all the artists living with brain injury that you see in this exhibition.

For Submit to Love, the act of making is an empowering and hopeful one. In making something, you’re discovering new gifts, new cultures, and new connections. That’s why their mission is ‘discovery through art’. Art that is by everyone, for everyone.

arts council
national lottery heritage fund
headway east london

This exhibition is generously supported by Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Peter Sowerby Foundation and Rix-Thompson Rothenberg Foundation.

Headway East London member quotes

‘We’re all human beings, but we’re differently various. What’s ‘normal’ is much bigger than people think. And it includes people with a brain injury.‘
Chris Miller
‘Making art at Headway East London has helped me become who I am. I wouldn’t be the artist I am without the studio. It has given me a lot of confidence and done a lot for my self-esteem.’‘
Sam Jevon
‘At its root, the phrase differently various reflects openness and acceptance, a generosity of spirit and a celebration of otherness. It is a torch worth carrying down even the rockiest of roads.‘
Billy Mann

Artwork credits

Click through the image gallery above to view artworks in full.

  1. Terrance Barr, Neural Reef Series, 2023.
  2. Leon Foggitt, Terry and Luca, 2022.
  3. Chris Miller, Me as Venus, 2018.
  4. Sam Jevon, Sam’s Self-portrait, 2014.
  5. Tony Allen, You Can Do Absolutely Anything With Imagination, 2019.
  6. Leon Foggitt, Stephen and Cecil, 2019.

A huge thank you to all of our incredible members and artists featured in the show:

Chippy Aiton, Sayed Ali, Tony Allen, Matthew Atkinson, Belinda Ballhatchett, Terrance Barr, Jon Barry, Clare Bottomley, Alex Brady, Tony Brooks, Jovan Brown, Lawrence Carroll, Sean Carty, Roy Caward, Firoza Choudhury, James Compton, Craig Darby, Affiong Day, Posy Dixon, Errol Drysdale, Paul Elliot, Jason Ferry, Elijah Grant, Simon Halliwell, Dean Harding, Pamela Harris, Paul Harris, Ken Hazeldine, Calvin Hill, Isabel Hinojosa, Mike Hoyle, Velma Hurst, Tim Isaac, Sam Jevon, Alpha Kabeja, David Keen, Freddy Muhammed Khan, Oliver Kluczewski, Saroj Kumar, Lina Lacides, Witman Laryea, Simon Letchford, Sandra Lott, Theresa Malcolm, Billy Mann, Marvin Mann, Yokabet Mekuria, Dave Mercer, Tirzah Mileham, Chris Miller, Zara Joan Miller, John Myers, Graham Naylor, Thando Mathieu Ndlovu, Sajid Patel, Cheryl Paul, Jackie Pingue, Luca Pisano, Mike Poole, Angela Popo, Jesus Porras, Ed Prosser, Menderes ‘Mendy’ Qerimi, Bradley Reay, Donna Rogers, Claudine Roux, Brian Searle, Luke Shepherd, Alex Sherlock, Trevor Small, Evaldas Sorocinskis, Sandra St Hilaire, Stephen Staunton, Mark Taylor, Lewis Unwin, Cecil Waldron, Paul Wright, Carol Zeniou

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Instagram @submittolovestudios

Donate to Headway East London

This year we celebrate our 25th birthday! Help us to continue changing the lives of people living with brain injury.

Text HAPPYBIRTHDAY to 70085 to donate £10

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