Thursday 9 June 2016

Generously supported by the Palley Family

David Bowie, Adele and Rio Ferdinand are among the famous faces that will go on show in a new display opening today (10 June 2016) at the National Portrait Gallery which celebrates - through a giant photograph - the inspirational figures that have lived or worked in Lambeth and Southwark.

GCSE Art Students from St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School in Southwark and artist Simon Terrill have used the Gallery’s Collection of portraits of famous south London sitters to develop a series of works, culminating in a panoramic  elevated view of the school, which doubles up as a magically-lit group portrait of 180 students.  

Divided into nine groups, the students responded through pose and gesture to the displayed portraits of people with ‘south of the river’ connections. The ambitious photo-shoot began at dusk and ended after dark on 7 March 2016 and involved over 230 people. A large format camera was set up on the roof of a nearby tower block, construction site lights were placed in situ, a smoke machine was activated and a DJ played tracks. Every ten minutes on a sound cue the music stopped and the school fell silent while the students held their pose for each long-exposure shot.

Displayed for the first time, the Gallery’s commissioned portrait is the latest in artist Simon Terrill’s Crowd Theory series, in which images are created that explore what happens when large groups of people gather in a place of personal significance.

Creative Connections: South of the River (10 June – 6 September 2016) presents the students’ work alongside   Gallery photographs of Brixton-born singer David Bowie, Brixton resident Adele, who wrote her first song Hometown Glory about south London, and footballer Rio Ferdinand who lived on Peckham’s Friary estate.

The display also includes photographs of musician Roots Manuva who grew up in Stockwell and whose first album was recorded in a community studio on the Angell Town estate; scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock who attended Strand School, Tulse Hill; writer Malorie Blackman whose childhood was spent in Clapham; gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who lives in Elephant and Castle and was selected as a Labour candidate for Bermondsey; fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood who lives in Clapham; and soldier Johnson Beharry who lived in Southwark and was awarded the Freedom of the Borough in 2012.  

Simon Terrill is an Australian artist living in London who works with photography, sculpture, video and installation. In 2008 he was awarded the Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship, for a year at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Recent exhibitions include The Brutalist Playground a collaboration with Assemble at the Royal Institute of British Architects; Negotiating this World, National Gallery of Victoria and Crowd Theory Adelaide, Samstag Museum of Art. Simon currently lectures in the history and theory of photography at London Southbank University. The Creative Connections commission is the ninth iteration of Terrill’s Crowd Theory project, a series of photographic performance works

St Saviour’s and St Olaves, Southwark, is a fully inclusive and successful inner city Church of England comprehensive school for girls with a history that can be traced back to 1562. Many of the students have gone on to study at the most prestigious universities in the UK, but this academic success is far from the whole story.  It is a community with shared values rooted in faith, where students have opportunities to grow into confident, caring and successful young women.

Liz Smith, Director of Participation and Learning, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The four year Creative Connections project has been a collaborative, artistic and participative journey from the start but particularly so in this final year. Creative Connections: South of the River represents identity and place in a way that creates tension between the personal and collective experience and challenges perceptions of sitting for a portrait. In producing this exciting new work, the Gallery is proud to have worked with artist Simon Terrill, St Saviour’s and St Olave’s, Southwark. Looking forward, the Gallery has ambitions for the project model to extend beyond London and engage young people in researching and making new work about representations of self and locality inspired by the National Portrait Gallery Collection’.

Catherine May, Headteacher of St Saviour’s and St Olave’s, Southwark, says: ‘We were absolutely thrilled to be a part of this unique project.  Working with the National Portrait Gallery and with Simon has been such a positive experience for the whole school, but especially for those students directly involved.  The evening of the photo shoot was such a joyful occasion it will live long in our memories, and we are really looking forward to seeing the picture of our school in our school!.’

Midge Palley, who initiated Creative Connections with the National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘This project is all about confidence building. Through working with inspiring sitters in the Gallery’s Collection these young people have developed a pride in their identity and culture. To see the smiles and excitement on the faces of the students as they see the culmination of their year’s work on the walls of the gallery is unforgettable.  It has been a remarkably rewarding project to support.’

Creative Connections: South of the River is the final part of a four-year creative arts project to connect young people in different London boroughs with contemporary artists to make new artworks that explore identity and place through the lens of the Gallery’s Collection. The project draws on the stories of inspirational people and traces their links with areas of East, West, North and South London.

Each year artists collaborate with GCSE Art students to create original works that are exhibited at the Gallery alongside the portraits that inspired them. During this four-year programme the Gallery’s  partner schools and artists have been: St Paul’s Way School, Tower Hamlets and artist Lucy Steggals (2013); Brentside High School, Ealing and artist Eelyn Lee (2014); Haverstock School, Camden and artist Kate Peters (2015) and St Saviours and St Olaves School, Southwark and artist Simon Terrill (2016).

Follow the Creative Connections blog on Tumblr and join in the Creative Connections photographic competition.

For further information about Creative Connections: South of the River, please visit /creativeconnections   


Rooms 37 and 37a, 10 June – 6 September 2016, Lerner Contemporary Galleries on the Ground Floor, National Portrait Gallery, London  Admission Free

EVENTS A series of events for both young people and adults will take place to coincide with the display.


Creative Connections: South of the River - Journey from the A-Z to Ziggy Stardust, £10/£8

Historian and author Lucinda Hawksley leads a tour around Lambeth and Southwark, revealing the stories of the people who have inspired the Creative Connections display – from  A-Z creator Phyllis Pearsall to Brixton-born David Bowie.  

For further Press information, please contact: Neil Evans, Media Relations Manager, National Portrait Gallery:

Tel. 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) / Email [email protected]

To download press releases and images, please go to:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.00 – 18.00 (Gallery closure commences at 17.50) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10.00 – 21.00  (Gallery closure commences at 20.50) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055  Recorded information: 020 7312 2463  Website