Artwork created by people with learning disabilities and complex mental health issues have gone on public display at Northampton’s multi award-winning visitor attraction 78 Derngate.

The property is the only house outside of Scotland which was designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is now exhibiting pieces created by patients of St Andrew’s Healthcare and learners who attend Workbridge Education sessions.

A total of nearly 100 pieces, which include ceramics, jewellery and paintings, are now on display to members of the public at the house, which attracts thousands of visitors a year. One of the town’s most visited tourist attractions, thousands of people visit the property to see Mackintosh’s architectural and interior style in their original setting.

Jenny Lane, Education Manager at St Andrew’s Healthcare and Workbridge said: “It’s our job to inspire hope in those who we care for and that can look very different depending on the person, but here I think we’ve stumbled on a project which everyone was keen to be involved in. We work hard to ensure our patients, service users and learners gain valuable life skills, vocational experience and valued education which they might not have had at school.

“It’s important for all our learners to access social facilities in their communities, so they have all visited 78 Derngate as part of their arts hub education. We were, frankly, astounded by the reaction the attraction instilled in our learners, who came back and asked to start creating their own Mackintosh-inspired works of art.

“The work has not only been enjoyable for them, but they’ve learnt lots of new skills such as geometry and using a range of materials. A lot of the 1920s work was about using straight lines, so they’ve also had to learn precision and pattern creating.

“But, it was only once we had seen how good the pieces were that we knew we had to do something with the artwork. And what better place to exhibit them all than the very venue that inspired everyone in the first place. When we told 78 Derngate about our service users’ enthusiasm they were only too willing to grant us the space to exhibit their artworks. And here we are today, unveiling their pieces to the public.”

Neelam, a patient at St Andrew’s and a regular Workbridge attendee, said: “I have enjoyed every minute of this. I decided to make some cups during my ceramics sessions and created my own patterns which I think Mackintosh would have approved of. Having my work go on display has given me a real boost of confidence, I’m really proud.”

James, another patient being cared for by the charity, added: “Art is my life so I’m very honoured to have my work on display at such a historic and prestigious place. For the piece I created, I painted on silk, which is not something I’ve done before, but I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.”

Liz Jansson, House Manager at 78 Derngate, said: “It has been really exciting for us to see all their inspirational work on the walls and in display cases and we were only too happy to accommodate when we were approached. We’re keen to embark upon collaborative projects within our local community and it is another way for new visitors to become interested in Mackintosh and his work.

“There was a lovely buzz at the opening and it was great to watch their excitement at seeing their works on display. We’re delighted to host this exhibition and it is clear how much it means to the learners and service users and they should all be very proud. We hope this unique exhibition, which is only on display for a month, will attract more people who will take the time to visit the house itself whilst here. Mackintosh’s work really was ahead of his time and it’s really rewarding to see how he is continuing to inspire people.”
The property was designed and remodelled by Mackintosh in 1916, and has since been meticulously restored and opened to the public. 78 Derngate was the architect’s final major commission which he created for Northampton model engineer W.J Bassett-Lowke.

Entry to the exhibition is free and is on until Friday, 1 March from 10am – 4.30pm (except Mondays).