Damian Lewis CBEAward-winning actor

“My late wife, Helen McCrory, was patron of HVH Arts until 2 years ago. She became patron because she saw in Debbi Clark a burning desire to give an experience of the arts through different art forms to the children of North London. She saw Debbi’s passion, her enthusiasm, her boundless creative energy and wanted to be part of it. Together they hatched plans. They were a fabulous pair of terrible twins. When Debbi asked me if I’d like to become Patron too, I didn’t hesitate. Together with Helen we’d been invited to partake in graffiti projects, seen a young band perform a concert in the back of Kentish Town, visited an exhibition of textiles, photography and art and seen what joy and confidence the charity gives to the young children who take part. These are kids who otherwise would have no access to the arts and no space in which to express themselves freely, fully and joyfully. It’s brilliant what Debbi and HvH ARTS does. It’s incredible what it achieves. And I’m extremely proud to call myself its Patron.”

Helen McCrory OBEAward-winning actress

A message from our Patron, Helen McCrory OBE:

Picasso famously said that every child is an artist. And we at the HVH Arts are passionate about ensuring that every child is given a chance to connect with and to express their inner artist in a time when funding for education is such that the arts are squeezed out of the mainstream curriculum in favour of more traditionally 'academic' subjects. All young people need positive outlets for their energy, and the arts can help children flourish in ways other subjects cannot. They encourage children to look at things around them rather than focus on themselves, and take an interest in the world. They also encourage equality. You don’t need to be academically inclined to be an artist. I know from working in film and theatre, I’ll sit with young and old people, from every financial or social background, and everybody has a place at the table. We believe Arts education opens doors to a world that too many young people don't have many opportunities to explore and we aim to do something about this situation!

When I was asked to be an official patron of the HVH Arts, I didn't hesitate. A small, grassroots charity which offers after-school and holiday arts clubs to children in both primary and secondary schools in London is just the kind or organisation I would like to see flourish. Children learn so much about themselves through creativity and it is my privilege to be able to help even in some small part in bringing attention to the need for more opportunities for young people to develop and grow through exposure to the world of the arts.

The HVH Arts offers a wide range of courses in the arts from oil painting to film making, and from sculpture to photography, to name just a few – and the children are selected to take part by those with whom they spend a lot of their time- their teachers. Some children are chosen because they are particularly gifted; some because they’ve fallen behind; others because they are going through a tough time and perhaps need emotional support. Whatever the reason for a child being on the course, they will all be exposed to a world which is the antithesis of the targets and exam results driven mainstream education they experience daily; they will enter a new 'judgement-free' realm where there is no right or wrong, and expressing themselves and exploring their identity through an artistic medium is all that is required of them. Top practitioners from the various artistic fields facilitate our courses and provide our young people with the chance to learn something new while learning more about themselves.

However, all of the work of our Foundation isn't just about the well-being and personal development of our young people. It's also about the merits of an artistic education in this era. According to Vikki Heyward, the Chair of the Royal Academy of the Arts, writing in September 2014, art education for the young is, in fact, "vital for our economic future... Government statistics confirm that the creative industries are worth £8million an hour to the UK economy”. In addition, a recent British Council report, ‘As Others See Us’, indicates that culture is regarded as the UK’s number one ‘selling point’ among 18-34 year olds from Brazil, China, Germany, India and the US. If the UK is to continue to attract tourists, business investors and students from overseas, in the face of growing international competition, it must act now to educate the young." This is exactly what we at the HVH Arts are determined to do.

I am in a privileged position where I can use my name to help support this amazing foundation, and if you can help us in any way whether through donations, fund raising, teaching or volunteering – we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being on this journey with us to provide as many children as we can a gateway to the arts.

Best Wishes

Damian Lewis contributing his own graffiti artwork to the HvH ARTS railway bridge graffiti mural in Gospel Oak, Camden
Photography of Damian Lewis by Debbi Clark
Photography of Helen McCrory by Debbi Clark