News - The National Lottery’s 2020 Portraits of the People

Liz Treacher by the sea carrying a pile of books

Iconic art galleries and the BFI film institute have joined forces to celebrate unheralded champions of the arts sector...


Press Release

Summerhall in Edinburgh will join seven other iconic galleries and the BFI (the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image), to present a unique photography exhibition where the subjects aren’t celebrities or historical figures, but instead the unheralded everyday champions of the arts sector.

Artists Laura Aldridge, from Glasgow, and Leanne Ross, from Edinburgh, and Sutherland based writer, Liz Treacher, are among the 13 remarkable people* throughout the UK who are being honoured by The National Lottery for keeping the arts in their local area alive and accessible for all, or supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities through the arts.

The exhibition – titled, ‘The National Lottery’s 2020 Portraits of the People’ - honours 13 of these artistic champions for making a significant difference to lifting people’s spirits this year. The digital exhibition can be visited on the websites and social media of: Summerhall in Edinburgh, Ty Pawb in Wrexham, The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Ruthin Craft Centre in Ruthin, Wales, The National Portrait Gallery, London, The MAC in Belfast, IKON Gallery in Birmingham, The Photographers’ Gallery in London and BFI (The British Film Institute). The portraits will also be on display at the BFI Southbank in London.

Photographer Chris Floyd, who has spent his 25-year career photographing household names such as Sir Paul McCartney, Victoria Beckham and Sir Mo Farah, has been commissioned by The National Lottery to capture the portraits. The works aim to create a ‘moment in history’, preserving the work of these unheralded champions for posterity and encapsulating the varied and innovative ways art can be expressed.


When lockdown started, artists Laura Aldridge and Leanne Ross thought that it would be the end of their collaborative art sessions at the KMAdotcom art studio in Midlothian. The organisation is an artist collective, where artists with and without learning disabilities can develop their own creative practices. Prior to the pandemic, Laura was working with Leanne on an exhibition for the Glasgow International Festival (GI), until it was cancelled. But, the pair continued to collaborate online.

For Leanne lockdown would have been six months of shielding, being in the house and not being able to do the things she normally would. “She’d be lost if she didn’t have this, she wouldn’t be doing anything, or seeing anyone” says mum, Liz.

Laura says: “We've all learnt that although virtual interaction doesn't replace being together in person, we now know that if someone can't come to the workshop, we can still keep working together. In the past, nothing happened if people couldn't come to a workshop but now we just turn on an app and everyone can see each other.”

Together, and with funding from The National Lottery, distributed through Creative Scotland to KMAdotcom and ArtLink Edinburgh, Laura and Leanne have created a colouring book to keep people occupied during lockdown. Leanne has also been commissioned by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Trust to brighten up their ‘Rest and Relaxation Hubs’ across the Glasgow and Greater Clyde area.

Based in Brora, Sutherland, Liz Treacher, is lead reader for Open Book, a charity that runs shared reading and creative writing sessions in communities across Scotland. The group uses literature to connect people, build communities and to amplify voices that often go unheard - something needed more than ever during lockdown.

Working across eight sectors – prisons, multi-cultural groups, community groups, libraries, residential settings for the elderly, islands, healthcare and public groups, the organisation ‘flipped’ to bring together groups on Zoom, helping those who participated feel more positive after taking part in an Open Book session.

“The group has really inspired me during lockdown,” says Liz. “When you work with adult learners their ideas and images are so amazing that they’re often very inspiring. Really the only reason I started writing was because I’d worked with students for a number of years and somehow what they were achieving pushed me. It pushes me further on my own path.”

Open Book is one of the many inspiring causes that are supported by The National Lottery whose players raise £30 million each week, Liz finishes, “This recognition from The National Lottery is a real boost and it helps spread the word about what we do and help more people.”

The exhibition launches as The National Lottery releases insights showing that across Scotland, the public turned to a wide range of artistic activities during lockdown, with 18% seizing the chance to do more arts and crafts, half enjoying listening music (53%) and watching films (54%), and 9% enjoying singing.

With many traditional entertainment venues closed, taking on a creative task also became a comfort for many with 61% of those in the UK who interacted with arts and crafts crediting it as a factor in improving their state of mind during the crisis. Two thirds (60%) of people in Scotland who listened to music more during lockdown said that doing so had a positive impact on their wellbeing and a further 35% said taking part in arts and crafts helped them feel more relaxed and less anxious. Importantly, almost half of Scottish people (46%), also believed the mental wellbeing impacts would be long-lasting.

The exhibition is accessible free online across all the galleries’ websites throughout November. In addition to the portraits, award winning filmmaker, Jayisha Patel, a beneficiary of the BFI NETWORK talent development programme which is made possible by National Lottery funding, has documented Chris Floyd’s shoots with a behind the scenes short film. The piece looks at some of these amazing people and the stories behind them, the film will be available across the BFI’s social media channels.

Chris Floyd added: “All of the people we are meeting in this exhibition have done something special to help keep the soul of their community alive in these difficult and dark times using funding raised by National Lottery players. Humans are pack animals and our desire, as well as need, to come together – whether physically or digitally - and make common cause is one of our dominant instincts. This group have all shown a ‘can do’ spirit, a refusal to lay down and give up, despite their own personal and national trials this year. They have created work and projects specifically designed to fulfil that need for communal strength using the power of the arts. My aim was to document each of them in a way that showcases and honours that sense of integrity and fortitude, as well as their humour and joie de vivre.”

Jayisha Patel said: “The Covid pandemic has been a sobering time for the film industry as a whole, and we have all had to pivot to keep our passion alive. Capturing these incredibly devoted people for this film was a joyful thing to be part of – seeing how they, with the help of National Lottery funding, have fought to keep the fire burning for the arts in a myriad of ways. I hope this film goes to show the strength and support that can come from taking part in arts projects like these – and how, even through adversity, art and film can thrive in the smallest of ways, and be a benefit to so many, helped along by everyone who plays The National Lottery.”

Iain Munro, CEO of Creative Scotland, said: “People in Scotland have a great love of creativity, art and culture. We know these things can bring us together, enrich our lives, support our emotional wellbeing, and make us happier. Throughout lockdown we've seen that in villages, towns and cities, people have continued to participate and enjoy the arts whether that's at home, digitally, or through socially distanced activities within their communities.

“Artists, arts and cultural organisations, and the individuals within them, have been the driving force behind this. Harnessing vital funding from The National Lottery, they’ve set up creative projects both locally and nationwide for people to enjoy. We want to thank them for making life that little bit better for many people, and we also want to thank the National Lottery players themselves for playing a critical role in supporting the arts during these challenging times. Every week National Lottery players raise an incredible £30 million for good causes, enriching public life in every corner of the UK.”

To find out more about how The National Lottery is celebrating the work done by unheralded people across the UK, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk

* The full list of people featuring in the exhibition being honoured for their work in the arts projects this year:

Vic Brown, New Urban Era, West Midlands
Shamim Azad, Apples and Snakes, London
Liz Treacher, Open Book, Brora, Scotland
Laura Aldridge and Leanne Ross, KMAdotcom, Midlothian
Dr Jenny Elliott, Arts Centre, Belfast and across Northern Ireland
Mojisola Elufowoju, Utopia Theatre, Sheffield
Penny Rawlings, The Bristol Ensemble
Beth James, Square Pegs Arts, Kent
Abbie Canning, Derby Quad
Jennifer Hill, Welsh National Opera
Maria Connolly, 1 Eleven Theatre Company, Belfast
Anouar Kassim MBE, MKIAHC, Milton Keynes Islamic Arts, Heritage and Culture
Patrick Joseph, Mask Makers, North Wales

Images - Chris Floyd, info - Creative Scotland