“the best-kept arts secret in Britain” Iain Sinclair
Southwark Park Galleries is an interdisciplinary arts organisation set across two distinctive venues – including a Grade II Listed deconsecrated church and purpose built art gallery – and a community garden in the heart of Southwark Park, southeast London. Through our locally relevant and internationally significant programme of exhibitions, performances and public engagement, our mission is to connect people using the intersection of art, nature and culture to facilitate meaning and wellbeing across communities.
Established in 1984, we have a thriving reputation as a test site for experimental practice by commissioning artists at a critical stage to make their most ambitious work. Our public engagement and community work welcomes everyone. Our location means we can provide a rare civic offer of vital green and open cultural space for our park neighbours and beyond.
As we approach our 40th anniversary celebrations in 2024, we look forward to strengthening our local, national and international partnerships; amplifying our purpose of making creativity central in building a more engaged and inclusive society.
Southwark Park Galleries is the operating name of the Bermondsey Artists’ Group, a registered charity (no. 1073851) and is a Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).
A film by Hydar Dewachi, commissioned by Southwark Park Galleries (formerly CGP London) to mark the 30th Anniversary of the gallery.
Southwark Park Galleries // Lake Gallery. Photo © Mischa Haller
Formerly Cafe Gallery / The Gallery
Situated by Southwark Park’s lake and new Pavilion cafe (that launched summer 2019, led and managed by Southwark Council), The Lake Gallery was the organisation’s original home, founded in 1984 by Ron Henocq and The Bermondsey Artists’ Group. They transformed a derelict café in Southwark Park into a gallery to create a cultural platform through which artists could engage meaningfully with their neighbours and as a site for free access to high quality art, creativity and learning as a core part of their daily lives.
The first exhibition was an Open, open to all regardless of background or training. To this day, 38 years on, the organisation hosts an incredibly popular Annual Open each winter, one of the UK’s last few remaining such shows, where everyone gets to take part on equal terms without selection.
During 1999-2001 the organisation fundraised significant capital support to develop its bespoke ‘white cube’ gallery space, enabling a major redevelopment to increase accessibility and improve the quality of the exhibition spaces, reopening with an exhibition by Mary Evans in 2001.
In 2021 the organisation began fundraising for essential renovation to future-proof our first home.
Or if you have any other ways in which you would like to help us raise funds to improve our idyllic home, please contact us.
Southwark Park Galleries // Dilston Gallery. Photo © Damien Griffths
Formerly Dilston Grove / Clare College
In 1999 Southwark Park Galleries opened its second arts venue, Dilston Grove (situated in the park across the lake). The first church on this site was opened in 1886 by Clare College Cambridge as part of a university mission in a “spiritually destitute district”. After signs of subsidence in 1909, an appeal fund was started for a new church. The church as it now stands was built in 1911, the very first poured concrete building in England at a cost of £2,718. 16s. 4d. Designed by architects Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayrton (who went on to build the original Wembley Stadium), it was described at the time of its opening as ‘the finest modern church in South London’ and is now a Grade II listed building.
The church closed in the early 1950s and was used for some time by a group of students from The Royal College of Art including Richard Wentworth as artist studios in the 1970s. With crucial support from Arts Council England, London Borough of Southwark and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Southwark Park Galleries transformed this derelict church into a spectacular art gallery ideally suited to ambitious, large-scale presentations. The building re-opened in May 1999 with the new name of Dilston Grove and the group exhibition Word Enough to Save a Life, Word Enough to Take a Life curated by Simon Morrissey.
In 2010, working with Walther Menteth Architects, Dilston Gallery was further renovated with support from English Heritage, Big Lottery Fund, Southwark Council and The City Bridge Trust, remodelling the former Parish Room to create a new entrance and fully accessible Community Learning workshop space overlooking the park. The refurbished building’s inaugural exhibition was Mémoire by Sammy Baloji in partnership with Autograph ABP.
In 2024 Southwark Park Galleries will launch a high profile heritage development campaign to make vital repairs to further restore this beautiful listed building to ensure it can be the leading contemporary art venue in London for many more years to come.
You can support us to protect this earliest example of poured (in situ) concrete by joining our Concrete Block supporters’ circle, by making a donation, providing sponsorship, or get in touch to talk more.
More details will be announced soon.
Southwark Park Galleries’ activity is deep rooted in Southwark, encouraging neighbours within the borough to exhibit and engage with an important cultural hub through regular integrated activities and a number of targeted exhibitions that enable a wide range of artists and local residents to participate.
We work in regular partnerships with other local and national organisations, providing free projects which include weekly allotment workshops for families with pre-school children, regular schools visits, BOSCO (A Place for Young People), The Bede Centre, Riverside Parents Group, Rotherhithe Family Centre, Age UK, Autograph ABP, London Bubble Theatre Company and Corali Dance Company.
Our local community also have the opportunity to become exhibitors through our Annual Open exhibition and participation in regular projects that create new work to be exhibited in Lake Gallery such as schools visits, Seniors Art School and our weekly allotment group for families with pre-school children.
For more information on our Learning and Community Programme click here.