In May and June 2023, Create partnered with Ashurst and Hestia to develop and deliver a series of visual art workshops as part of Hestia’s Art Is Freedom project. This empowered 17 survivors of modern slavery through the creation of stunning paintings. Hestia is a charity that provides adults and children across London with a life beyond crisis.

Art Is Freedom artwork at private view

It’s a good feeling thinking about my next chapter. It’s a nice thing to put into our paintings.



Anti-Slavery International defines modern slavery as “when an individual is exploited by others, for personal or commercial gain. Whether tricked, coerced, or forced, they lose their freedom”.

In 2022, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) received 16,938 referrals of potential victims of modern slavery. Survivors may suffer from mental health conditions, physical injury and other medical conditions. They are often “dangerously isolated and marginalised. Fear, emotional withdrawal and multiple barriers can stand in the way of survivors trying new experiences, developing vital life skills, enjoying practical and creative interests, and forming positive relationships”. (Helen Bamber Foundation, 2021)

I am more confident and feel proud that I can call myself an artist!


the project

At the invitation of our corporate partner, multinational law firm Ashurst LLP, we collaborated with Hestia to develop and deliver creative arts workshops to connect survivors, supporting them to build new skills and relationships, using creativity as a tool for self-expression.

Under the guidance of our professional artist Rachel McGivern, the participants worked together to create original paintings and drawings. During six workshops, they created collages and paintings exploring the theme “My Next Chapter”. They started by mind mapping and creating collages to explore what this theme meant to them, and experimented with colour and shape to depict their emotions. They used acrylics to paint birds and self-portraits. The diverse artwork took inspiration from a wide range of sources including nature, public transport, homelessness, faith, family, and beloved pets. The project was supported by two volunteers from Ashurst, which funded and hosted the project at its office, and provided lunch and refreshments. The volunteers took part in workshop activities and provided support and encouragement to the participants.

My mood feels better. It feels like I have finally discovered a new thing to feel relaxed.


At the end of the project, each participant selected one favourite piece of artwork to include in a very special exhibition. The exhibition, entitled Art Is Freedom, took place from 14 to 20 October 2023 to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day on 18 October. Participant artwork was displayed on the Piccadilly Lights screens, in Trafalgar Square and in major train stations across London including London Bridge, Paddington, South Kensington and Waterloo. Hestia’s high-profile exhibition raised awareness around modern slavery while uplifting and connecting survivors and raising their aspirations.

Art Is Freedom was developed in partnership with Hestia and Ashurst LLP, and funded by Ashurst.