A new exhibition of art and photography created by survivors of modern slavery is being launched in London this month by charity Hestia, ahead of Anti-Slavery Day (18 October).

The ‘Art is Freedom’ exhibition, now celebrating its fifth year, has been curated by two survivors of modern slavery who have been supported by Hestia, alongside HRH Princess Eugenie, Julia de Boinville, and Maria Gavira San Martin from The Anti-Slavery Collective. It is free to attend and will be on display from Friday 14 – Sunday 23 October at Trafalgar Square, London Bridge station and outside South Kensington underground station.

Hestia is the leading provider of modern slavery support in London and the Southeast, supporting 2,600 survivors in 2021. The charity has been supporting survivors for over a decade – both in safe houses and in the community.

Survivors supported by Hestia's Modern Slavery Response Service took part in art and photography workshops over the summer, before submitting their best pieces for the exhibition.

HRH Princess Eugenie, co-founder of The Anti-Slavery Collective, said

“The Art is Freedom exhibition has supported survivors of modern slavery of all ages, from across the world, for five years now. It is inspiring to see the project give survivors the opportunity to express their feelings, emotions and stories through art. The exhibition also provides an opportunity for those who have experienced modern slavery to gain new skills, which can help to reinforce a sense of community amongst survivors and encourage freedom of expression. This exhibition serves as a space to dispel the stigma around survivors, and let their stories speak for themselves. This year, the Anti-Slavery Collective is honoured to be co-curating the exhibition, and we look forward to helping to shine a light on this important issue.”

Patrick Ryan, Chief Executive of Hestia said:

“Survivors of modern slavery have endured a brutality which most of us cannot even imagine. Art is Freedom is way of celebrating and nurturing the talents, ambitions, and resilience of survivors. They are remarkable individuals, and we are privileged that they share their creativity with us so publicly and generously. I encourage all Londoners to visit the exhibition and learn more about how you can play your part in preventing this brutal crime.”

One of the survivors featured in the exhibition said

“Being part of Art is Freedom has been a lifeline for me. I met so many others who had been through similar things to me, I made friends and one day I even taught the art class. This inspired me to go back to college and get some more qualifications. I have always enjoyed school and learning, and I have so many dreams and aspirations.”

Modern slavery is a serious crime affecting an estimated 136,000 people across the UK* – but it is a crime that is often hidden. Hestia’s exhibition aims to change perceptions of modern slavery, to enable the British public to recognise that it happens in London and the UK and that anyone can become a victim of criminals.

Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail who are hosting the exhibition at London Bridge, said:

“At Network Rail, it’s important that we continue to do everything we practically can to reduce the threat of modern slavery. This includes working with and supporting previous victims through initiatives like the Art is Freedom annual exhibition. It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of the very real issue that human trafficking and slavery poses within the UK, and I’m proud that we will have this powerful artwork in our London Bridge station on Anti-Slavery Day to remind us of that.”

Councillor Aicha Less, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Protection, Westminster City Council who are hosting the exhibition in Trafalgar Square said:

“Modern slavery is an appalling crime which can affect anybody, regardless of their age, gender, or ethnicity. It is often hidden in plain sight, and those affected may be unable to escape their situation due to fear for their own lives or their family’s lives. Westminster City Council is committed to working with our partners to end modern slavery and to support the survivors of modern slavery. I encourage our residents to visit this powerful exhibition and learn more so we can work together to end slavery and exploitation.”

Councillor Emma Will, Lead Member for Community Safety, Kensington and Chelsea Council, who are hosting the exhibition at South Kensington station said

“Modern slavery is sadly happening in London and impacting our communities. The police can only tackle modern slavery if everyone knows the signs and can help identify victims and survivors. The Art is Freedom exhibition in Kensington and Chelsea is a chance to hear survivors’ voices. I hope it helps people understand this hidden crime and encourages more people to come forward and report their concerns.”

Find out more about the artists and how to spot the signs of modern slavery at hestia.org/artisfreedom