Introduction and History

About Us

CoolTan Arts is an award winning arts in mental health charity run by and for adults with experience of mental health conditions. We believe that mental wellbeing is enhanced by the power of creativity.

There’s something for everyone at CoolTan. We run a vibrant community arts centre in Walworth Road, Southwark, South London. We provide a friendly, safe and supportive space, offering creative workshops, self-advocacy, art projects, stigma-busting cultural walks, a public art gallery, and an inclusive volunteering and training programme. We provide creative outlets for self-expression through art workshops, and give adults training, support and volunteering opportunities to help build professional and personal skills. We aim to help people reintegrate into life again with their friends, family and pursue education and employment.

In the last year we worked face-to-face with more than 2000 people from across London, enabling them to stay well and improve self-esteem.

Watch a video about our work:

CoolTan Arts Today

CoolTan Arts run a vibrant arts centre with an independent gallery in Southwark’s lively Walworth Road, with a varied programme of creative workshops: visual arts, pod casting, web design, batik, digital arts, video, poetry, sculpture and performing arts. Other activities include public exhibitions, monthly Largactyl Shuffle walks and self-advocacy sessions with guest speakers from a variety of fields. CoolTan’s gallery and performance space offers other local community projects somewhere to exhibit and our volunteering programmes offer meaningful engagement and the opportunity to learn useful skills.
Our participants and volunteers are central to the organisation and all do a fantastic job in helping staff to run the office and our activities. Volunteers can get involved in many different ways: administration, marketing and media, ICT, finance, photographers, film makers, graphic designers, workshop assistants, trustees, mentors, walk leaders for our guided cultural arts walk, the Largactyl Shuffle.


CoolTan Arts exists to inspire positive mental health and wellbeing through the arts for a diverse range of people experiencing mental health conditions, empowering individuals to aspire to achieving their full potential and to become part of the wider community. We aim to teach people sustainable ways of recovering and managing their mental health conditions, to get back on their feet and pursue further education, training or employment.


CoolTan Arts has existed since 1991 and became a charity in 1997. It took its name from the disused CoolTan sun lotion factory where the founders of CoolTan squatted. In 1993 CoolTan Arts moved to the Brixton dole office and stayed there until 1996. From 1996 to 2002 CoolTan Arts was homeless. It was then based at the Railway Arches in Loughborough Junction until 2006 when they moved to the current site on Walworth Road. This has given us a dedicated gallery space and separate rooms for a wide-ranging programme of new workshops including cooking, web design and creative writing. Over our 25-year history, CoolTan has gone from strength to strength, expanding our output but never losing sight of our founding belief in the power of art and that mental health needn’t be a barrier to this.

Download Spring 2018 Brochure >

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