A photo of Somerset House's courtyard from the roof of the Courtauld (North Wing building). At the centre of the courtyard ia giant ferris wheel and crowds are gathering in the courtyard.

Reekie's Round-Up 2022

Jonathan Reekie CBE

19 Dec 2022

Somerset House Director Jonathan Reekie shares his annual round up of cultural highlights from the year.

As the home of cultural innovators, Somerset House has played host to a kaleidoscopic range of events and creativity over the past twelve months. Here, from a huge longlist, Jonathan unpacks twelve highlights.


Over several weeks, the Manila based artist Leeroy New, fashioned his giant sculptures of ships, past and future, using bamboo clad in plastic waste gathered from across London. The piece drew on the colonial history of the Philippines, the global problem of ocean waste, with a nod to Somerset House's own naval history.

Upgrade Yourself

Our two Upgrade Yourself Festivals and five Upgrade Yourself Lives supported a huge array of young talent looking to enter the creative industries. Its career fairs and online events give rare access to sector luminaries sharing their tips and networks. 

Black Business Incubator

The Black Business Incubator, a partnership between Somerset House and Mentor Black Business (founded by Somerset House resident Akil Benjamin), welcomed two new cohorts of entrepreneurs and social enterprises in 2022. The programme mentors early-stage Black-led creative businesses to help unlock their full potential and enable their creativity to thrive, many of them choosing to stay on in Somerset House's creative community. 

Eternally Yours: Care, Repair & Healing

Our free Terrace Room show exploring repair and care caught the post-Covid zeitgeist, with the Beasley Brothers repair shop and poignant stories, ancient and new, offering pathways to how we should look after our possessions, each other and the world around us.

This Bright Land

This was undoubtedly the most ambitious project we've ever done. Devised by Somerset House Studios residents Gareth Pugh and Carson McColl, in August thousands of people of all ages and from communities all over London, gathered in our courtyard wonderland to celebrate our differences and our shared humanity. With music, talks, workshops, installations, and a Big Wheel, it was an uplifting reminder that out of adversity we can draw strength by coming closer together.

Vogue Balls with Vogue Rites

Vogue Rites, London’s weekly vogue mini-ball series and music collective, hosted four Vogue Balls during This Bright Land, which rank amongst the most special events ever seen in the courtyard. Bringing Ballroom culture’s unique creative blend of music, fashion and dance, celebrating LGBTQ+ People of Colour, they gave a new platform to the Ballroom scene and left first time audiences breathless with excitement. Best of all, Vogue Rites' Kartel Brown’s pledge to get me on the Ballroom floor never materialised.  

Historical Highlights Tour & Sonic Histories

The story of Somerset House contains endless historical riches, brought to life with a revamped tour taking in the hidden corners of the building, accompanied by twelve unique audio dramas of key moments in its history, told by some of the site’s previous occupants.


A key landmark was the launch of Channel, our new online curated space, exploring art, process and ideas. An ever-growing collection of commissions, films and podcasts, we opened with Turner Prize nominated Sin Wai Kin’s film, set in a beautiful, dreamlike Somerset House. This month we added three new commissions exploring AI and Channel is something I keep coming back to. 

SERAFINE1369: We can no longer deny ourselves

SERAFINE1369’s major installation, We can no longer deny ourselves, took over the River Rooms, creating a space of contemplation about systems of time, punctuated with daily live performances. SERAFINE1369 is the artist Jamila Johnson-Small, who joined Somerset House Studios as one half of performance collaboration Project O back in 2016. Their creative journey exemplifies how the Studios support artists' changing practice over time. 


To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the very special 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair we wanted to push the boat out, literally. Grada Kilomba’s installation and memorial to the slave trade, O Barco / The Boat took centre stage in the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court for a month, brought to life by two unforgettable performances during the Fair. 


The finishing touches of The Horror Show!, our major winter exhibition, were being put in place as the real-life horror show of political and economic turmoil played out. Celebrating 50 years of cultural provocateurs, starting with the Monster chill of the 1970s and ending with the contemporary positive energies of Witch, the show has really captured the mood of the country. 

Strand Aldwych

After many years of effort, the Strand Aldwych was finally closed to vehicles, the din and choke of traffic a rapidly fading memory, replaced by conversation and creativity. It's been opened with Somerset House Studios resident Nick Ryan’s The Voice Line, a 150m sound installation inspired by the first radio broadcast on the Strand and reflecting on the future of our great city. It’s a great way to feel positive about the year ahead.