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Art galleries hosting pop-up sites hope to capitalise on increased footfall and reconnect with young locals.

photo of Sadiq Khan speaking to NHS workers
London Mayor Sadiq Khan speaks to NHS workers at Tate Modern's pop-up vaccination centre

Arts institutions are signing up to host Covid-19 vaccination centres under an initiative to attract new visitors to London’s cultural attractions.

Tate Modern offered 1,000 Pfizer vaccines and free entry to its exhibitions on Friday (July 16) and Battersea Arts Centre, a vaccination hub since March, hosted a local community festival on Sunday (July 18) alongside the Oxford AstraZenica vaccine.

Speaking to ArtsProfessional, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he hopes arts organisations will attract those less likely to be approached by a GP or booking centre.


“We are really keen to make sure younger Londoners, some of whom think they are almost bulletproof, [find] it as easy as possible to receive a jab,” Khan said.

“The arts are something young people really enjoy in London, and we wanted to make an incentive [to get vaccinated].”

Khan confirmed more arts organisations will host pop-up centres but did not share names. Details will be announced in the next few weeks, he said. 

The Oval cricket ground, Millwall Football Club’s Den stadium and the Science Museum are among other London cultural institutions to have delivered a pop-up vaccination centre.

Science Museum Director Sir Ian Blatchford said it was wonderful to see the museum repurposed for “this country's most pressing task in a generation”.

“It is an extraordinary sensation to be collecting and living history all at once.”

The Museum has delivered almost 100,000 doses of the vaccine, according to NHS data.

Incentivised visits

Tate Modern first offered its space to the NHS towards the beginning of the vaccination programme. Friday’s event was delivered two weeks after Tate was reapproached by the health service, Director Frances Morris said.

“All public institutions have real challenges in accessing hard-to-reach audiences,” Morris explained.

“Maybe some of the people walking through the door are walking through the door for the first time - we just wanted to seize that opportunity.”

Tate Modern is already considering hosting similar events. Morris called the collaboration with the NHS “a match made in heaven”.

“Health is at one end of culture and arts institutions at the other. 

“You can’t have a healthy populous without a vibrant living culture, and we can’t have a vibrant living culture without citizens.”

A local focus

Battersea Arts Centre first approached Wandsworth Council to become a Covid response unit when the first lockdown started, according to Executive Director and Deputy CEO Rebecca Holt.

The centre commissioned a dozen artists to provide “a warm and inclusive welcome” to those being vaccinated.

“It's important to us to continue to find ways to be a relevant and important part of people's lives,” Holt said.

Khan applauded the centre’s “altruism” after a “really horrible couple of years” due to the pandemic and its recovery from a fire.

“It shows that our arts organisations are so outward looking; they really care about the local community.”

Battersea Arts Centre co-funded a grassroots festival held there on Sunday to “bring [a] sense of togetherness” to young locals hit hardest by the pandemic, producer and facilitator Teasha Louis said.

Louis said Free up Festival raised awareness of the vaccination site and Battersea Arts Centre’s commitment to its community.

“These people are true, real people that are here for your wellbeing, so it was important for people to see that.”

Boosting London’s recovery

Khan said he hopes the opportunity to get vaccinated at one of London’s cultural organisations will incentivise Londoners to return to the West End.

The initiative follows the launch of Let’s Do London, the city’s plan for cultural recovery.

“We know that the footfall needs to return - particularly in parts of London - and we want to make sure that people’s first experience back is a good one,” Khan said.

“There probably won’t be another summer like this. You can go to front of the queue. You can enjoy the arts of this city without competing with international tourists.”

Khan urged any arts venues that want to host pop-up centres contact City Hall or their local NHS, which will provide staff and volunteers.