Head Above Water Sculpture by Steuart Padwick Installed on the Thames

A giant 9 metre high wooden head has been installed on a pier looking out from the South Bank and into the Thames. Called ‘Head Above Water’ the sculpture has been created by designer Steuart Padwick. It is a commentary on mental health and seeks to use art to get people talking about mental health issues.

Linking in with the London Design Festival and ‘Design Junction‘. The ‘Head Above Water’ sculpture will light up at night with the ‘mood of the nation’. The work is interactive in that those using twitter can use the hashtag #headabovewaterlondon to describe how they are feeling. Dependent on the words used, the digital lighting will then create a colour palette which constantly changes.

Video Interview with Steuart Padwick

An interview with sculptor and designer Steuart Padwick

Head Above Water

The head itself has been designed to be gender, ethnicity and age neutral. A kind of everyperson symbol. It cuts to the heart of the fact that mental health knows no boundaries. According to Padwick, it is “a symbol of hope. It needed to be big, powerful and prominent… a beacon of humanity caring for others.  This is not my head or about my battles.  This is for those who have or have had mental health issues…. I want anybody and everybody to relate to it….to open a door perhaps.

Supporting the ‘Time to Change‘ campaign. It aims to end mental health stigma and discrimination by provoking people to think differently about it. Already around us people are stopping to take notice. the sculpture itself is quite a sight. Sitting perched on the end of the pier on Gabriel’s Wharf looking out onto the Thames and visible from along the embankment.

Steuart Padwick head above water
The Head Above Water Sculpture on the Thames by Steuart Padwick

Mental Health

“We need to create an environment where we can enable people to express their feelings. We can listen and we can help normalise that” Steuart tells me as he starts to share his own experience of mental health. “People aren’t ashamed of saying I broke my leg but we’re embarrassed to say oh I’ve had depression.”

And that’s really what this piece is about. Head Above Water is not just a piece of work that can be taken literally. It is a wooden head sitting above the Thames but there is a metaphorical meaning there too. The Head refers to that every person head of the passer by who in their own experience might be experiencing their own mental health problems. People for whom the term ‘head above water’ might indeed have a more personal meaning.

Steuart Padwick head above water
Head Above Water looking out onto the Thames

“Most of us will know somebody who has been touched by this.” says Steuart.  “One in four people every year will go through some form of mental issues and most of these don’t get addressed or resolved. Every single week in the UK alone 84 men commit suicide three times as many as women, staggering on both counts the number of people.”

‘Head Above Water London’ was designed by Steuart Padwick and will form part of the London Design Festival which runs from 15-23 September 2018. Steuart was interviewed at the sculpture on 14 September 2018.

Head Above Water from the Thames foreshore
Steuart Padwick head above water
A panoramic view of the Thames
Steuart Padwick head above water
Steuart Padwick interviewed in front of the sculpture
Steuart Padwick head above water
Designer Steuart Padwick next to his scuplture overlooking the Thames ‘Head Above Water’

For other inspiring city articles featuring issues surrounding mental health awareness have a look below:


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