Firstsite Director Sally Shaw Awarded MBE

12th October 2020

Our Director Sally Shaw has been awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the Arts.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours lists recognise the achievements and service of people across the UK, from all walks of life. Along with the New Year Honours, they are the most significant announcements of civilian and military gallantry awards.

Sally will join some 450 other nominees who have been put forward for an award, specifically for their contribution to the national response to Covid-19, and who are, as the Cabinet Office states “exemplars of the wide range and exceptional community and front-line service given across the country in recent months.”

Shortly after lockdown was introduced on 16 March, Sally came up with the idea of our Art is where the home is activity pack, a free-to-download, online resource designed to keep children and young people entertained and engaged during the first weeks and months of having to stay at home.

Her innovative idea was such a hit that within a month of the first pack being made available over 27,000 had been downloaded. In total the packs have now reached over 70,000 households, each one featuring fun activities that don’t require special equipment.

Many of the contributions to the packs come from big name contemporary artists, including Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, Jeremy Deller, Gillian Wearing, Michael Landy, Vanley Burke, Ryan Gander, Idris Khan and Annie Morris.

A French version of Art is where the home is was launched in partnership with Paris-based Théâtre du Châtelet, while our own packs have been downloaded across the UK and as far afield as Spain and New Zealand.


Our mission here at Firstsite is to empower people, no matter their background, to be creative together and lead happier and healthier lives – by providing them with new creative opportunities and promoting imaginative responses to contemporary issues. We did this by creating ‘Art is where the home is’, but also by working with the community in and around Colchester with a number of post-lockdown exhibitions and events that have helped people to engage with art and in doing so, tackle feelings of isolation and anxiety during these troubled times.”

“I am hugely honoured and very proud to be recognised in this way. I think it is an important and very prestigious acknowledgment of the cultural importance of Firstsite and what we are doing here in Colchester. It reflects that what we are doing here is being so much more than ‘just’ a gallery or arts centre, but supporting our community through culture creativity.”

Sally Shaw, Firstsite Director


Sally is keen to share the accolade with the people and organisations that we work alongside, including Fraser Muggeridge Studio, our local NHS Care Commissioning Group for their support of Holiday Fun, the Firstsite board of trustees, African Families in the UK, Together we Grow, Refugee Action-Colchester, Community 360 and the Bangladeshi Women’s group.

Welcome area at Firstsite. 'Big Hello' (2018) Peter Liversidge. Photo by Jayne Lloyd.

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