History of The Big Draw

This international celebration of drawing has grown from one day in October 2000 to an annual month-long festival of drawing across the UK and the world. The first Big Draw in 2000 attracted 180 partner organisations.

By October 2011, the number had risen to 1,300, with over 260,000 people taking part. Events are run by galleries, museums, heritage and other cultural sites, schools, colleges, local authorities, libraries and other community agencies – individually or in collaboration. Partners span the arts, sciences and technologies. These inspiring events show that drawing is a fundamental cross-cultural and cross-generational tool used across all industries.

Our key message has always been that everybody can draw given the opportunity, and that drawing can bring excitement and fresh thinking to any context. Our aim is to encourage people of all ages to explore ideas and express their creativity. As a result, we are delighted that drawing is now integrated into year-round learning programmes at many cultural and education centres.

A popular and high profile national launch kicks off the festival every year. Launches in Trafalgar Square (2004) and South Kensington (2005) attracted audiences of 35,000 and 30,000. In 2006, Amazing Space at Somerset House reached capacity with 6,000 visitors and the 2010 highlight event, Make your Mark on the Future: From London Bridge to Tower Bridge, took place at 20 different venues between the two bridges, including City Hall. 

Across the years launch events at the Natural History Museum, The V&A, The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, The Bodelian Libraries and many more have provided the platform that drawing deserves.

Regional launches have attracted large audiences across the UK. We supported galleries, museums and heritage sites with direct funding and sponsorship in-kind for art materials, marketing and PR. Although we no longer directly support participating organisations, The Big Draw has remained popular as ever.

The Big Draw Awards reward organisers who use The Big Draw to find innovative and effective ways to engage new audiences. As well as encouraging experiment and good practice, the awards help The Big Draw to maintain long-term partnerships with educators who continue to develop new ways of captivating diverse audiences. Some organisations have won awards more than once by re-investing their experiences in new and more ambitious programmes. The majority of award winners run Big Draw events annually.

The Big Draw 2014 was a record year with 1800 events from 1000 organisers. To enable us to continue running The Big Draw a tiered membership scheme was introduced in 2016. A new website, videos and physical resources have been created to provide greater support to the organisations throughout the UK and the world that get the world drawing every October.