Monday, 15 July 2024
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Monday, 15 July 2024

Artist launches exhibition in London in support of Smile Train UK

KATIE Manning, artist, and mother of three from Oxford, has today announced that she will be launching an art exhibition in March to raise awareness of cleft and Smile Train UK, the international children’s cleft charity.

The exhibition titled ‘Portraits’ is currently taking place until 13th March at The Brick Lane Gallery in Bethnal Green, London. Katie’s hand-drawn collection will display 30 portraits of children who were born around the world with a cleft. Some of the children shown in the exhibition have directly benefited from Smile Train’s free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care services, giving them an opportunity to live full and healthy lives.

The exhibition will be Katie’s first since she was a student at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, where she studied Textile Art and Surface Decoration. She was inspired to embark on the artistic adventure following her family’s own experiences of clefts – her eldest daughter was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and her husband was born with a unilateral cleft.

A cleft is the most common facial difference globally, affecting around 1 in 700 babies each year. While supporting her daughter through cleft surgery and subsequent orthodontic work and speech therapy, Katie noticed that there is still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding associated with a cleft. This often stems from a lack of awareness and knowledge of what a cleft is and how differently it can impact individuals and their families for entire lifetimes.

In a bid to tackle this issue, last year Katie committed to hand-drawing 100 portraits of babies, children and adults born with a cleft. Katie is now launching a ‘preview’ of some of her art, in the hope that it will help raise awareness and increase knowledge in a creative and powerful way.

Katie has also joined Smile Train UK’s Cleft Community Advisory Council, using lived experience to advise on campaigns and activities as well as becoming a Smile Train UK ambassador to raise awareness for the charity. Katie is passionate about the work that Smile Train do and has set up a dedicated Just Giving page in support of the charity.

In the UK, cleft surgery is carried out within the first 12 months of a baby’s life by the National Health Service (NHS). However, there are hundreds of thousands of children living in resource-poor communities worldwide who are not as fortunate, and who do not have access to the lifesaving cleft treatment they desperately need.

Smile Train uses a unique and sustainable model of empowering local medical professionals and hospitals with the tools they need to complete free surgeries and a full programme of aftercare. Over the last 21 years, the charity has supported safe and quality cleft care for 1.5+ million children and will continue to do so until every person in need with a cleft has access to the care they deserve.

A selection of Katie’s collection will be on sale at The Brick Lane Gallery for a limited time. Entry to the exhibition is free and the portraits will be sold at the starting value of £125.00.

Artist launches exhibition in London in support of Smile Train UK
Katie Manning

Katie Manning said:

“This exhibition is special to me for a number of reasons; but mostly because I am fulfilling a dream I’ve had for around 30 years, and the work I am showcasing comes from a very personal place.

“Not only am I hoping to raise awareness and understanding of cleft and the journey that it is, but I also want to shift how we view each other – particularly those with facial differences. I hope my work makes people question their interactions and encourages people to treat others with kindness, compassion, and warmth.

“A cleft can affect anyone at any time, anywhere in the world. In the UK, we are so lucky to have access to the care and support that is needed – but children and families in other parts of the world are not as fortunate.

“I feel so honoured to be sharing my portraits with the world, in support of such a wonderful deserving, charity, and I encourage anyone – whether they have a link to cleft or not – to come and see my work in March.”

Ian Vallance, Director of Smile Train UK, commented:

“We are beyond touched that Katie has chosen to support Smile Train UK through the creation of these portraits.

“As a Smile Train UK ambassador, Katie is also helping raise awareness in such an inspired and creative way. Her collection really captures the beauty and diversity of smiles, offering a powerful approach to educate and inform others about a cleft.”

Katie Manning’s exhibition at The Brick Lane Gallery is from 3rd – 13th March. To find out more, please visit:

Katie has also set up a JustGiving page to raise money for Smile Train.


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