Area image

Jo Austin

This area doesn't have anyone to organise its next Window Wanderland.

If you live in the area and would like to see another event, you can become an organiser and make it happen!

Find out how

Finding Beauty in Loneliness: Mental Health Awareness Week

Window display saying it's ok to not be ok

Loneliness is something that everyone encounters at some stage in their lives, some more severely or more often than others, and not always when we are strictly speaking ‘alone’.  Standing in a crowd of people and feeling deeply alone can be as confronting and isolating as being physically on our own and longing for connection with others. Being at a gathering of people, physically, or online, can bring out our isolation demons. 

The COVID 19 crisis catapulted loneliness into our consciousness in a way many of us haven’t experienced before.  Cut off from loved ones, unable to carry out our daily routine, some of us losing careers unexpectedly or facing other painful loss.

For me, these experiences hit me long before the world fell into Pandemic chaos.  In fact, when Covid  hit I thought I would escape the negative effects of it, like I knew how to cope with it. Decades ago I’d been a creative, social, successful and very independent woman, according to the world’s standards.  I’d built a hard-won career for myself in set design, in the ultra-competitive film industry, with a vibrant social life.

Lucy Reeves Khan

My world came crashing down when a series of accidents propelled me into a new reality, one where my previous career was no more, my mobility, physical and mental health were new mountains to climb and the life I once knew was changed forever. Within seven months I went from being an independent, thirty-something, working woman to a disabled stay-at-home mother living in a new city, no family, no friends. The chronic pain that followed, coupled with the huge change in identity (lack of) created a heady mix that essentially kept me housebound for well over a decade.

It was here I found myself in the reality of loneliness. 

Loneliness in this sense hits you in a number of ways.  It is the feeling that everything has changed and you don’t recognise where you are.  It is the feeling that you have been dropped into a set of circumstances and feelings that no one else could possibly understand. And the physical reality of being trapped at home by debilitating health issues, cut off from the very streets you once wandered without a second thought, that is the loneliness that left me struggling. 

I felt deeply jealous of people with parents nearby, envious of those able to take their kids to the park, walk them to school, watching my contemporaries expand their CV, new mum mates returning to work, and felt this huge need for connection. 

I felt that I ‘stank’ of neediness and hated myself for this vulnerability. At that time, there was no social media to call on, you had to physically get out to find your people, sometimes it’s just easier to hide away than admit you need support.

The irony of the situation is that actually you aren’t alone in feeling lonely, as the office for national statistics recently revealed that 1 in 7 adults confess to feeling loneliness most days (See our blog ‘Can the arts help to reduce social isolation’), but in the centre of that moment, it is hard to see past your situation. As part of my rehabilitation it was recommended to me that I took short walks each day to improve my mobility.  I was so conscious of the changes in my physicality that I just couldn’t bring myself to do this during the day, so I would wander out once the streets had quietened under the blanket of night.  This deepened my social isolation, but felt comfortable to me in that moment.

It was here, in my deepest sense of loneliness that I first recall encountering a way through.

As I was taking one of my rehabilitation walks I noticed seeing inside homes with the lights on and curtains open took me away from my pain. Sometimes it was as simple as noticing the fluffy cushions, sometimes it was imagining I knew these neighbours, as I had done where I grew up in a road where the front doors were never locked.

Self care suggestions in the window

This sense of warmth stayed with me and I couldn’t help but feel there was something there that could bring warmth to others feeling socially isolated, and brighten the ordinary streets..

In September 2014 I started the adventure that would lead to the creation of Window Wanderland.  I spent years talking through my idea of creating art that would glow in windows with friends, and while my confidence was low, my courage led to four friends agreeing to take part.  From there I marketed the idea to the neighbourhood to see if I could get others to go on the journey with us. 

With extreme effort, I made the event happen, and in February 2015 the streets of Bishopston, Bristol took to the idea and 250 homes made a display with thousands of people out on the streets in mid-Winter.

In the infancy of this festival I never dreamed that the world would in 2020 plunge everyone into isolation and bring the importance of our connection through windows even more to the fore.  But every year the feedback from Wanderlands, of which there have now been over 300 across the UK and 6 other countries in total, shows me that the idea which initially stemmed from reducing my own sense of loneliness is helping thousands of others feel the same.

Just last month Sarah who saw a notice on facebook to take part in a 2022 Wanderland on a Porthleven local group by a woman called Allison told us: 

“I suffer from social anxiety and agoraphobia and Allison is a friend so I thought why not participate from the safety of my own home. I found it very therapeutic cutting out the flowers and fish depicting a seaside fishing village theme.”

And through Coventry City of Culture  Wanderland saw its most senior participant, Phyllis aged 100, take part through activity in the care home where she resides.  

Phyllis said: ” I really enjoyed helping to create our displays for Window Wanderland. I wouldn’t say I was particularly good at arts and crafts, but I do enjoy doing them.”

It is well documented the connection between art and well-being, but this Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to again reflect on how Wanderland has helped me in my journey to admit my vulnerabilities, tackling loneliness for myself and others.  I want to remind people reading this that you aren’t as alone as you feel, and if our festival could help you connect to your community again, then that is something I count as magic. 

Find out how you can bring your neighbourhood together by putting on a Wanderland here.

The Garden of Love, Peace & Hope: Cambridge Window Wanderland

Barnwell Library Cambridge Window Art

The wonderful thing about Window Wanderland is that each festival is totally unique. Each window is different giving a true reflection of the community. 

After delivering a successful Window Wanderland in 2021 with over 200 windows lighting up the area, Cambridge City Council decided to launch a second in 2022 – but with a twist. 

Cambridge Council decided that the area needed something bright and inviting to bring the community together, and so put out a call for local artists to create large, vibrant installations on public buildings.  These beautiful commissions were the key focus of the Window Wanderland experience in Cambridge this year, and certainly were a sight not to be missed.

Despite Cambridge’s affluent image, the community of Barnwell, a suburb of Cambridge, is among the most deprived areas in the UK, blighted by traffic and a lack of community spaces.  Through Window Wanderland, Barnwell was transformed as part of the project with spaces lit up with warm and inviting displays.

We caught up with Penny, one of the artists selected for a commission, to give us an insight into how Window Wanderland brought new energy to the community of Barnwell.

Penny with her window display
Penny Sobr Illustration

Originally from New Zealand, Penny is a freelance illustrator who has worked with huge clients such as Vogue, Elle, international hotel chains and global advertising companies. She is an active member of the community, working on lantern trail projects and facilitating art workshops with local charities. Working alongside Penny for Window Wanderland were Karen Kellet and Sibylle Hutter, both local artists who are involved with many different local projects, including running art workshops and clubs, children’s illustration and teaching German.


When the opportunity to get involved with the festival came up, Penny jumped at the chance. She had created designs for the windows of Cambridge Guildhall and Mandela House the previous year, and had seen the impact Window Wanderland had on those in the area; as Penny lives close to Barnwell, she could see how the area needed an injection of colour to brighten up the long winter days.


Penny’s vision for Barnwell Library was to create a beautiful abstract flower garden called ‘The Garden of Love, Peace & Hope’, depicting animals, nature and man living in harmony, which was very well received by the community!

Beautiful window art featuring peacock, trees, swan, deer, bright colours
Penny’s Window Wanderland at Barnwell Library

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reaction from the public on social media saying how much everyone loves the fabulous colourful design!

The library told me that the window design had brought more people into the library
and cheered up the locals. So due to popular demand it’s still up on the windows for people to view nearly a month after it was supposed to be taken down.

Our local community has benefited through having an injection of a beautiful colourful story brightening up a dull corner of the community which gives out a lovely warm glow during the cold dark long days of winter.” 

As for plans for next year? Penny is hopeful that the positivity generated from this year’s Window Wanderland will get more people involved next year: 

“I would like to think that the lasting impact is that this window has inspired locals to decorate their own windows and to look forward to the next Window Wanderland festival next year!”

We can’t wait to see what the Cambridge community creates next year!

Why International Women’s Day (IWD) is at the Heart of Window Wanderland, by Founder Lucy Reeves Khan

For more than 100 years the achievements of women have been celebrated on 8th March, International Women’s Day, as well as raising awareness of inequalities still facing women across the world today. This year’s theme is #BreaktheBias, something I’ve always placed at the heart of Window Wanderland and will continue to do as long as the festivals last.

As a woman who has faced many challenges myself, I understand the battle faced by those who find their voices stifled or position not as strong as they would like it to be through no fault of their own.  Window Wanderland seeks to break down barriers and bring communities together, sharing experiences and celebrating our differences.

My Story

Before Window Wanderland I was a set designer within the male dominated media industry, but my world was turned upside down when a series of accidents left me in crippling pain, living with hidden disabilities, housebound and living in a new city.  Embarrassed by my unsteady walk, finding it tough to adapt I retreated into a shell of social isolation.  I wanted to connect with my community, but didn’t know how. As part of my recovery I would take short rehabilitation walks around my new neighbourhood, under the blanket of night as there were less people around.  It was on those walks that the light from houses who had left their curtains opened drew me in and into the present moment. My pain and anxiety lessened, and at first I assumed I was just being nosy, but soon realised it was the warmth of the light and the sense of connection that was making me feel better.

 It was out of this feeling that Window Wanderland was born in 2015, which has since seen over 300  community arts festivals taking place across 7 different countries with thousands of personal window displays. An achievement that I still can’t quite believe.

That feeling I experienced of being connected through light and beauty I see being passed on each year to those involved in the festivals.  Each window is different, an individual expression from the owner within. From communities joining together for window making workshops, to those wandering around spotting beautiful, humorous, even political windows in their neighbourhood. This brings an overall reduction in loneliness, from those living in care homes to those simply feeling more alone through the pandemic. It is breaking barriers window by window, as it is genuinely accessible and inclusive.

How do Window Wanderland #BreaktheBias?

The feeling of creating space for all runs through the heart of the festival, including the make up of the team.  Reflecting on what makes us different as an organisation this week, I found my goal is to allow people who work for us to breathe and work with self-kindness, and that’s how we want every element of what we do to operate.  That’s how we’ve designed the resources for organisers too, to allow them to work at their own pace, utilise what is there and just enjoy it.  We even ask organisers to agree to commit to self-compassion,  as it’s all too easy to stress out about running projects like this, and that is the opposite of what we need in the world. 

I’m proud that we have maintained a sense of equality and diversity on our board having an equal gender split and including 50% representation of those from a black and ethnic minority along with someone with a disability there front and centre, there aren’t many organisations, sadly, who can say the same. The team who keep the festival running are a diverse gender mix too and we are keen to ensure that whenever we recruit we let people know that we are open to applications from people from all walks of life. We want to be representative of the communities who come and join us in lighting up their neighbourhoods.  The vast majority of our organisers are women, and we are delighted to see women leading these initiatives to bring warmth to their communities, though it’s great when we see men get involved too.

Myself and the Window Wanderland team are joining thousands around the world this year to #BreaktheBias and speak out for gender equality.

International Women’s Day Windows

Throughout the festivals some of the most notable women in history have been celebrated through window displays, from Frida Khalo to Marie Curie, The Suffragettes to the journey of everyday women. 

The great thing about Window Wanderlands is they create space for people to develop their own magical displays that can be driven by passion or politics or anything that grabs them.  It doesn’t matter how artistic (or not) people are, anyone can join in.  We’ve seen many important causes represented in wanderland displays across the years, and it’s always that bit more moving when you see something that resonates. When we’ve been looking back at some of the stand out windows representing women and women’s rights in the lead up to International Women’s Day, I feel a sense of pride of what we can achieve as women, and driven to continue to push for equality.

Here are just some of the wonderful windows our makers have developed to celebrate women.  We’d love to see your windows, so do tag us in on social media using #WindowWanderland when you put them up.


And if you feel inspired to have a go at organising a Window Wanderland in your area visit our ‘Organise’ section of our website to see how easy it is to get started.

Can the Arts Help Reduce Social Isolation?

Family enjoy Window Wanderland

Impact of Social Isolation in the UK

Recent data collated by the Office for National Statistics found that 7.4 million adults in the UK feel lonely all or most of the time. That’s 13% of the adult population or 1 in 7 of us who feel alone most days. And that number climbs steeply when we factor in those who feel lonely often or some of the time.

During the COVID 19 Pandemic social isolation was at an all time high, with people locked down in their homes, those at a digital disadvantage almost entirely cut off from the outside world.

Medical research has connected chronic loneliness to health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, poor diet, reduced immunity, asthma, and a greater risk of other chronic illnesses and diseases. The prolonged, heightened exposure to cortisol caused by loneliness can also result in a number of other issues, such as depression, anxiety, digestion problems, and insomnia.  Whereas wide-ranging research suggests that strong social ties are linked to a longer life.

Window Wanderland Bringing Communities Together

Reducing social isolation is a key driver for Window Wanderland having been born out of lived experience for Founder Lucy. Following an accident that left Lucy battling chronic pain, the former set designer would take short nightly rehabilitation walks around her neighbourhood in Bristol and found the light from houses who had left their curtains opened drew her in and left her feeling less alone.

It was out of this feeling of warmth through the window that Window Wanderland was developed in 2015, and has since seen over 300 events take place across 7 different countries.

And that feeling Lucy had of being connected through light and beauty has been passed on to those involved in the festival.  From communities joining together for window making workshops, to those wandering around spotting others in their neighbourhood.

Some of those involved in Warwick Village event in 2020 told us:

“People got out and about and met people and went to places they didn’t know before. Great sense of engagement and fun.”

“A family who had only recently moved in took part and said it made them feel part of the community. I’ve lived there 20 years and visited roads I’d never been in before although they’re pretty close to me. While ‘wandering’ I met a couple who have tried to involve people in neighbourhood watch for a while and found it very hard to engage – they commented that we’d done really well in getting this level of engagement in such a short time.”

And following Window Wanderland taking place in Wotton-Under-Edge one organiser told us:

“We are thrilled to be part of this – it has opened many people’s eyes to their own creativity ; has brought some streets together , created new friendships, boosted self-confidence in many people. The buzz around the town , notwithstanding the storms, was incredible.”

Anyone can organise a Window Wanderland.  Whether you work for a council, care home, housing association, or are part of a rotary club, community arts group, or simply and individual who just wants to bring their neighbours some joy.

To find out more about how you go about running one visit and start your journey to reducing social isolation in your streets.