I was commissioned by The Spitz Charitable Trust to document their inspiring work creating music over a few hours with and for the elderly in a care home.

The following reportage illustrations were created on site in the space of a few hours.

















A few words from The Spitz on the day:

“One of our visits in October comprised a whole day at Osborne Grove Nursing Home, visiting individuals in their rooms in the morning and coming together for a group session in the afternoon for those who were able to leave their beds.

We were delighted that illustrator Joanna Layla could join us for this visit to document the work. Below is one of many beautiful drawings from the day; more will appear on the Spitz website shortly.

Spitz Director Jane Glitre describes the atmosphere of this pioneering day:

“When are you coming again?” It was very faintly said and hard to decipher from someone who I hadn’t realised could speak. As we were packing up after our final session at Osborne Grove Nursing Home a very frail lady managed to ask the question. She lay in her large armchair/wheelchair and had spent most of the session trying to hide one of our maracas under her jumper. It was obvious she was enjoying the music, and wonderful that she was looking to the future. The Activity Officer for Osborne Grove was amazed.

Participants ranged in age from 50 years old to 95. Many are bed bound, the rest either use wheel chairs or zimmer frames.

On arrival one client was frequently very agitated, swearing at us and saying ‘I hate you’. As soon as the music began she would relax and look deeply at us.

Almost every single room received some kind of music and conversation in the morning. There was just one man who didn’t want anything and sat, sadly with his head in his hands. We told staff about him and were delighted to see him at the afternoon session, smiling and joining in.

The afternoon group session took on the same format as our previous visits, however it was deeply enhanced by the intimacy of the morning: more people came and they greeted us in recognition, musical conversations continued with a lot of joining in. After an hour staff went round to check if anyone wanted to leave and they all wanted to stay.

One lady remarked “I shall remember this for the rest of my life. Always.”









C A T H Y   C O M E   H O M E   at the  B A R B I C A N



T H E   G U A R D I A N   R E V I E W

Cathy Come Home at the Barbican has been receiving incredible reviews in print and online media.

I created the overall Design (concept, costume, set, visuals) and Illustrations for this 50th anniversary celebration of Ken Loach’s seminal film about Homelessness.

The Guardian streamed the piece live on their Website and published a 4 star review in Thursday’s print edition of the Newspaper and online:

“What was moving about Tony Mcbride’s production was seeing the 22-strong cast recreate the original work with such passion and energy. Aided by Joanna Layla‘s elegant graphics and a score that included The Ballad of High Noon… they took us into the world of tenements, hostels and campsites as if evoking a whole society” Michael Billington’s review in The Guardian 

You can read the article in full here:

i-D magazine also featured the production:

C A T H Y   C O M E   H O M E   at   the   B A R B I C A N


I have just created the illustrations and design for a production of Ken Loach’s iconic film ‘Cathy Come Home’ at the Barbican. This page documents my illustration process  – in collaboration with Cardboard Citizens.

Cardboard Citizens is proud to present a theatrical re-staging of Cathy Come Home, performed by a community ensemble drawn from its membership.  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this seminal film, in its own 25th anniversary year, renowned theatre company Cardboard Citizens finds a home at the Barbican.

In 1966 a young film-maker called Ken Loach directed a pioneering BBC drama, written by Patrick Sandford, about a young family’s slide into homelessness.  The screening of the film led to public outrage at the state of housing in Britain and became a defining cultural landmark, demonstrating the power of art to effect social and political change. With an authenticity born out of the experience of its members, Cardboard Citizens restages key scenes from the film, as a preface to a discussion asking the question:  Homelessness 50 years on – what’s changed?

Shortly after the performance at the Barbican on Tuesday 5th July, I will upload the illustrations from the production to this page.




Do you remember what a house looked like when you were five years old? How does that image compare to what you call ‘home’ today? I started the design process by asking the cast to draw what their childhood selves thought ‘home’ should look like. Is home a structure, a feeling, a family, a cup of tea…?


The design works around a cardboard citizen’s vivid memory of being a 5 yr old and drawing a picture of what his ideal home looked like and then seeing parts of that picture start to disappear over his life into homelessness – like in Cathy Come Home. The design plays with the idea of ‘drawing in and erasing out’ – and the idea that the screen is a member of the ensemble, ‘home’ is a character on stage, and narrator as illustrator. Taking the shape of ‘home’ – in its various forms, deconstructing it to tangible symbols of home (tea, flame…) and further to the absence of home  – home-less-ness. Starting and ending with the child’s eye view of home and separation.

The audience follow the line drawn on this journey to homelessness. All the motifs featured are informed by the visual responses of the Cardboard Citizen members to the script (both those alive at the time of Cathy Come Home and contemporary parallels).



PROCESS SKETCHBOOK – an edit of my illustration, ideas + process










A Preview of the Illustrated Set Projections for the Barbican

Projected illustrations and animations form the set of the play. The audience follows the line drawing in and erasing visual motifs of home into home-less-ness. Exploring the essence of ‘home’ from a family home to a derelict house to houseplant, fire, tea and community.











joannalayla_kerosene lamp with hands

joannalayla_derelict house_v5






1. joannalayla_tenemenet

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre
Photo Credit: The Other Richard


Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Cardboard Citizens present Cathy Come Home at the Barbican Centre
Photo Credit: The Other Richard




a selection of my drawings of cast members from the rehearsal room can be seen on instagram


Previous work with C A R D B O A R D    C I T I Z E N S

Over the last two years, I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with theatre company Cardboard Citizens as a designer-in-residence. As the UK’s leading practitioners in Theatre of the Oppressed methodology, Cardboard Citizens tells stories that need to be told, through theatre performed on the stage, in the street, in hostels, centres and prisons. In particular empowering those who have experienced homelessness to explore their own narratives and share their experiences through forum theatre.

I have worked on the following productions, both as an illustrator, designer and art director:

A Matter of Mind: Cardboard Citizens x Wellcome Trust (2014)

META by Sarah Woods: Cardboard Citizens x Wellcome Trust (2016)

Street/life: Cardboard Citizens, funded by Gulbenkian (2015)

Speakeasy, parts I, II, III: Cardboard Citizens x Lyrix Organix as part of Islington Word Festival (2014, 2015, 2016)

Below is a selection of the illustrations from my work with Cardboard Citizens, starting with a series of reportge illustrations from my current role working with young actors on Speakeasy III









joannalayla facebook AMoM

I worked as Designer and Illustrator on A MATTER OF MIND | AMoM – A Cardboard Citizens x Wellcome Trust Multi-media production.

An exploration of the teenage brain, its development, the pressures placed upon it and the impact of mindfulness.

For each day of the project I kept a daily blog of the design process. The sketchbook as an extension of the mind.

You can follow my blog HERE, or see an edit of the images below.

joannalayla brain dream 3

AMoM /// A Matter of Mind

Day 1: My first day as designer on the set of the Wellcome Trust funded multi-media project by theatre company Cardboard Citizens ‘A Matter of Mind’. An exploration of the teenage brain, its development, the pressures placed upon it and the impact of mindfulness.

Five actors, five white chairs.

Blown away by how the seemingly simplest objects become tools/visual signifiers for complex metaphors.

joannalayla brain bold 1

joannalayla chairs photo

joannalayla chairs sketchbook

joannalayla anthony

joannalayla james

joannalyla carly

joannalayla sherry

Day 8: following the journey of Samira’s brain through the script… and it begins with the neurons….

a tentacled mass of neuron seaweed

#AMatterofMind #brain #theatre #illustration #teenage

joannalayla brain


Two weeks into A Matter of Mind | AMoM and my brain feels like the most precious commodity. As a runner I am daily aware of my knees, my ankles, my heart, my legs, my shoulders, my lungs, my veins, my arms but weirdly take my head for-granted. But really its my head I run for.

Two weeks into AMoM and my perspective has changed. The human brain is the most beautiful, weird, wonderful, magical thing.

Just learning about the brain and drawing the brain, my own brain is making new connections, new pathways to accelerate this learning.

As Designer I am watching the journey of the lead character’s brain through the piece and telling a visual story through the brain’s activity. Telling the story of Ali Taylor’s beautiful script through the brain itself.

Creating illustrations of the brain for a multi-media set design.

#illustration #amatterofmind #neuroscience #teenager #brain #theatre #design


Day 13: Developing a design aesthetic for the brain illustrations…

joannalayla brain inverse + quink 1

joannalayla brain PTSD memory mockup v.4

joannalayla brain warning symbol 2

joannalayla brain dopamine mockup v.4

joannalayla brain amygdala 2

joannalayla brain perspective 1

joannalayla brain school diagram

Day 14: What is going on inside the teenage brain?

A Matter of Mind is an incredible play and project by Cardboard Citizens exploring the complex and plastic nature of the teenage brain as it rapidly develops.

#amatterofmind #illustration #design #brain #neuroscience #theatre #mindfulness #cardboardcitizens