Since 2011 we’ve been developing the way we make our work accessible to young people in hospital settings. We began by presenting our small-scale shows in hospital, but we soon realised that in order to really engage with children in these unique environments, we were going to need a different approach…
After two projects on the children’s wards at St Georges Hospital in Tooting, we gained a solid understanding of the hospital’s working environment the methods that were effective for engaging young people. Particularly successful was a gift exchange project, using crafts and storytelling, called Pen Pals. This project reduced feelings of loneliness on the wards, and provided activities for children and their siblings during long waits for appointments or treatments.
In 2013 we began a relationship with Acorn Children’s Ward at Whipps Cross Hospital. We became Artists in Residence over the Christmas period and worked with over 80 young patients to turn the ward entrance into a winter themed extravaganza with baubles and magic lanterns. Children who were too unwell to go to the playroom were given ‘take-away’ kits to make in their beds so that everyone could have access to the activities that we provided.
We knew the young people would enjoy the workshops, but the big surprise was how much the hospital staff and family members benefitted from the project. The project became the talk of the hospital and staff from all across Whipps Cross wanted to get involved. Family members described the activities as ‘fantastic’ and a ‘life-saver’ as they provided something positive to focus on during long waits while children were in surgery.
Through being Artists in Residence, we discovered just how crucial the staff’s creative input was in making the project successful, so in 2014 we began to explore ways to creatively engage the staff as much as the young patients.
We went back to Acorn Children’s Ward at Whipps Cross Hospital where we worked with staff and children to create an improvised storytelling mini-show to be presented at the bedside or in different locations around the hospital by the permanent hospital staff.
The storytelling project now resides in the hospital – every time a new patient arrives it can be used to tell a playful story about life on the Acorn Ward, and help the young person and their families make the transition into the hospital environment.
We returned to Whipps Cross Hospital this time to work with Staff and students in the hospital school to explore the theme of ‘Materials’. Working to a specific curriculum aim across 4 Key Stages was a particular challenge whilst using accessible art making activities. We were keen to see how we could ensure that each child met their individual learning objectives, whilst also having the benefit of arts, craft and storytelling.
We used a variety of materials and developed playful ways of creating art and stories which the young people could share with their families and friends during visiting hours. We created our own magazine ‘Material World’ and invented a series of characters who brightened up the ward on a large scale display for everyone in the hospital to see.
Our Christmas Takeover 2016 was a week-long project on Acorn Ward at Whipps Cross Hospital where the children, parents and staff made Christmas decorations, sharing the spirit of togetherness, friendship and play. We made visual art and sound installations, decorations for across the ward and lanterns to brighten up the ward with our Associate Artists, Jon Van Beek, Alex Evans and Nickie Wildin. The spirit of this project was captured in a short film.
These projects have been generously supported by Awards for All, Children in Need, The Toy Trust, BBC Children in Need and John Lyons Trust.
We are currently fundraising to deliver our important work with Children in hospitals beyond 2017, please get in touch with us if you have any enquiries.