arts adventures


Yesterday morning I attended an inspiring, hour-long workshop in the children’s ward at University Hospital Lewisham as part of our ArtsAdventures programme for young patients.

Four children and four parents were transported into an underwater world of snakes, sharks, submarines, swimmers and sea grass by our visual artist, Chloe and bassoonist, Luke. We created this world collectively using pipe cleaners (what would we do without them!), scrunchy paper, a selection of percussion instruments and a large scoop of imagination.

Hospitals can be frightening places that are bewildering for children and adults alike. One of the children who attended with his father was having an operation on his broken arm in the afternoon, so they will have been feeling anxious and, perhaps, afraid. For the duration of the workshop, however, they were able to relax, laugh, sing, make music and contribute alongside others to a funny story about a snake saving a swimmer from the shark, with vocal and instrumental sound-effects adding to the mystery and wonder. The father told me afterwards how much they had enjoyed the experience, and I loved watching children and parents alike laugh and play together for an hour of joyful release.

Before we left, the play specialist told me how much difference the project makes: “Last time you came, there was one boy who had been too scared to see the doctor on previous visits. After your workshop, we had no problem getting him through the door. Thank you.”

We designed ArtsAdventures ten years ago. Since then, we have used creative arts workshops to enhance the quality of life of almost 5,000 young patients (and their siblings and other family members) who are suffering from a wide range of illnesses, injuries and disabilities, many of these life-limiting/life-shortening such as cerebral palsy or leukaemia. The project helps each child to cope with anxiety and stress, provide a distraction from their medical procedures, regain confidence and independence, and have fun. Our professional artists lead creative workshops at 20 hospitals, hospices and respite centres up to four times each year and we have run more than 490 workshops since the programme began.

This piece is from 2013.

Nicky Goulder, Chief Executive