Coming soon: A new activity book for children and young people in hospitals celebrating diversity and inclusion
This summer, an exciting new activity book will be launched by the National Portrait Gallery, thanks to support from Delancey, Get Living, Here East and The Earls Court Development Company.
This summer, an exciting new activity book will be launched by the National Portrait Gallery, thanks to support from Delancey, Get Living, Here East and The Earls Court Development Company. Illustrator Dunni Mustapha has created a set of dynamic illustrations and creative activities bringing the Gallery’s Collection to life with a focus on entertainers and sporting legends. 5000 copies of the book, Champions of the World, will be gifted for free to 5 London partner hospitals and a PDF will be available to all to download online.
Background to the National Portrait Gallery Hospitals’ Programme
The National Portrait Gallery has a long-standing history of working with London hospitals to promote health and wellbeing through creative arts programming. The programme believes in the power of art and creativity to provide stimulation, enjoyment and distraction to young people in hospital, and are committed to championing the arts. The programme understands the potential for creative activity to support the physical, mental, and emotional recovery of children and young people in hospitals. To date, 20,000 young people and their families have participated in the programme, which celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2022. The five partner hospitals in London are:
- Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
- Evelina London Children’s Hospital
- Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital
- Newham University Hospital
- The Royal London Hospital
The National Portrait Gallery Hospitals’ Programme aims are to engage and inspire children and their families in clinical settings with creative arts workshops that contribute towards positive health and wellbeing outcomes. The ambition is to create accessible, innovative, impactful and rewarding experiences for young people and their families.
Pivoting to COVID-19
Throughout the pandemic, the National Portrait Gallery Hospitals’ Programme worked in close collaboration with play teams, play therapists, nursing staff, arts programmers and hospital school teachers to pivot the programme in response to COVID-19 restrictions. In reaction to the pandemic, hospitals locked down access to external visitors and the programme were unable to deliver the project as usual. The programme responded to each hospital’s unique needs to continue to offer engaging arts experiences. Each hospital faced different challenges during this time, so the solutions for remote provision had to be bespoke. Depending on factors such as availability of WiFi, digital resourcing, staffing support and patient distribution, the programme worked together with each of their partners to devise new ways of working, ensuring that opportunities remained available to children and young people.
In reaction to visiting restrictions, the programme embraced remote alternatives, trialling digital platforms as a way of reaching isolated patients, moving face-to-face sessions online and developing free creative digital resources. Extended digital provision has been pushed out through the Gallery’s social media channels and website, which now include:
- Downloadable PDFs of activity books
- Extension activities with ‘how to’ videos and age-related activity prompts linked to the Playful Portraits resource.
- Pre-recorded artist-led sessions with age related extensions activities, including Mindful Drawings.
Impact of COVID-19
At the start of the pandemic, conditions in hospitals were severely affected and continue to be challenging. This has had a particular effect of children, with only one adult allowed at the child’s bedside, wearing full PPE. Reaching out to these children has become more important than ever, as even if mobile, children have been confined to their beds due to social distancing regulations and unable to socialise. Schoolrooms and play areas, our usual workshop locations, remain closed or available for use by just one child at a time, with a strict cleaning regime in place to protect users. Group work has not been able to take place, aside from in psychiatric wards more recently, and teaching or play activities have been delivered one-to-one, by the bedside and in full PPE.
Embracing new technologies and delivering sessions remotely via digital platforms has been transformational to children who have experienced extreme isolation during the pandemic. It has allowed them to connect with other children and see artists’ faces unmasked – both emotionally and socially beneficial beyond measure. Live digital sessions have enabled interaction between children in hospitals (in-patients) and at home (out-patients). They have also have enabled interaction between isolated children, who would otherwise be unable to come together as a group. From initial findings, digital could increase reach and flexibility considerably and should not be disregarded as a long-term element to programming. This will likely lead to a long-term blended offer, alongside face-to-face workshops post-pandemic, once restrictions in hospitals have been lifted.
“Whilst bringing these sessions to the virtual realm has been an adjustment for all of us, we have found that it has opened up so many possibilities in terms of access. We had some patients that engaged the sessions in December that would not have been able to attend if they were happening in person due to the nature of their condition. We’re therefore so grateful that we’re able to continue to offer these opportunities to our patients over the coming months in our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery”. – Eibhlin Jones, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital
Image above: Zoom worksop, with artist Marysa Dowling, GOSH
The remote sessions run by artists, with support from hospital staff, provide an important social function, with an event not medically focussed directed at individuals, providing positive engagement with artists and other children and young people:
“I drew a beach and it made me feel relaxed, distracting me from the situation I am in.” Participant, aged 14
Objectives of remote offer:
- Continue to provide access to the Collection during social distancing and enhanced safeguarding restrictions resulting from COVID-19.
- Provide resources and opportunities that support and enhance provision on site (in hospitals), being mindful of restrictions to staff time.
- Make opportunities for children and young people to see faces (unmasked) from outside of the hospital and communicate with others, proactively encouraging patients to interact with others.
- Facilitate socially distanced group sessions where appropriate and possible.
- Increase activity and productivity through creative thinking and making.
- In turn, positively contribute to mental wellbeing of children and young people.
- Enable interaction between isolated children, who would otherwise be unable to come together as a group due to infection risks aside from COVID-19, e.g. cystic fibrosis unit at GOSH.
Activity packs and books
In order to offer creative opportunities to children and young people in hospitals that are under-staffed and therefore struggling to support live remote sessions, the programme has created ready-to-go packs to be handed out on the wards over holiday periods. Over 100 of these beautifully designed resources have now been sent out to occupy children, when school rooms are closed.
In addition to these packs and the accompanying digital resources, this Summer the National Portrait Gallery will also launch a fourth printed activity book, Champions of the World, thanks to support from Delancey and platform businesses. 5,000 copies of the book will be gifted for free to 5 London partner hospitals, and a PDF will be available to all to download online. Illustrator Dunni Mustapha has created a set of dynamic illustrations and creative activities, bringing the Gallery’s Collection to life with a focus on entertainers and sporting legends. Taking inspiration from the Gallery’s Collection, Champions of the World introduces young people to portraits and diverse stories of exceptional, hard-working people who have changed our world for the better. By completing creative activities, young people can learn more about these inspirational people through play and create their own artistic responses. Look out for this exciting new activity book, launching in Summer 2022!
Image: Front cover of activity book
This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of The National Portrait Gallery’s Hospitals’ programme, promoting health and wellbeing through the creative arts. To find out more go to: Hospitals Programme – National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk)
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