Vital Arts transforms Royal London Children’s Hospital

Since 2012, Vital Arts has been working with artists and designers to make the Royal London Children’s Hospital feel more welcoming for young visitors. The building’s transformation is now complete, with new works by illustrator Chris Haughton, textiles designer Donna Wilson and toy designers Miller Goodman.

Since 2012, Vital Arts has been working with artists and designers to make the Royal London Children’s Hospital feel more welcoming for young visitors. The building’s transformation is now complete, with new works by illustrator Chris Haughton, textiles designer Donna Wilson and toy designers Miller Goodman.

Vital Arts is the arts organisation for Barts Health NHS Trust. Founded in 1996, it aims to improve patient experiences at hospitals by commissioning murals, installations and designs by leading creatives, and running arts participation programmes and workshiops.

We first featured the organisation’s work with Royal London’s Children’s Hospital in our April 2013 issue (read the feature here), when it unveiled an activity space featuring giant 3D characters and graphics by Morag Myerscough and a responsive digital installation by Chris O’Shea (the project was later named Best in Book in our 2014 Annual):

The activity space at the Royal London Children’s Hospital, designed by architects Cottrell and Vermeulen and designer Morag Myerscough with installation by Chris O’Shea

In 2012, the group also worked with textiles designer Ella Doran to create print designs for bed curtains and furniture featuring flowers, kites, ballons and London skylines, while Myerscough created a ‘warm welcome’ mural for a reception space, inspired by a trip to India:

Textile designs by Ella Doran

Bollywood Circus by Morag Myerscough, image by Gareth Gardner

 

Since then, Vital Arts has worked with a series of artsts and designers to create large-scale murals for various corridors and rooms: last month, children’s book illustrator Chris Haughton (author of Oh No, George!) created a colourful collection of creatures for the paediatric assessment and short stay unit, shown top and below, assigning a different animal rather than a number to each room.

The lion room, for example, features a lion’s face on the door, vinyl lion stickers and a framed lion rug handmade in Nepal by a fairtrade group co-founded by Haughton, and corridors are adorned with vinyl stickers of bears, cats, aardvarks and elephants as well as a monkey dressed as a doctor. There’s also a framed portrait of Haughton’s ‘hat monkey’ character:

Animals! by Chris Haughton, image by Jess Bonham

Donna Wilson painted large-scale rural scenes with wooden trees and snow-capped mountains in the haematology ward in April, and invited patients to participate by stamping patterns on to hills:

Donna Wilson, Painted Landscapes. Photography by Joe Clark

While in November, toy designers Miller Goodman (Zoe Miller and David Goodman) transformed the respiratory ward with scenes inspired by their PlayShapes range, a collection of 74 wooden shapes that can be combined to create new shapes and patterns. As well as vinyl stickers placed on walls and windows, the pair used wooden birds, flowers, monkeys and snails to add a 3D element to the space:

Miller Goodman’s Imaginary Menagerie. Photos by Jess Bonham

Product designer Tord Boontje also brightened up the critical care ward with colourful scenes of flowers, fauna and wild animals, alongside laser cut perspex shapes to add depth and shadow:

Tord Boontje, Happy Day. Image by Gar Powell-Evans

With five wards and 130 beds, the Royal London Children’s Hospital now cares for over 40,000 young people each year, and Vital Arts hopes its collaborations with various creatives will make the prospect of spending a night under its roof a little less daunting.

By woking with innovative artists and designers, it has created bright and cheerful spaces that help provide a little entertainment and distraction for patients – an initiative being practised by other hospitals in the capital and beyond (Chelsea Children’s Hospital recently worked with design studio Thomas.Matthews, while Jason Bruges studio created an interactive ‘distraction piece’ for Great Ormond Street). As well as providing a little added comfort, the results can have a significant impact on patients and families’ wellbeing during their stay, even helping aid their recovery.

  • chris

    Amazing. Wow – so nice to see design make a real difference and that will.

  • Rachid Taibi

    Reminds me of the Kindergarten mural engraved in my mind. 1Up. Next level

  • Jacqui Peet

    Absolutely love it, it is bound to have a positive effect. Photographic wall paper of trees/woods/ lakes in the distance/beaches/ calm, serene and natural outside spaces would be great for older patients and relatives too.

  • Bip

    Fantastic, what a joy!
    Bip

  • This is utterly amazing – after an unexpected visit to the hospital yesterday I was just thinking what a great space to create happy well being walls – and here they are.

  • Mary Hennock

    Great stuff here. Kids will be intrigued by these images and remember them for years.

  • Marcella

    This is so amazing I am a huge fan of this idea. I think it brings nothing but positive outcomes for not only the sick young patients, but the doctors, volunteers, visitors and family members as well. It is amazing how a little bit of fun artwork can change the vibe of a room so drastically. I’m sure any child would appreciate this artwork in so many ways. It’s fun, distracting, cheerful, comforting, and memorable. I truly believe it will make a difference whether it’s just something as small as a smile or giggle to a complete mindset change for a terminal child. Something like this should definitely be done in hospitals all over the world, for all ages. Hospitals are a difficult place to feel comfortable in or for some to even go in. If there weren’t just white walls and scary machines everywhere it might not be such a downer, in a general sense of course. I know my family wouldn’t hesitate to donate and contribute to this idea. It might even be a fun activity for a small town to gather together and decorate their hospital as a community. Something like that would never be forgotten.