Playtime at The Royal London’s Children Hospital

Artist Chris O’Shea has collaborated with digital production company Nexus Interactive Arts to create Woodland Wiggle – an interactive game for children displayed on an enormous telly in a new indoor play area at The Royal London Hospital’s dedicated Children’s Hospital…

Artist Chris O’Shea has collaborated with digital production company Nexus Interactive Arts to create Woodland Wiggle – an interactive game for children displayed on an enormous telly in a new indoor play area at The Royal London Hospital’s dedicated Children’s Hospital…

Officially called The Ann Riches Healing Space, the new indoor play area has been designed by architects Cottrell & Vermeulen and graphic designer Morag Myerscough and takes the form of an oversized living room filled with Alice In Wonderland-scale objects for children to explore and interact with.

“The architects [Cottrell & Vermeulen] had won a RIBA competition to design the space and had the concept of the large living room,” explains Myerscough of the project. “I was then brought in by Vital Arts [who commissioned the project] to introduce another layer of narrative in the space,” she continues.

“The living room was to appear as a familiar calm space but super sized and I introduced the playful disorder with giant characters, stories, puzzle seating, wooden tops and a wallpaper patterned with a menagerie of animals.”

“Once we we struck on the idea of the animals who better to ask than my Mum, Betty Fraser Myerscough, a textile artist, who went to work creating various animals and we took [toy-size versions, shown below] to the hospital to see how the patients would react and they loved them,” Myerscough continues.

“The main characters in the space are Eddie the Tiger and Twoo the Wise Owl. We did not stop there – Luke Morgan has written a story about all the friends who live in Cozy Wood and can hear it narrated under the story telling chair in the space.”

It is Betty Fraser Myerscough’s animal character creations which have been brought to life in the interactive game devised by O’Shea that plays out on the huge TV in the space. Myerscough’s characters were illustrated and animated by Felix Massie and can be interacted with onscreen by moving around in front of the screen.

Entitled Wiggle Wood, the installation allows children to enter into a storybook-style illustrated world, enabling them to paint, play music (with sound design and music by Brains & Hunch), and trigger sun, rain, snow and rainbows with animated animal characters across a number of woodland scenes.

“Working in close consultation with clinical teams at the hospital, and following a series of workshops with physiotherapists and occupational therapists, I was able to determine a range of movements that would give children the best health benefits which strongly influenced the format and design of the games created,” explains artist Chirs O’Shea of the project.

“The installation had to work with a wide range of abilities, from wheelchair users, visually impaired, to bed bound children, so simple movement filtering allows for triggering of music and paint with just a wave of the hands,” he continues. Here’s a look at the installation being put to good use:

Woodland Wiggle credits:

Artist Chris O’Shea

Beccy McCray
Executive producer
Luke Ritchie
Development producer Claire Spencer Cook
Production assistant Carmen de Wit
Illustrator and animator Felix Massie
Composer and sound designer Brains and Hunch
Documentation editor Dave Slade
Production Company
Nexus Interactive Arts

Other features in the space include huge colourful spinning tops (they don’t spin, for obvious safety reasons) designed by Morag Myerscough, an interactive patterned projection underneath a huge lampshade, and two enormous animal characters designed by Myerscough senior – here’s Twoo awaiting departure from the factory it was made in:

Architects Cottrell & Vermeulen have also designed a garden area in the hospital but photos aren’t available at the time of posting this story – we’ll add images as soon as we have them.

Both the indoor and outdoor play areas were ommissioned by Vital Arts, the arts organisation for Barts Health NHS Trust. Funded entirely by charitable donations from underwriters OdysseyRe, construction group Skanska, and Barts and The London Charity.

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