Hospital Rooms partners with South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust to launch ground-breaking arts programme

Arts and mental health charity Hospital Rooms has launched its most ambitious project to date in partnership with South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. As part of the development of two new mental health facilities at Springfield University Hospital, 20 major artworks have been commissioned to transform how hospital wards are experienced by patients and service users.

Hospital Rooms artists will lead more than 80 art workshops with patients and staff, which will go on to inform the artworks that are created. The project will forge a new path for mental health services, radically transforming how a mental health hospital can look and feel and making access to creative participation central to the culture of care at the Trust.

Director of Nursing at South West London and St George’s Sharon Spain commented, “We are thrilled to be working with Hospital Rooms to undertake this transformational project – one of the largest of its kind in the world. As we work with our partners to develop modern new facilities at Springfield Hospital, a new 32-acre park and hundreds of new homes, we are clear in our ambition to create a community with health and wellbeing at its heart.

“Research has long demonstrated the positive impact of artistic and creative expression on our mental health. This programme of work is another way we can harness the healing power of art to support mental wellbeing of those we care for, whilst giving a creative voice to our service users, and creating warm and welcoming environments that support recovery.”

Hospital Rooms has enlisted an internationally acclaimed and diverse roster of artists, many of whom put vulnerable people at the centre of their work and specialise in participatory practice. They include: Abbas Zahedi, Alvin Kofi, Andrew Pierre Hart, Bindi Vora, Harold Offeh, Hurvin Anderson, Jasmin Sehra, Jo Bruton, Larry Achiampong, Libita Clayton and Nina Royle, Linda Bell, Michelle Wiliams Gamaker, Richard Rawlins, Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, Susie Hamilton, Sutapa Biswas and Yinka Ilori.

Many of the artists involved in the project have an existing link to Wandsworth arts and cultural organisations.

  • Yinka Ilori won through the 2019 Wandsworth Council commission Types of Happiness’, where he transformed the Thessaly Road underpass in Nine Elms ‘into a colourful Happy Street,’ and later showcasing the redesign in a public exhibition organised by StudioRCA during Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2019.
  • Andrew Pierre Hart graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA Painting in 2019 and exhibited in the Royal College of Art Graduate Show in 2019. He has also been a Visiting Lecturer for MA Painting at Royal College of Art, had a What Now’ Panel discussion at RCA, 2021, as well as a variety of other shows at the RCA). He has also had the group show Accidental Platform in 2020, through Wells Projects at Wandsworth. 
  • Alvin Kofi grew up in Tooting and had a studio launch in Wandsworth in 2006, leading to his largest ongoing project, ‘Generation to Generation’, exhibited in South London and Birmingham.  
  • Linda Bell and ActionsSpace artist has exhibited as part of Wandsworth Arts Fringe in 2020, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2010. 
  • Jasmin Sehra collaborated with the Wandsworth-based street food restaurant ‘Chit Chaat Chai’ to exhibit her work, ‘Bolly-Hood’ in 2017.  
  • National Opera Studio is based in Wandsworth Town.
  • Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq has worked as an art therapist in the d/Deaf service at Springfield Hospital as well as having a professional art practice.
  • Michelle Wiliams Gamaker is working with Matt’s Gallery in Nine Elms
  • Jo Bruton is represented by Matt’s Gallery in Nine Elms.
  • Larry Achiampong has been a tutor on the Photography MA programme at the Royal College of Art in London since 2016, and exhibited at Studio RCA in 2018 for Art Night London; ‘Pixel Perpetual’, a site specific installation.  
  • Hurvin Anderson graduated from MA Painting at the Royal College of Art in 1998.
  • Harold Offeh had his education at Royal College of Art, MA (RCA) Fine Art Photography, 1999–2001 and was a Visiting Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice MA at the RCA in 2018.  
  • Virgil Abloh has recently joined the RCA as a Visiting Professor.  
  • Richard Mark Rawlins is a graduate of the Royal College of Art’s print programme, 2019. 
  • Libita Clayton performed as part of ‘4717’, RCA/LUX at the RCA Dyson Gallery in 2018. 
  • Abbas Zahedi Has had a variety of activity within the RA, teaching as a Visiting Tutor for Visual Comm., MA, RCA, in 2020-2021 and as a Visiting Tutor for Sculpture MA, RCA, in 2020-2021. He has also taken part in The Urgency of The Arts Assembly, RCA in 2021 and had a Guest Lecture, The Art of Disengaging at RCA in 2020.  

As part of the co-production process, artists will lead numerous imaginative and adventurous art workshops at Springfield Hospital from January to June 2022. The programme will engage a wide spectrum of the community in a meaningful collaborative experience and ensure the new environments have an affinity with the people who encounter them.

Niamh White one of the co-founders of Hospital Rooms said, “We are extremely excited to embark on this project with South West London and St George’s. They acknowledge the significant role the arts can play in offering patients a sense of dignity and control in what can be a challenging time through both the environments they are surrounded by and the types of opportunities they are offered to express themselves. We hope this will be transformative in how we think about mental health spaces on a national level.” 

Hospital Rooms will also be hosting a special set of workshops in collaboration with the The Courtauld Gallery at their new Learning Centre in Somerset House in central London. Each artist has taken inspiration from the Gallery’s permanent collection and will lead a session that will go on to inform the artwork they create for the hospital. These workshops are free and open to anyone who has used mental health services.

Hospital Rooms are also partnering with local cultural organisations such as National Opera Studio and Action Space to share knowledge of working in these settings and cultivate longer term programming, offering training to occupational staff in leading creative sessions and equipping new activity rooms with quality art materials with the support of Colart. As a result of this project, participants will have their creative talent sparked and be immersed in accessible, appealing and abundant cultural opportunities all around them. The artwork and new opportunities for expression will give people a voice and sense of dignity at what can be a distressing time.

Hospital Rooms has undertaken eight months of research and development in preparation for this project which has included leading art workshops with inpatients (Deaf, Eating Disorders, Acute, PICU and Forensics), a summer art school for Recovery College students, and a virtual creative day for service user representatives, family and carers.

The charity has also delivered 20 weekly Digital Art School sessions to further embed its relationship with the community at Springfield and gain feedback on the types of experiences that people are responding to best. Over 25 interviews with former inpatients and a comprehensive evidence review have been conducted by a member of the Hospital Rooms team who has experience of being sectioned. This work has informed the selection of artists, the identification of high impact spaces for artworks, the artist training programme and the plan for patient experience.

Through collaboration with the clinical teams at South West London and St. George’s, researchers at Norwich University of the Arts, the World Health Organisation, Wandsworth Council and local cultural partners, Hospital Rooms aspire to evidence the positive impact of arts intervention projects in mental health hospitals at local, national and international level and influence strategic and wide-reaching change.

Supported by: Arts Council England, Baring Foundation, WHO Artist Response Fund, Anthropologie, Hauser & Wirth, South West London and St George’s NHS Trust Charitable Fund, Courtauld, Norwich University of the Arts, CF Moller, Colart, Winsor & Newton, Graphenstone, Wandsworth Council, National Opera Studio, Matt’s Gallery and Action Space.

About Hospital Rooms

Artist Tim A. Shaw and curator Niamh White founded Hospital Rooms after a close friend was sectioned and admitted to a mental health hospital. On visiting her, they were shocked to find that the hospital environment was cold and clinical at a time when she was so vulnerable. Having worked in the arts for 10 years each, they felt they had the skills and community to be able to transform these spaces with high quality artworks.

In 2016, Dr Emma Whicher (now one of Hospital Rooms’ trustees) gave them the opportunity to run their first project at the Phoenix Unit, a rehabilitation unit for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. They commissioned Nick Knight, Gavin Turk, Assemble among other world class artists to work with patients and staff to create site specific artwork for the ward. The project received national press attention and Hospital Rooms has been inundated with requests for projects ever since. Since then, Hospital Rooms has undertaken a number of acclaimed projects, completed in some of the most challenging mental health settings.

Visit Hospital Rooms website