Arts for Health

Arts for Health

Alder Hey runs a varied and dynamic arts for health programme which has been at the forefront of pioneering innovative approaches to using the arts in children's healthcare.

Our arts programmes are inspired by our patients and led by them. There are many different ways to experience our arts for health programme. We offer a varied programme of enjoyable arts activities which are carried out in the wards or waiting areas. These include dance, music, comedy, arts, storytelling, creative writing, digital arts, animation and puppet making.

Arts for Health won the prestigious ‘NHS England Excellence in Participation Award 2014: Children and Young People’ at the Healthcare Innovation Expo in Manchester. This was awarded for our innovative dance programme, a collaboration with Small Things Dance Company.

Contact us

Please email Vicky Charnock, Arts Coordinator at

Arts for Health projects

Examples of current and former projects include:


The hospital has a long standing partnership with Twin Vision, a media charity specialising in projects that develop skills in photography, film, animation and audio.

In 2016, Twin Vision worked with our Oncology Unit to create a “Welcome to Ward 3B” film (above) and accompanying documentary which could be used by patients and their families coming onto the Unit for the first time. The film covers all aspects of life on the ward from a patient’s perspective, from the ward chefs preparing meals to activities in the school classroom. Patients were involved in all aspects of making the film and in December, we held a special film premiere to celebrate the children and young people’s achievements, which was attended by more than 150 people!

Throughout 2017, Twin Vision have worked with patients on Ward 4A to develop a project in partnership with Tate Liverpool. Inspired by contemporary artist Tracey Emin’s seminal artwork, ‘My Bed’, patients have made an animation film about their own bed, what inspires them about their bed and what adventures their bed might have. Patients developed the script, made the models and sets, and took part in filming and editing and the voice overs. The resulting animation and documentary film showcasing the project were shown at Tate Liverpool in the first floor galleries as part of their Tate Exchange programme. Visitor feedback to the work by our patients was incredibly positive:

As well as the film, you can also watch the Bedlam documentary and Tate Liverpool documentary.


Musician-Georgina-with-patient-on-3A.jpgWe have an extensive music programme running throughout the hospital.

In April 2017, the Arts for Health team won substantial funding for our music programme through the Big Lottery Fund’s, The People’s Project. Our music project called Music Matters was shown on ITV Granada’s News programme, where we were in competition with four other North West community projects to receive funding through a  public vote.

Our project received the most votes to win the funding and  we are now fortunate to be able to place a musician to work with patients on each of our 8 in-patient wards once a week for a whole year.

  • “I heard the musician playing across the corridor and couldn’t wait for my turn.” Noah aged 4 years
  • “It helped to break up the day and stimulate a very fed up and sad little boy. It really cheered up Jake and gave him something else to focus on. It’s the first time he has smiled all day!” Mum of Jake aged 2 years

Ukelele-4C.jpgIn 2015, we received funding from the Youth Music Foundation to deliver a music project in collaboration with Live Music Now, who have a distinguished track record and national reputation in working with people who have been traditionally excluded from live music programmes. Our Musical Mentoring project enabled us to bring new musicians into the hospital and in turn, work with a greater number of patients.

Throughout 2017 and 2018, we will be continuing to work with these musicians and train new musicians from Live Music Now, through a bespoke mentoring programme, thanks to continued funding through the Youth Music Foundation. We will be working on our Cardiac, Oncology, Neurological wards and our mental health unit with this project, where we will be able to support even more patients.

We are also working with the group Cascade Music who throughout 2017 and 2018 are delivering a two year music residency on a number of wards, supported by Arts Council England, and Wallace and Gromit Children’s Charity.

Performance space

In addition to our music programme on the wards, Alder Hey in the Park now has a designated performance area within the main atrium where we can showcase live musical performances from musicians and performers. Bringing live music to our atrium has been a fantastic addition to our arts programme and is being enjoyed by visitors and staff alike.


Taking-Flight.jpgWe have a long standing partnership with ‘Small Things Dance Collective. Their groundbreaking project ‘From Where You Are’, explored dance creation in a children’s healthcare setting and most notably, its impact on patients’ experience of pain. Their child centred approach toward based movement improvisation sessions has been recognized nationally and attracted interest from both dance and health professionals.

This project won the inaugural NHS England Excellence in Participation: Children and Young People in March 2014, and in July 2017, was cited as exemplary practice in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry.

Small Things have since developed this project further: their new programme, ‘From There to Here’, takes nature and the outdoors as its starting point for dance and movement, utilising the new location for Alder Hey in the Park. Their work culminated in a spectacular dance performance called ‘Taking Flight’ which was performed throughout the hospital in May 2016. The inspiration for this piece was theme of transition, the move from the old hospital into the new and the birds in our spectacular artwork, Roost.

  • “Beautiful! My daughter loved the dance performance (and me too!).  Very creative and most enjoyable.” Parent of patient
  • “How serene and beautiful.  A lovely breath of fresh air in a busy and stressful hospital! Helps healing!” Clinical Nurse Specialist

We are grateful to Arts Council England, Awards for All and PH Holt for the funding of the Small Things Dance Programme.


Artist Caroline Gregson completed an eight week residency with us. Caroline is a willow artist whose work is inspired by the natural environment. She will be working with patients to create their own sculptural pieces as well as a larger commission which will go on permanent display in the hospital. The residency is a collaboration with Bluecoat Display Centre and generously funded by Arts Council England.

Visual Arts

All About Us was a joint project between Tate Liverpool and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital that engaged children, young people, teachers and hospital staff in exploring archival materials from Tate and Liverpool Medical Institution archives. The Project ran for eight months, during which time Harriet Hall (Lead Artist) and Michaela Swan (Trainee Project Manager), worked with patients, families, hospital, local schools and communities to create online learning resources. The theme of Transition from old to new was the starting point for activities, which connected to the history of the hospital, artistic practice, and everyday life.

An exhibition of the artwork created by the children and young people was held at Tate Liverpool during December 2015.

Art around Alder Hey

Art in Alder Hey in the Park has been inspired by children and young people who have led the way from the beginning. The Children and Young People’s Design Group has been an advisory group on the development of art in the hospital, has set briefs and interviewed artists, as well as engaging in practical arts workshops.

Artists have responded enthusiastically to their ideas and their wish for the art in Alder Hey in the Park to reflect the theme of nature.

The Lead Artist for this project was Lucy Casson, who has created artwork for the main entrance and atrium, the signage, the glass balustrades and windows and even the designs for the curtains in the patient’s bedrooms. She spent time both researching the locality and working with the children and young people. Her quirky creatures are designed to assist the visitor with way-finding around the hospital. Her hanging sculpture, suspended from the atrium ceiling, is called Roost (main picture) and features one hundred hand painted birds and creatures, referencing Alder Hey’s one hundred year history.

At the North Entrance, you will see the poem Trees are Great by poet Roger McGough with lettering which has been designed by artist Pip Hall.

The poem reflects the overall environmental theme which has been the inspiration for all art work in the hospital. McGough’s poems are featured around the hospital in the most unlikely of places, see if you can spot them!

If you enter the hospital from the car park, you will hear the sound of birds singing. Entitled ‘Wildsong at Dawn’, this is a sound piece by the UK’s leading sound recordist Chris Watson and features the dawn chorus recorded in 2007 in Springfield Park.

The piece was played for many years in the main corridor of the old hospital and has been brought into Alder Hey in the Park as a fitting link between old and new.

Amongst many other artworks in the new hospital: Alyosha Moeran has created stone carved pieces for the Bereavement Garden, and Linda Schwab has created art for the Sanctuary. Artists Catrin Jones, David Pearl and Dan Linn-Pearl have created an installation, Immersion, to create a multi-sensory environment using film, sound and lighting for the aquatherapy pool

With many thanks to Arts Consultant, Lesley Greene.

All artwork in Alder Hey in the Park has been funded charitably and we are very grateful to all of our funders and donors, individuals and organisations, for making this work possible.

Funding Arts for Health

The Arts for Health programme is funded entirely through charitable sources, and is generously supported by Alder Hey Children’s Charity.

We are also fortunate to have received funding for our many projects from a number of external organisations: these include Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Awards for All, Youth Music Foundation, Wills Charitable Trust, the Big Lottery Fund, The People’s Project, The Hemby Trust and Wallace and Gromit’s Children’s Charity. We are also grateful to the many individual donors who support our programme.

If you would like to support our Arts programme, please contact the Alder Hey Children’s Charity online or by phone on 0151 252 5716.

Partners and collaborators

We work in partnership with a wide range of arts organisations who are all committed to providing the best of arts practice for children and young people while in hospital.

Our collaborators include:

  • Tate Liverpool
  • FACT (Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology)
  • The Comedy Trust
  • Small Dance Things Dance Collective
  • Live Music Now
  • DadaFest
  • MDI
  • Twin Vision
  • Manchester Metropolitan University Arts for Health Department
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