Alder Hey arts

Alder Hey arts

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.

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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.

Our arts for health programme was also recognised as a model of good practice in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry in July 2017.

Contact us

Please email Vicky Charnock, Arts Coordinator at

Arts for Health projects

During the pandemic we have been offering a range of online projects to our patients, as well as safely reintroducing face to face work in the hospital.

Examples of current and former projects include:

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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.

Twin Vision are currently working on a major three year project focusing on supporting mental health and wellbeing through developing the photography and film making skills of children and young people with long term conditions, working closely with our CAMHS Team. The project, called Framing our Futures, is generously funded through Children in Need.  

Previous projects include Medical Mavericks. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project explored Liverpool’s medical achievements through the lives of three innovative pioneers, who all had connections to Liverpool. Films produced by our patients were featured in a touring exhibition around Liverpool in early 2020 at Tate Liverpool and Liverpool Central Library, as well as in an educational app called Medical Mavericks which is available on Google Play and Apple.

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Other innovative projects include the ‘Welcome to 3B’ animation, made by Oncology patients for other Oncology patients who are visiting Ward 3B for the first time. The film covers all aspects of life on the ward from a patient’s perspective, such as meals prepared by the ward chef to activities in the school room.

You can view the film below and also the accompanying documentary by clicking here.



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

Thanks to funding from Alder Hey Children’s Charity, Children in Need and Wallace and Gromit’s Children’s Charity, we have regular music across the hospital, and weekly sessions on each of our in-patient and Emergency Department wards. We know that music is extremely beneficial to our patient’s wellbeing and ability to cope with hospital life. In recent evaluation of our music programme, we found that 97% if patients thought that participation in music activities had improved the hospital experience, and 89% thought their confidence had also improved.

“Normally it’s boring in hospital but it’s been fun today. I feel more confident having guitar lessons. I learned to play guitar and chimes. I learnt to play some real chords.” Mia aged 8 years.

We have recently completed an innovative music mentoring project funded by Youth Music Foundation, in collaboration with Live Music Now. The project trained early career musicians to deliver personalised music sessions in hospital, enabling us to bring more musicians into Alder Hey and work with a greater number of patients. We also produced a training film resource for other early career musicians who are interested in working in paediatric healthcare. The film can be viewed here:

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We also work with Cascade Music CIC, who are currently delivering a research project on our Emergency Department, exploring the impact of music and its relationship to procedures administered there.

Breathe Music is an ongoing programme, currently run online, aimed specifically at patients with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Led by a professional singer and musician, the programme aims to patients to control their breathing and lung function through singing and music making.

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.

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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 work further and their new project, funded by Children in Need, is called ELATION. Regular dance and movement sessions are held with our long term patients on the Cardiac and Neuro Rehabilitation Wards, where patients can develop dance movements, develop muscle strength and coordination, and flexibility. The programme also features ward based participatory performances by the professional dancers from Small Things, where patients can join in.


We have developed a number of contemporary craft residencies with nationally renowned artists, in partnership with Bluecoat Display Centre, the region’s leading contemporary craft centre. These include:  willow artist Caroline Gregson, who worked with patients on two wards to create individual willow pieces for patients to take home, as well as creating a larger willow piece, The Apiary, which now stand proudly in the Radiology Courtyard; printmaker and textile artist Rachael Howard, who worked with our patients to silk screen print, creating a range of bespoke textiles pieces such as tote bags, flags and hankies. We are currently working with printmaker Karen Edwards on a residency exploring Victorian printing press processes.

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Visual Arts and Literacy

We have a partnership with Comics Youth, an award winning Merseyside based organisation who have built up a strong track record of delivering comic-based projects with disadvantaged and marginalised children and young people.

During the pandemic, Comics Youth have been supporting our patients to develop their visual and literacy skills through a programme called ‘Pencils Pals’.  Individual sessions delivered online with a professional artist have enabled children and young people to enhance their skills as well as boost their confidence.

The project will culminate in the production of an Alder Hey publication featuring the stories and drawings created by our patients.


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This is an innovative project, funded by Children in Need, and developed in partnership with DadaFest, a national arts organisation promoting deaf and disability arts. The project give long term patients the opportunity to have up to 20 hours of contact time with a professional artist of their choice – patients can choose a variety of art forms to engage with, from drumming to dance, song writing to card making. 

Theatre and Performing Arts

We are currently running a project on our mental health in-patient unit with the internationally renowned Everyman and Playhouse Theatres. Weekly sessions on the Unit aim to improve confidence and self esteem through  giving  young people skills in script writing, storyboarding, performing, filming and editing. The project includes visits to the Everyman Theatre, where the patients have seen their ideas performed by professional actors.

“The trip to the Everyman had everyone really emotional, we saw a side to the children we would never have seen if not for the team and the setting. They made the project come to life and the children had an insight into the potential they have to create something unique! The project drew the children in; for a time they were able to overcome the hold that their mental illness has on them and let themselves shine!”

Debbie McConnell-Jones, teacher

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, Children in Need,  Awards for All, the Youth Music Foundation, the Hugh Greenwood Legacy Trust, The Steele Charitable Trust,  Austin Hope Pilkington Fund,  D’Oyly Cart, the Transpennine Express Fund, The Pixel Fund and The Kira Gwillym Fund . 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.

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