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Our NHS staff provide valuable insights for signature artist

Our Signature Artist, Amalia Pica, is in the early stages of developing an artistic 'language' for Cambridge Children's Hospital. Having conversations with children, young people, families, and NHS staff, is a vital part of her work.

Following on from two successful workshops with children and young people, Amalia Pica has continued the conversations about art in hospital by leading two interactive sessions with NHS staff, who work on physical health and mental health wards.

First stop was The Croft, an inpatient residential family unit for children, age 0-13, with mental health conditions. This will move into the new children's hospital, along with the two other child and adolescent mental health wards currently in Fulbourn - The Phoenix (opens in a new tab) and The Darwin Centre (opens in a new tab).

Sitting in the garden, The Croft team talked about the kind of objects that children and families bring from home. They said they liked the idea of children being able to decorate their own spaces at the new hospital.

Amalia heard how The Croft is a place where children and families feel accepted and normal, thanks to the huge efforts staff make to celebrate and embrace difference. It was described as a ‘welcoming space’ where children never question each other, nor do parents feel judged like they might do back in their local communities. Cooking together and a sense of community is really important here.

A group of clinicians sit with an artist at a long table having a conversation about their work
Amalia, right, enjoyed listening and learning from staff at The Croft

Their insight on the role of objects in communication, comfort and healing was truly invaluable and will definitely inform my thinking and making in the coming months.

Amalia Pica, Cambridge Children's Hospital, Signature Artist
A team of people holding up metal structures that they have made, with colourful beads on
Amalia (at back) with members of the Addenbrooke's physiotherapy team holding up their art creations!

At Addenbrooke's Hospital, Amalia met with members of the physiotherapy team, who work with children and young people during their care and recovery in hospital. They spoke to Amalia about spaces and features in Cambridge Children’s Hospital that will help to normalise the hospital environment for patients.

Typically, patients can spend up to 23 hours in their hospital bed so artwork that encourages movement is a good thing, as this also supports recovery. Having things to look at on the walls, floor and ceiling can really help with this. For example, a race track painted down corridors creates a sense of playfulness, fun and a desire to get up and explore!

The physiotherapy team told Amalia Pica they don't want physio to be 'clinical'. They want it to be something that patients look forward to and enjoy. Art can help with that.