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Patients and artists transform inpatient ward with art in charity project

06 December 2018

(Left photo: Mark Titchner, Please Believe, TV Room)

Inpatients and staff at CNWL’s Bluebell Lodge have worked with artists to create extraordinary art that now covers the walls of the locked rehabilitation unit.

Bluebell Lodge provides long term care and support for men with complex mental health problems and where previous placements have been unable to meet their needs.

The project was organised by the charity Hospital Rooms, which works to ‘bring world class art to mental health hospitals,’ together with fashion brand Seasalt Cornwall. 

Their artists, Rachael Champion, Tim A Shaw, Mark Titchner, Steve Macleod, Bob and Roberta Smith and Anna Barriball, worked with patients, carers and staff to create “museum quality artwork” at the unit.

Staff at the unit said the impact on patients was apparent.

“Creative workshops held in more communal places have allowed for degrees of engagement from people who often struggle to engage, be it as participator or viewer.

“The whole process, as well as the finished art works, is an on-going talking point for residents and staff alike, and Tim, Niamh and the artists are familiar faces at Bluebell. The therapeutic benefits are clear with residents demonstrating pride in their work, showing interest in new activities and the environment and making connections with activities they have enjoyed in the past,” said Rachael Coates, Occupational Therapist, and Frances Walton, Art Psychotherapist, who both work at the unit and were involved in the project.

This was no surprise to Hospital Rooms. The charity’s seen a soaring demand for its work, as mental health units across the country recognise the benefits of including art in therapeutic environments.

“This project aims to overcome the severe inequality of opportunity to access the arts and creative activity faced by men in long stay locked mental health units, to make this unit environment more conducive to recovery, and to promote social interaction, inclusion and connectedness in this particularly segregated and vulnerable group of people,” said the charity.

Hospital Rooms said their work “unites world class artists with some of the most isolated and vulnerable members of society. Together, they are radically transforming challenging clinical environments and making them imaginative and thoughtful.”

On the walls of the unit’s TV room, vibrant colours are layered in an intricate design, over the words ‘Please Believe,’ in a hand-painted work by the artist Mark Titchner.

In the gym, exercise equipment is back dropped by Steve McLeod’s recollection of the local meadows he wandered, after a summer’s day hosting a workshop for inpatients.

The project has changed more than the face of the unit. The work culminated with an exhibition on 5 December.

Steve Macleod installing his work in the gym at Bluebell Lodge