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News archive - May 2017

A success story

The growing evidence base for the positive impact of the arts on health and wellbeing is undisputed, but for many NHS organisations it is difficult to get projects off the ground.

Many new hospitals have had arts programmes written into the design brief, with money from the developer set aside early on.

But, after this initial investment, the momentum often drops off.

But, at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, what started as part of a PFI redevelopment scheme, has continued for 10 years, with Air Arts celebrating the end of its first decade later this year.

The Royal Derby Hospital is the acute hospital for the region. In addition, the trust runs the London Road Community Hospital, which has three wards, two of which are for rehabilitation and support mainly older patients.

The Royal Derby opened in 2009 after services moved from the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary.

Air Arts was launched as a way to ease the transition from the old hospital to the new facilities.

To mark the anniversary, we spoke to Laura Waters, arts programme co-ordinator, to find out why variety, ownership, and participation are crucial to success.

A warm welcome

“Initially using art started as a way of welcoming people to the new hospital and it helped to preserve certain artefacts from the old building,” she said.

“It was about supporting people during the move and enabling them to navigate the new building.”

But this initially-short-term project quickly became much more.

“Within a few years it became very clear that more could be done, not just to make the environment more appealing, but to directly help patients, staff and visitors,” said Waters.

“After exhibitions and single art installations, the next stop was live music.

“Five years ago I came to the hospital to play music. After that I was invited back to work directly with patients and to carry out engagement work.”

This kick-started a programme of participatory work that continues to this day.

“With Arts Council funding we developed an engagement approach,” said Waters.

“It changes the atmosphere on wards and makes a sometimes-anxious situation much more bearable.

“It’s about that one moment of interaction that makes such a difference to a person’s experience of hospital

“We find participatory arts, whatever the medium, works for all.”

Average stays across the trust’s various sites range from 3.5 days to many weeks. This means arts programmes have to be far-reaching.


“We can have musicians performing in corridors, but we want them to do more,” said Waters.

“We offer them training and then they can go onto the wards.”

Key, she said, to the success of Air Arts has been the involvement of patients and staff.

“Consultation is absolutely the way forward,” she added.

“You have to get the staff on board at the outset. They have the knowledge about how the building works, how their wards work, and what the patients need.

“If you go in as an artist thinking you know it all, you will fail.

“We like staff to continue after we have left the wards, too, so the onus is on us to give them what they need.

“While every ward is different, art is something that can help everyone.”

Air Arts gets funding from charitable donations as well as fundraising and through grant-giving bodies such as the Arts Council.

The programme now runs two distinct strands: Welcome and Engage, both of which provide positive distraction from illness and opportunities to engage in creative activities to alleviate boredom and anxiety.

One patient said of the sessions: “It made me feel like I was still living. It was a highlight, breaking up the monotony - taking away the focus of being ill.”



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