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Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

The Continuing Arts Programme


In order to ensure the sustainability of the original commissioning programme the arts strategy recommended that the hospital should have an ongoing professionally co-ordinated arts programme incorporating music and performance arts. A draft job description was included in the strategy document.

The Trust agreed with the need for ongoing arts activities within the new building and for continuing work with and maintenance of the commissioned artworks. The post was advertised nationally and in September 2001 Emma Williams was appointed as Arts Co-ordinator to direct the ongoing arts programme, work with staff and children to interpret and promote commissioned works, and co-ordinate maintenance.

The Arts Co-ordinator is contracted to work three days per week and her salary is paid through the Children’s Directorate funds. The post is line-managed by the Assistant General Manager in the Children’s Directorate.

Impact of the Strategy

The original Arts Advisory Group was established as a result of the arts strategy to oversee the commissioning process. Emma Williams has recently restructured this support group to meet the new function of developing and supporting the ongoing programme. The new ‘Arts Steering Group’ is made up of representatives of staff from a range of areas across the hospital – Personnel, Play Centre, School Room, Assistant General Manager of the Children’s Directorate - and reflects Emma’s aim of creating a whole hospital, multi-disciplinary partnership in delivering the programme. Emma hopes that the Arts Steering Group will play an active role in looking holistically at the needs of the hospital and planning the arts programme in direct response to those needs.

The original arts strategy has been influential in establishing the infrastructure for arts activities, the inclusion of performance areas, dedicated exhibition spaces, the creation of an arts studio and so on. The involvement of artists in the development stage and in the commissions programme highlighted the critical role of the Play Specialists for artists working in the hospital. Emma has learned that in periods of intensive arts activity Play Specialists found themselves to be experiencing additional pressure to ensure the support of artists, patients and staff. As a result Emma has recognised the need to work collaboratively with Play Centre staff from the outset in developing the arts programme, to understand their needs, approachand objectives. This is reflected in the new structure of the Arts Steering Group.

Fundraising and Budget

Fundraising is a key function of the Arts Co-ordinator’s post. Other than the co-ordinator’s salary there is no dedicated programme budget. A modest budget remaining from the original commissions budget has been available to date to tackleany initial technical hitches or maintenance relating to artworks.In the future, funding for maintenance of artworks will come from the hospital’s general maintenance budget.

The Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal created a vital source of support for the original commissions programme, gave an initial budget to launch the arts programme, and continues to recognise the value of the ongoing arts programme.In 2003 Emma secured an award of £30k for one year’s work, which represents a crucial opportunity for the programme. In the initial settling in period, many things have been tried and tested. An Arts Festival for the hospital in 2002 celebrated the launch of the performing arts programme and introduced staff to a range of art practices, allowing them to select particular art forms for their own areas. Now, this funding allows Emma to plan a year’s activities, and to focus on identified priorities.

Programme Priorities

The aim of the programme is to involve the widest possible audience and to ensure that projects reach the whole hospital. Projects will be theme led, but be multi-faceted, workingin different ways and with different groups across the whole building. Projects will be devised in response to real hospital needs in a way that Emma hopes will create a new level of collaboration between the Hospital School, the Play Centre and Arts Programme. Projects will be devised with the aim of touching every child, and will be multi-layered encompassing both work with large groups and one to one bedside work.

Currently Emma perceives a critical need to raise awareness of the programme to parents, children and staff and is working to develop ways of promoting the activities including through the hospital’s Radio Lollipop.

© Copyright Jane Connarty 2002.