A better place to be

The public art programme for Southmead Hospital, Bristol

A public art programme integrated into the new Southmead Hospital Bristol shows how involving high calibre artists working alongside the hospital community can create therapeutic environments which improve the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.

Southmead Hospital Bristol’s public art programme features the work of nationally and internationally recognised artists to animate spaces and create special places within the hospital building and grounds. Pieces of art provide moments of reflection or distraction, lift the mood, or provoke emotional responses that encourage empathy and understanding.

Southmead Medical day garden

“The integrated approach to art plays an important role in the overall design quality of the building. I was pleased to see the abundance of thoughtfully chosen pieces of varying types and scales of artwork that help create an aesthetically pleasing and therapeutic environment. In particular it’s gratifying to see that these selections go beyond what we have come to know as “hospital art”; they genuinely challenge and touch the senses in many ways. The art at Southmead Hospital Bristol helps to create a more aesthetically pleasing environment, which is important for people’s sense of wellbeing. There are special places where people can have a quiet moment for reflection; there are things to help you feel more cheerful and things to comfort you. The art is helping to make Southmead Hospital a better place to be for patients, visitors and staff.” Andrea Young, Chief Executive, North Bristol NHS Trust

Southmead hospital art works

The £1.1 million arts programme is a small part of North Bristol NHS Trust’s £430 million Southmead Hospital Bristol Private Finance Initiative (PFI) development. It builds on research which clearly demonstrates the direct benefits for patients of incorporating visual and performing arts into the hospital environment.

Project leaders Willis Newson were commissioned by the developers of the new site, Carillion. Underpinning the project is a close collaboration between North Bristol NHS Trust and its arts programme Fresh Arts, architects Building Design Partnership (BDP), the commissioned artists, Carillion and Willis Newson. This close collaboration enabled Willis Newson creatively to integrate the public art with the architecture of the building.

The building and surrounding grounds features the work of six artists as part of a wider public art programme which involves patients, staff and the wider community. A series of exhibitions by local schools and artists’ groups are shown within the hospital in specially created changing gallery spaces.Southmead hospital wall works

A three-day Fresh Arts Festival in October 2014 will mark the opening of the new hospital, celebrating the role that the arts are playing in bringing the building to life and connecting to the communities who use it.

Events will include a writer in residence working with patients and visitors, staff wellbeing workshops, live music on wards and in waiting rooms, performances by local choirs, local knitting groups coming together to demonstrate the therapeutic nature of knitting while creating a special installation for the hospital entrance, printmaking workshops run by a local studio group and the Emergency Poet, a poetry on prescription service open to all.

There will also be a live theatre show which will share memories and tell stories of working at the old Southmead and Frenchay Hospitals collected during creative writing workshops for staff run by three local artists.

The final day of the Festival will be marked by staging a Speed Derby in the hospital atrium – the culmination of a series of workshops to help staff teams from across both old sites come together to identify with and take ownership of their new working environment. During the workshops, led by artists Assemble and Join, staff designed and created their own mini cars to race on a specially created track built around the building.

Southmead staff engagement

Installation of the work of the six commissioned artists began in September 2013 and is almost complete. The final works will be installed by October 2015 when a second Festival will mark the official opening of the whole hospital site. At this time, a community arts space will open in the new hospital which will host activities to support patient and staff wellbeing. Live music and community events will also take place in a specially created outdoor space.

“Southmead Hospital merits being a stop on the grand tour of the world’s notable hospital facilities, along with Rikshospitalet in Oslo and the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.” Ken Schwarz, architectural advisor to North Bristol NHS Trust


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