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Child Development Centre works with university on art project

Emma Fawkes, Lead Nurse for Children’s Bladder and Bowel Care and Dr George Davis, Lead for the Children’s Psychological Health and Wellbeing team, joined by University of Plymouth illustration students Mia Ingleby and Martha Pengelley, stood side by side in front of a mural of a seal in the Child Development Centre

The Child Development Centre at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) has unveiled its new look after teaming up with students from the University of Plymouth to improve the aesthetic of the centre.

During the pandemic, the centre had to remove some of its décor in line with the elevated infection protection control measures. The building was stripped, and new flooring was laid, which created a clinical look in the department.  

Once the measures were lifted, the team at the centre started to receive comments about the building not being very welcoming to children, young people and their families. Due to this feedback, the team contacted the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business at the University of Plymouth to see if they might be interested in working together to improve the aesthetic.

After conversations with lecturers on the BA (Hons) Illustration course at the university, it was decided that the project could be split into two parts to meet the needs of the academic requirements of the course; a planning project to organise the work, as well as an art project to create the new design.

Throughout several months of planning, it was agreed that Emma Fawkes, Lead Nurse for Children’s Bladder and Bowel Care and Dr George Davis, Lead for the Children’s Psychological Health and Wellbeing team, would support the students in their learning offering feedback and site visits to guide the project.  

To further support the work of the students, Dr George Davis made use of feedback from children, young people and their families, as well as staff in the department. They were showed plans and designs throughout the project and gave their comments on which designs should be moved forward. Talking about the all the feedback they received, George said: “We really wanted to involve everyone at every step of the way. It’s been lovely to have had this level of feedback.”

The art project then commenced earlier this year and involved a large group of students who were tasked with designing the new look of the centre. They submitted two pitch decks of designs for the visitors and staff to choose from and two students, Mia Ingleby and Martha Pengelley, then decided to take the project to the final stage of design.

The students used patient feedback to inform their designs and found that while an underwater theme was agreed, there were a lot of requests for dinosaurs, so they adapted their design to include these. This was a positive outcome from the patient feedback, which made patients and their families really feel included in the process and ensured the project was relevant to the centre users.

The large project took several months, and when the completion date was looming, Lucy Fleetwood, Paediatric Neurodevelopment Nurse Specialist, stepped up to help with the remaining painting. Lucy studied for a fine art degree prior to becoming a nurse so she was able to finish off the design to ensure the project was completed on time. Members of the team at the centre also volunteered their own time, out of hours, to support Mia and Martha in painting, alongside a number of additional student artists who picked up extra credit. Together they were able to bring the designs to life.

Speaking about the project, Emma Fawkes, Lead Nurse for Children’s Bladder and Bowel Care, said: “It was a collaborative piece of work – a real team effort. Some people who couldn’t come in and paint contributed in another way. There was no budget, but the team managed to pull the project off with help of the staff, charitable funds and people’s kindness. The Trust did support by funding the scaffold for the weekend and Estates came to do the preparation work, but we really appreciate all of the people who gave up their time to help support and paint. We are proud of the work they have done.”

The final design, which was unveiled at a celebration event on Friday 6 October, includes interactive displays, providing further information on the dinosaurs and other creatures displayed, as well as a seaweed QR code wall which signposts to other helpful resources for families.

There is also a series of crabs which have been thoughtfully located to help patients and visitors find their way around the centre. In addition to this, patients were actually able to get involved by creating seahorses which have been hung up in the centre. These interactive features help the young patients who attend the centre feel more comfortable and less anxious about attending appointments. 

John Kilburn, Lecturer in Illustration at the University, said: “Throughout their course, we give our students experience of real-world projects the like of which they will encounter through their careers. It gives them the opportunity to apply the skills they are developing to a set brief, and to then adapt their thinking and ideas in response to client feedback. This has been a great example of such a project, and we are immensely proud of the students who took part and the final result.”

Feedback about the project so far includes:

  • “It was really interesting to look at while I was waiting and colourful.” – Patient, aged 11
  • “It is very calming and relaxing.” – Patient, aged 13
  • “It made waiting less boring. I really like it.” – Patient, aged 10
  • “I really liked the turtle on the wall because they look like they are swimming.” – Patient, aged 14
  • “I think it is really nice that there are these artworks throughout the building that are fascinating for the children to look at and interact with. My child loved the colours in the waiting room.” – Parent of patient
  • “We love the QR code wall!” – Parent and patient

For more information on the art project visit https://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/cdc-art-project-2023

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