Artfelt Workshop Programme

Artfelt Workshop Programme

Artfelt, the arts programme at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, has two primary streams of work. The Artfelt Workshop Programme sits alongside our commissioning work in using art to make hospital feel better. Overseen by our Workshop Coordinator, this two day a week project sees a variety of visual arts, crafts and music sessions made available to patients during their time at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Artfelt is entirely funded by The Children’s Hospital Charity, who allocate budget for the Workshop Coordinator’s salary, art materials and money to employ professional artists. The workshops are designed to provide distraction during anxious moments – such as before an operation or to break up long stays on the wards – and to get children socialising, expressing and enjoying themselves. They also give a creative outlet to children who may not normally have access to art.

The workshops are delivered on Wednesdays and Thursdays almost every week of the year. Sessions are primarily undertaken by the Workshop Coordinator, but other artists are brought into the hospital for at least one session per month. Workshops take place where there is most demand, which tends to be on inpatient wards or in our Theatre Admissions Unit. The Workshop Coordinator rotates sessions between the wards and responds to information on which spaces will be busiest each week.

Description of the arts activity

Most wards at Sheffield Children’s Hospital are supported by a Play Specialist who provides basic art activities. The Artfelt Workshop Programme strives to deliver activities which are above and beyond this provision. The hospital sees many long term or repeat patients, so it’s important that our sessions vary and they can range from booking binding or making felt monsters to graffiti art or ceramic tile painting.

Our workshops focus on the enjoyment of participation in art and we are clear to differentiate ourselves from Art Therapy. Although we are able to respond to patients who may want to discuss their feelings about being in hospital, we are firm in ensuring our sessions act as a distraction from what else children are experiencing. We also don’t focus on aesthetic or outcome and encourage patients to enjoy taking part without anxiety of the end result.

We acknowledge that the Workshop Coordinator’s skills are broad, but not all encompassing, and therefore employ professional artists to provide sessions in their disciplines once a month. In recent months this has included mosaic making, puppetry and African music and these sessions are designed to showcase art forms children may not have had opportunity to partake in before.

Details of the project participants

Sheffield Children’s Hospital sees patients from 0 – 16 years and our sessions are available to anyone who wishes to join in. This includes parents, siblings and staff, if their time allows. The majority of our participants are aged 2 – 12 years and we see an average of 6 patients at one time.

Our sessions are based in communal spaces on wards and are advertised in advance. They operate on a drop in basis and patients are free to stay as long as they feel able. Play Specialists will also identify patients who cannot get out of bed or are in isolation and the Workshop Coordinator or artist will work with these children on a one to one basis.

Due to the range of patients we see, it is important that our workshops offer flexible activities that can be tailored to provide different levels of complexity in response to age or ability.

Project management

All workshop activity is overseen by our Workshop Coordinator, with support from Play Specialists. The Play Team are well positioned to understand the needs of the patients in their area and can direct workshop activity where it is most needed. This may be a child who has a particular interest in art or one who would benefit from distraction. The availability of a Play Specialist also allows the Workshop Coordinator to work with individual patients, whilst the core activity is being supervised.

The Workshop Coordinator oversees an annual call out to recruit new artists to our programme. These artists are required to have experience of providing art workshops with children and are DBS checked through the hospital’s Human Resources Department. Sessions run by external artists are overseen by the Workshop Coordinator who can assist with the activity and assess the quality of sessions. The Workshop Coordinator is supported by the Artfelt Manager, who feeds workshop activity back to the Director of The Children’s Hospital Charity and the Trust Arts Steering Group.

It is important our sessions are accessible to all, regardless of economic background, so we provide our workshops free of charge. Parents give consent for the collection of personal details and photographs for the promotion of our work where appropriate.

Evaluation methods and findings

Our sessions are evaluated with a basic feedback form, but are a wealth of colloquial feedback on the difference they make to children’s experience of hospital.

Our feedback forms rank patient mood from 0 – 5 before and after workshop participation. 100% of patients say they feel better after taking part in our activities and use words like fun, exciting and brilliant to describe the sessions.

We notice we see slightly more girls than boys in our workshops and are mindful of ensuring teenage boys (the most unrepresented group) are not excluded. Otherwise, our main problem is keeping up with demand. In two days we can only cover a fifth of our inpatient provision and are conscious that workshops could be provided on all of our wards every day of the week.

We would also relish the opportunity to research some of the colloquial evidence we hear, for example that children who have taken part in art activities on our Theatres Assessment Unit are calmer and less likely to require pre-anaesthetic sedation.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England