Hospital Programme

The Gallery has been working in partnership with London hospitals for over ten years, ensuring that young people in clinical settings have access to the Gallery's Collection through creative art workshops. Over 15,000 young people and their families have participated in the programme.

Magical Journeys

Magical Journeys is the Gallery’s current three year (2014-17) creative arts project for young people in clinical settings supported by Developments in Literacy Trust UK.

The Gallery is working in partnership with the Activity Centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Evelina London Children’s Hospital at St Thomas’ Hospital and Vital Arts at the Royal London Hospital. The creative direction of Magical Journeys has been developed in close collaboration with our hospital partners and an advisory group has been established to ensure the project meets its aims and objectives, responds to each individual clinical setting and meets the interests, needs and ability of the young people.

The project provides valuable respite for the young people in hospital whilst focussing on developing creativity and art skills to encourage their continued development at a time when their schooling is often disrupted. The project engages both short and long stay patients from all over the world and also provides activity for siblings and respite for parents who are able to take some time out. The flexibility of the sessions and skills of the artists ensure the activity can work on a range of levels and engage all ages.

Magical Journeys provides much needed arts activity during school holidays when the hospital school is shut and activity for the young people is limited. Workshops are delivered during the summer holidays and throughout the year during winter, Easter and half-term holidays. Artists, musicians, poets, authors and storytellers lead creative art workshops to inspire young people’s creativity and explore the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection.

Inspiration for the first year of the project stems from the Gallery’s portraits of children’s authors and poets to explore the magical, fantastical and mythical places and characters created in children’s books. From Peter Rabbit to the Owl and the Pussy Cat, Narnia to Never-land, Magical Journeys has the potential to entrance, excite and transport children beyond the walls of the hospital whilst developing their creative, visual and literacy skills.

Aims of our work with children’s hospitals:

  • To provide much-needed creative arts provision for young people in children’s hospitals specifically during the holidays when there is no hospital school provision
  • To increase creative and cultural participation for young people and their families whilst in hospital and encourage the development of art, creativity, visual literacy skills, ideas, literacy and communication
  • To enhance health, wellbeing and happiness through engaging with the creative arts. Providing enjoyment, fun and active participation as respite from often long-term clinical conditions
  • To engage new, hard to reach audiences beyond the Gallery with the Gallery’s Collection
  • To broaden our work with hospitals and engage the wider community, encouraging hospital staff, families and young people to visit the Gallery independently or as self-directed visits and to increase access to the family programme


Feedback from hospital staff demonstrates the value of the project:

‘The Magical Journeys workshops were truly inspirational. The children learnt so much in the two weeks that the artists from the National Portrait Gallery were here. Using portraits as a starter not only did they learn more about some famous children's authors but they later also learnt new skills such as animation and photography. We could see how engaged the children were the entire time and how proud they were of what they had done. Everyone has been admiring the work on display. Thanks for a brilliant two weeks! We look forward to working with you again soon.’ Aoife O'Connor, Activity Centre Manager Great Ormond Street

Feedback from a parent:

‘My child would never usually have the chance to work with a professional illustrator, what a fantastic opportunity and something I never would have expected during our time in hospital.’

My Superheroes

My Super Heroes

My Super Heroes

My Superheroes was a two year (2012-14) project with the Gallery working in partnership with The Children’s Hospital School at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Evelina Hospital School at St Thomas’ Hospital and Vital Arts at the Royal London Hospital. Artist-led creative workshops during school holidays offered the young people and their families an opportunity to engage with the inspirational people in the Gallery's Collection.

The creative responses of the young people to portraits and the stories of people including Ernest Shackleton, Emmeline Pankhurst and Walter Ralegh provided inspiration for the illustrator Marion Deuchars. As illustrator in residence, she created the My Superheroes activity book so that every young person can explore the Gallery's Collection and engage in fun, creative art activities when the Gallery is not on-site.

My Superheroes was made possible with funding from the 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust, CHK Charities Limited, PF Charitable Trust and the Gallery’s own superhero staff who ran the 2012 London Marathon to help raise funds.

Download My Superheroes activity book

My Super Heroes
PDF (4.15mb)

London Hospital Schools Programme

The Gallery also delivers free outreach sessions during the academic year to London hospital schools.


Working with Hospital Schools: A Practical Toolkit offers a framework for museums, galleries and hospital schools to developing creative arts partnership programmes. It was developed in 2008 after a one-year creative project working in partnership with Evelina Hospital School, The Children’s Hospital School at Great Ormond Street Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital School and University College London Hospital School. The project responded to the Gallery's Pop Art Portraits exhibition with the young people working together with artists and animators to create and animate their own pop-art portraits. This toolkit, evaluates the project approach and offers advice, notes and activities.

Download Working with Hospital Schools: A Practical Toolkit

Hospital Schools Toolkit
PDF (724kb)

Watch a short animated film showcasing the pop-art portraits created by the young people

The project was supported by the Lehman Brothers Foundation Europe and Arts & Business.