The National Portrait Gallery has worked with London children’s hospitals for 15 years to promote health and wellbeing through creative arts programming. Inspired by portraits in the Gallery’s Collection, artists deliver creative art workshops and provide resources with the aim to distract, relax, inspire and bring happiness to children, young people and their families during their time in hospital. Our five current partners are Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Newham University Hospital and The Royal London Hospital.
Champions of the World
Champions of the World is our brand new activity book for children and young people. Illustrator Dunni Mustapha has created a set of dynamic illustrations and creative activities bringing the Gallery’s Collection to life with a focus on exploring the achievements of entertainers and sporting legends.
Thanks to support from Delancey, Get Living, Here East and the Earls Court Development Company.
Playful Portraits, 2019 is designed by award winning illustrator Quinton Winter.
This book takes as its theme Rebels, Believers and Dreamers, and includes contemporary sitters Malala Yousafzai, David Weir and Ben Whishaw, alongside historical sitters such as Octavia Hill and William Blake. With thanks to funding from Delancey, Get Living and DIL Trust UK.
My Magical Journeys
My Magical Journeys, 2017-18; a specially commissioned activity book of portraits and illustrations inspired by favourite writers such as Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Douglas Adams and Malorie Blackman.
With thanks to funding from DIL Trust UK and the Aman Foundation UK.
My Superheroes, 2012; the Gallery’s first hospital activity book illustrated by Marion Deuchars including the following sitters: Sir Francis Drake, Michael Faraday, Mary Seacole, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and Emmeline Pankhurst. With thanks to 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.
About the programme
We believe in the power of art and creativity to provide comfort, enjoyment and distraction to young people in hospital. We understand the potential for creative activity to support physical, mental, and emotional recovery. The National Portrait Gallery has a long-standing history of working with London children’s hospitals to promote health and wellbeing to families through creative arts programming. To date, over 20,200 young people and their families have been involved through the Gallery’s partnerships with London children’s hospitals. New online resources created through COVID-19 have reached a further 68,000 people, taking the Gallery’s Collection further afield.
The project delivers creative art workshops, online and in-person lead by a team of experienced artists, enhanced by accessible, high quality, free resources. Working in close collaboration with hospital staff including play therapists, nursing staff and hospital teachers ensures appropriate provision tailored to the needs of each individual setting.
Champions of the World is a four-year project, supported by Delancey, Get Living, Here East and the Earls Court Development Company that started in October 2020 and runs until September 2024.
“Thank you. It was fun and relaxing, helping to distract me from the situation I am in.”
12 year old participant
“Participating in arts workshops while in hospital was invaluable for me. They were a great distraction from long days, for my parents and for me, and also reminded me of my outside interests (which can be difficult to remember while in hospital).”
Previous participant, now Volunteer
“She’s been able to focus on something else and she hasn’t spoken about her pain in that time.”
By sharing the Collection, children and young people discover personal stories of inspiration and intrigue that may help them better understand the world around them, and indeed themselves. The portraits represent the rich identity and diversity of Britain, past and present, and encourage young people to question and respond to ideas and issues through creative activities. The portraits are the starting point for each workshop, which this year fall under the thematic umbrella of environmentalists and conservationists. Live online workshops and new digital resources have allowed us to stay connected during COVID-19. Take a look at our resources below and learn more about the Collection. Have a go at some of our creative activities and get involved.
Launch of new activity book
In July 2022, the National Portrait Gallery launched Champions of the World, an activity book for children receiving care in London's children's hospitals. 5000 copies of the book have been gifted to children in London hospitals and it is available online for many more young people and their families to get involved.
Champions of the World introduces young people to the portraits and diverse stories of exceptional, hard-working and talented people who are changing our world for the better. Supporting health, wellbeing and happiness through the creative arts, this free art resource has been created with illustrator, Dunni Mustapha, to celebrate the Gallery's fifteen-year commitment to learning and engagement in London's children's hospitals.
Inspired by artworks in the National Portrait Gallery's Collection, Champions of the World features twelve well-known figures from the worlds of sport and entertainment, including footballer, Marcus Rashford; ballet dancer, Dame Darcy Bussell; singer, Ed Sheeran; Paralympian wheelchair racer, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson; actor and rapper, Riz Ahmed; and Olympic long distance runner, Sir Mo Farah. Created with Dunni Mustapha, vector illustrations bring to life both the personalities and accompanying art activities, which are each inspired by the stories of the sitters. Some encourage play - from a specially designed board game that sees you race like Paralympian Ellie Simmonds; to a finger-knitting activity, inspired by Olympian Tom Daley's pool-side creations. Others inspire artistic responses inviting young people to design characters with red noses, inspired by comedian Sir Lenny Henry, or illustrate activist placards, like actor Emma Watson.
Duchess of Cambridge visits Hospitals' Programme at Evelina London
On 28 January 2020 we were privileged to have a very special visitor to the programme at Evelina Hospital. The Duchess of Cambridge, who is Patron of both the National Portrait Gallery and Evelina London, joined children receiving care at the hospital as they took part in art activities alongside family members. The workshops, led by artists Chloe Cooper, Marysa Dowling, Jessica Rosenfield and Angela Wright, were inspired by Ben Whishaw’s portrait from the Gallery’s Collection. Based on a stage set illustrated by Quinton Winter from the new activity book, children created their own decorated theatre with a self-portrait puppet and cast of characters.
The Duchess joined in with a group workshop as well as visiting a one-to-one session by the bedside, demonstrating the model for the programme. If a child is unable to leave the ward to participate in a session, the artist will go to them. The workshops are flexible and inclusive, ensuring as many children and young people as possible can take part.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London said: “It is an honour to share with our Patron, The Duchess of Cambridge, the vital work we do at Evelina London and other children’s hospitals in the capital. We are immensely proud of our Hospital Schools programme, which demonstrates the positive impact art and creativity can have on health and wellbeing, and enables us to share our Collection with those who may not have had the opportunity to experience it previously.”
Marian Ridley, Director of Evelina London added that they were 'proud' to host the visit, saying, “Art is an invaluable therapy for children and young people while they are in hospital, not only to develop their creativity but, but provide enjoyment that alleviates anxieties which they may be feeling.”
Online Resources and Guidance
London Arts in Health Forum is a membership organisation which aims to develop the role of culture in wellbeing and to promote and support arts in health activity across London and nationally.
Health Evidence Network Synthesis Report; what is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? World Health Organization, 2019.
Art and Well-Being; Toward a Culture of Health; a free guide for artists, creative organizers, health providers, funders, policy-makers and communities responding to threats to well-being.
Arts for Health and Wellbeing; an evaluation framework, Public Health England.
King’s Cultural Community: bringing together students, staff and alumni at King’s College London who engage with arts and culture.