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Hospitals Programme

The National Portrait Gallery has worked with London children’s hospitals since 2002 to promote health and wellbeing through creative arts programming. Funded by Delancey and inspired by portraits in the Gallery’s Collection, we deliver workshops and provide resources to distract, relax, inspire and bring happiness to children and young people in hospitals.  



Family Activities: Playful Portraits front cover

Family Activities: Playful Portraits

Draw and make while discovering more about the Gallery’s Collection and these brilliant people.

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Family Activities: Playful Portraits front cover

Healthcare Heroes

Activities for children and families inspired by three healthcare heroes from our Collection.

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Mindful Drawing

Take 5 minutes out of your day to relax and focus on a mindful drawing activity.

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Download all three of our free activity books here:

Playful Portraits

Playful Portraits

Playful Portraits, 2019; our most recent activity book designed by award winning illustrator Quinton Winter. This book takes as its theme Rebels, Believers and Dreamers, and includes contemporary sitters Mala Yousafzi, 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.

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My Magical Journeys

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.

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My Superheroes

My Superheroes

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.

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About the Programme

The National Portrait Gallery has a long-standing history of working with London hospitals to promote health and wellbeing through creative arts programming. To date, 20,000 young people and their families have been involved through the Gallery’s partnerships with London children’s hospitals. This new four-year project, kindly funded by Delancey, has allowed the Gallery to continue to design and deliver high quality free art workshops across London hospitals, building on over 17 years of practice in the field. 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 current project, entitled Champions of the World, commenced in October 2020 and runs until September 2024. The five current partner hospitals are Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Newham University Hospital and The Royal London Hospital. The project delivers creative art workshops lead by a team of experienced artists, alongside 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.  The programme gives children, young people and their families an opportunity to access the Gallery’s Collection of portraits and enjoy an associated activity whilst they are undergoing hospital treatment, either as day cases or on a longer-term basis. Using the portraits and inspirational personal stories of sitters as a starting point, we can discover people, past and present who contribute to the rich identity and diversity of Britain. 

“I enjoyed being creative today. I felt free.”
Young person, Newham University Hospital.

Attending National Portrait Gallery workshops at Great Ormond Street Hospital Activity Centre made the big difference for us staying in hospital. My daughter said ‘I love this hospital!’ She used the activity centre a lot and I could concentrate on helping her brother getting better after major spinal surgery.”
Parent, Great Ormond Street Hospital

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.


The Gallery are delighted to announce renewed funding from real estate investment advisor Delancey and its platform businesses (Get Living, Here East, Plexal and the Elephant & Castle Town Centre Regeneration Project), enabling us to continue to run our long-standing hospitals programme. Thanks to their generous support, and to one of Delancey’s newest platform businesses - The Earls Court Development Company - we have also been able to add a fifth hospital to the programme, widening our reach to West London via Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Delancey’s ongoing support will provide the security to develop the programme over four years, taking us to 2024 and the re-opening of the Gallery to the public. 

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 for Arts Practitioners

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.

National Portrait Gallery’s Working with Hospital Schools: A Practical Toolkit 2008

Some of the language described in this resource is now out of date but it still provides practical ideas for creative arts programming in a hospital setting. The framework 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 the PDF (724kb)



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