Meet The Girls With An Eye For Arts And Design At Alder Hey
The new Alder Hey, due to open next year on a site close to the existing hospital, has been inspired by the very children it is being built to help.
Their ideas have been incorporated not only into the architectural design but into plans for the art work that will brighten up the new buildings, making them feel like a safe and friendly place.
Used to the rabbit warren of 100-year-old buildings and later extensions that make up the current hospital, the children said they wanted to bring the outside in. As a result, nature has become a major theme in the design.
Former patient Louise Toolan, 14, is one of 16 children to meet for a Saturday morning each month to discuss the next stage of plans for the new Alder Hey.
“The hospital’s getting old and children think a bit differently than they used to so it’s just nice to be building a new one they can enjoy more than this,” she says.
The group has been thinking as much about the children of the future as about themselves, adds 14-year-old Rebecca Sellers.
“We can show people younger than us that the hospital’s a safe place to be and not a scary one,” says the Childwall Academy pupil.
“We’ve got a younger brother (Jamie, 6) and sometimes when he comes to the hospital he’s scared of what’s going to happen. He doesn’t like part of it because it’s dark.
“In the new hospital, it could be brighter and then he wouldn’t have to be worried. We want to put more colours into it.”
Both girls – and Rebecca’s 12-year-old sister, Clare – signed up because they “wanted to give something back” after they received treatment at Alder Hey.
Rebecca, from Huyton, has been treated for headaches and epilepsy. She also has a blood disorder which continues to be monitored by monthly blood tests. Two years ago, Clare was also treated at Alder Hey for a bowel condition.
“I was very scared of what was going to happen to me because no-one knew what it was at the time,” she says.
“The staff were so friendly and really helped me through it so it’s important to show them you appreciate it.”
Louise, from Warrington, has been spending time at Alder Hey since she was a baby – firstly for a kidney infection and now with her younger brother Daniel, 13.
“I’ve been in quite a few times over the years for operations but now I’m fine, I don’t get infections any more because the hospital helped me so much.,” she says.
“Also, when my brother was 1½, he had an accident.
“He’s now severely disabled but if it wasn’t for some of the staff at Alder Hey he probably wouldn’t be with us right now.
“I’m really grateful for that, I’ve still got my brother because of the hospital and I wanted to show my gratitude.”
They have genuinely been involved in the design process – it’s not just a box-ticking exercise.
Back in 2002, when the idea of a new hospital began taking shape, the hospital founded its Alder Hey Arts project, which worked with organisations including Tate Liverpool, FACT, the Comedy Trust and Merseyside Dance Initiative to explore art forms not usually associated with healthcare.
Patients can take part in activities including dance, music, comedy, digital arts, animation and puppet making, while staying in the wards and have helped professional artists to create pieces installed around the hospital.
When it came to designing the new buildings, it seemed only natural to involve the arts project.
The children were asked for their ideas, which were then incorporated into an official brief.
Artists were invited to respond to the brief with their own ideas, which were fed back to the children to help chose the winner.
Lucy Casson, who exhibits internationally, has been appointed as lead artist and has already begun work on making art a central element of the new Alder Hey, all on the theme of nature.
As well as a sculptural piece of birds and animals, which will hang in the main atrium, her drawings will form part of the signage.
“We’ve been looking at colour schemes, flooring, wayfinding, art on banisters,” says Louise, a pupil at St Gregory’s Catholic High, in Warrington.
“The artist has these little characters based on animals and they’re really good. There’s going to be like grass on the banisters with them peeking out.
“She’s really nice and she takes all our ideas into consideration.”
Rebecca adds: “She asked us to do models and draw pictures of what the outside and inside could look like.
“ It was good to see that she appreciated what we were capable of.”
The children are all pleased that their opinions count.
Clare says: “A lot of children come here, it’s really a children’s hospital so having a children’s point of view on what it should look like is more important than having the adults’.”
- This article and photo has been reproduced from a story in the Liverpool Echo.