Norwich hospital artwork making a difference

When it recently emerged that a hospital in Essex was to spend more than �400,000 of public money on art, it caused an outcry.

Hospital managers at the Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford defended the decision, saying the art would help patients, enhance the atmosphere and was commissioned as part of a development contract with the private firm building a new wing.

Here in Norfolk, the county's flagship hospital similary sees art as playing an important role, but instead of using public money, all of its art projects are funded by grants from organisations and charitable donations, and no money is taken from healthcare budgets.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's charitably-funded Hospital Arts Project pays for an arts co-ordinator as well as artwork.

Emma Jarvis, the arts co-ordinator and an artist herself, is very passionate about the benefits that the project brings to the hospital.

She says: 'The art has a positive effect on people. You feel cared when you come to hospital if you can see the environment is cared for.

'And it's proven that certain colours can be calming.

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'Art helps people to be more relaxed and have a better experience. And if everything goes more smoothly, then it ends up saving on money and resources.'

If you have been to the hospital you may well have seen the huge 'Leaves' scuplture by Sokari Douglas-Camp in the east atrium. It is believed to be one of the biggest pieces of public art in the region and is a favourite with many patients and staff.

The newest set of pictures are due to go up shortly in the maternity delivery suite. The donated photographs by Jemma Mickleburgh, of JMA Photography, feature flowers and natural forms from the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The 30-year-old from Dereham Road says: 'I had to find a subject or image that was a positive image. I think they are really going to liven up the ward.'

The subject matter of pictures is also important. Emma advises commissioned artists to avoid sunsets, or pathways leading into the distance, which could remind people of their mortality.

It would be inappropriate, for example, to use photographs of newborn babies in the delivery suite, simply because if the worst happens and a family loses a child, it is the last thing they would want to see.

The artwork also has to be displayed or presented in a way that is hygienic, meeting the hospital's strict cleanliness rules. A recent commission to revamp the children's bay in A&E has seen charming artwork of beach scenes and animals printed onto wipe-clean panels.

Rodney Morley, A&E housekeeper, says: 'It's made a very big difference. It calms the children down and makes them relax and feel better.'

But it is not just about pictures on walls. Emma gets involved in everything from helping to choose uplifting colour schemes, to lobbying for nicely designed hospital curtains that go around patients' beds and improving the outside gardens.

As arts co-ordinator she has also helped to set up yoga and pilates workshops for staff, as well as staff groups such as the knitting and crochet group and nature group. The hospital also has a rock band and is hoping to get drama, animation and photography groups up and running soon.

It is an exciting time for the arts programme, as it has launched a �50,000 project aimed at putting art into Cromer's new hospital.

The scheme at the �15m new hospital, where work has recently got under way, will include a series of new sea, sky and land-themed artworks.

The Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust takes art in a health setting even further, offering art therapies for patients who find it difficult to talk about their mental health problems.

Dominque Rey, senior art psychotherapist in its children's services, says: 'It's a less threatening way of having therapy because the focus isn't just on you, the focus is on the thing you are making and it's slightly separate.

'Sometimes because they are using their hands they find it easier to talk as well.'

But art is subjective, and even when people have a strong dislike of the art, it serves a purpose too, as Emma explains: 'We had a piece that people either loved or hated. When we took it down there were lots of comments, because people had grown to enjoy disliking it.

'Even if they don't like it, it makes a point and is a change of focus for them that takes their mind off other things.'

To make a donation, or to find out how to get involved with NNUH Hospital Arts Project, email or phone 01603 287870. The arts project has a dedicated website at