Hospital Rooms at the Hellingly Centre

A huge transformation has recently taken place at the Hellingly Centre, our medium secure unit for adults with mental health problems who are involved with the criminal justice system.

We've been lucky enough to work with Hospital Rooms, a charity that brings world-class art to mental health hospitals. Hellingly was one of just six mental health trusts chosen by Hospital Rooms to benefit from the work of artists in 2019.  

Over the course of six months artists Tim A Shaw, Hannah Brown, Sophie Clements, Luthar Götz, Jonathan Trayte and Richard Wentworth have worked closely with service users and staff to create unique, imaginative artwork that is specific to the Hellingly Centre. We're thrilled to share the results with you here.

Gone are the blank white walls and corridors to be replaced by vibrant and inspirational works of art, created with the help of staff and residents, to transform the therapeutic environment.

The woodland landscape mural landscape shown here was created by Hannah Brown. It joins the entrances to three wards, which are named after native British trees: Ash, Oak and Willow.  

Explaining her inspiration for the mural, Hannah said: 'From a personal point of view, I find being in nature very restorative. 

It's a real refuge from daily life and I find it very comforting. I hoped that the painting would have a similar effect for the patients at the Hellingly Centre.'

Hospital Rooms was founded by Tim A Shaw and Niamh White after a close friend was sectioned and admitted to a mental health hospital. They were shocked by the blank, clinical spaces at the hospital and wanted to bring art into the lives of people who are at their most vulnerable.

Tim created the image shown here, known as the Hellingly Tapestry. It takes inspiration and borrows imagery from the Bayeux Tapestry, which famously recounts the 1066 Battle of Hastings and took place not far from the Hellingly Centre.

Tim invited residents to tell their own stories through a series of paintings. He explains: 'I wanted to make the Hellingly Tapestry as a way of piecing together all these different stories to give some insight into how people got to be in this place.'

 

In a first for Hospital Rooms, artist Sophie Clements, who works across the mediums of filmmaking, sculpture and sound, created a video piece for the Hellingly Centre.

Her piece, called 'When the clouds clear' is projected on the main corridor entrance at 4m x 3m in size. It shopes a series of shots of the sea, which Sophie filmed in Cornwall.

Explaining her inspiration for the video, Sophie said: 'The work is centred around the sense of transendence that can be found in the focusing on simple forms - the idea of the mesmeric and the shifting perception of time.'

And it’s not just about creating more therapeutic spaces for Hellingly’s residents. The process of planning and installing the artwork proved to be truly inspirational for many of the people involved – both residents and staff.

Talking about the Hosptial Rooms project, one member of staff said: 'Our patients have loved this process. Some, who have never engaged with the arts before, have wept tears of joy, described the workshops as "the best day of their lives" and told us the sessions have eased times of utter despair.'

One of the residents involved in the project commented: 'This project has made me view things differently, it has made me view art differently. I have seen it, for the first time. I now want to visit galleries, not something anyone that knows me would ever have thought they'd hear me say.'

Two short films have been created charting the work of artists Tim A Shaw and Hannah Brown during their time at the Hellingly Centre.

 

'A light in the dark' follows Hannah Brown during her creation of the woodland mural in the main atrium:

 

'Art will transform us' shows Tim A Shaw's journey to create a mural with the help of Hellingly Centre residents:

The project at the Hellingly Centre is being widely showcased to demonstrate the therapeutic value of art in mental health. So far the finished results have been:

  • the focus of a launch event at creative members club Soho House, in London, to mark World Mental Health Day
  • featured in Elephant magazine
  • on display as part of a residency at Elephant West in London
  • featured in two short films about the conception and creation of the artwork
  • shared through a blog for Nursing Times, written by senior support worker Laury Jeanneret, who was heavily involved in making the project happen. 

If you'd like to find out more about the Hospital Rooms project at the Hellingly Centre, a booklet has been produced which includes reflections from the artists, service users, staff and families. 

Download the Hospital Rooms booklet

Photography by Damian Griffiths