Artwork transforms mental health hospital with help from patients

Patients at the Hellingly Centre have transformed the inside of the hospital with the help of world-renowned artists and charity Hospital Rooms.

Over the course of six months, patients and staff at the Hellingly Centre, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's medium secure mental health unit providing inpatient care for adults with complex mental health problems who have been in contact with the criminal justice system, have worked with Hospital Rooms to create and install artwork throughout the unit.

Hospital Rooms is a charity that aims to bring world class art to people living in secure mental health hospitals. It was set up by artists Tim A Shaw and Niamh White after a close friend was admitted to a mental health hospital and they were shocked by the austere environment.

Tim was joined by artists Hannah Brown, Sophie Clements, Lothar Götz, Jonathan Trayte and Richard Wentworth at Hellingly, where they ran workshops with patients and staff, giving them the opportunity to try different artistic techniques, from animation to painting. They were invited to contribute ideas which would influence what the artists would finally create. 

The result was unique, imaginative artwork that is specific to the hospital and the people it supports, including:


  • An installation by celebrated British sculptor Richard Wentworth using pages from the Oxford English Dictionary, which was inspired by a workshop with patients that involved creating collages from old newspapers from around the world.
  • A large mural of a woodland scene, created by Hannah Brown, joining the centres' three wards, which are named after native British trees.
  • The Hellingly Tapestry, created collaboratively by Tim A Shaw and Hellingly residents, to tell individual's stories.
  • A 3m x 4m video piece by Sophie Clements, depicting a series of shots of the sea and which is projected onto the entrance of the main corridor.   

To celebrate the end of the project a number of the artists revisited Hellingly on Tuesday 17 December for a special event with staff, patients and their families and carers. 

Hospital Rooms has also created a book to mark the art installation's completion, which contains reflections from the artists and patients who took part, as well as images of the artwork. Further information about the project, and the booklet, can be found on our website.  

Laury Jeanneret, Support Worker at Hellingly who helped to coordinate the project, said: "Hospital Rooms has been transformative for our patients, and during the six months the artists were at Hellingly we watched not just our building, but also our patients come to life. We've seen people who have struggled to engage with others forge new friendships. We've seen patients who have never engaged with activities attend workshops and learn new skills. It may seem small, but for them it's monumental.

"Art has the power to heal and to soothe, and the process of creating it has huge therapeutic value. Patients being cared for in secure units can be there for some time, and it's easy for them to become disconnected with the outside world and their own identity. This project has drawn patients out of their inner world and into something that they never could have imagined possible. It's been truly touching, and humbling, to see."

Niamh White, co-founder of Hospital Rooms, said: 'Our project at the Hellingly Centre has been one of best we have ever done. We have been welcomed with open arms by patients and staff and found an abundance of creativity and talent within these walls. During our artist collaborations with the community, the centre felt more like an art school than a secure mental health hospital. The project demonstrates the positive contribution that can be made by all members of society given the proper opportunity, skills development and resources.'

Hellingly is one of just six mental health trusts chosen by Hospital Rooms to benefit from the work of artists in 2019.  

Find out more about Hospital Rooms at the Hellingly Centre