A play space for healthy minds

Oh My Gosh, You're Wellcome...Kitten on show at the Wellcome Collection, Being Human exhibition

A baby rhino in every children’s mental health ward, obviously.

Rooms with lakes, mountains, and a Hogwarts library.

Nurses with big ears, buckets of empathy and Netflix accounts.

The best beds from John Lewis, orchids and walls that smell of French soap.

What happens if children with significant mental health challenges…

  • create the boundaries for making art?
  • share their wellbeing wants and needs?
  • become professional designers?

For six months I supported young people from Great Ormond Street Hospital’s mental health ward to do just that, as part of OH MY GOSH, YOU’RE WELLCOME… KITTEN. Fifteen young people and lots of nurses worked with me, a designer and curator to explore what kind of environments would make them feel more positive, less stressed and aid them on their journey. It’s been emotional, really emotional. Maybe one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Turning a ward at the hospital into an art and design studio, we met weekly as well as daily during school holidays.

Using cardboard, clay, performance, soap, tin foil, the nurse’s bodies, orchids, sheepskin and a generous helping of silliness we explored questions like:

  • What rooms you would have in the perfect ward? (they imagined 72 of them, including a baby rhino room!)
  • What your perfect bedroom would be like? (lots of dog beds, with dogs)
  • What the view out of your window would be? (Iguanas, water, mountains and much more)

This process of art making, workshops and research trips was transformed into a play-based installation for the Wellcome Collection’s new 10 year exhibition ‘Being Human’, which is now open.

For the process and exhibition I collaborated with process led designer, Ishbel (MUF Architecture/Art) and social practice curator Caroline (GOSH Arts) in what has been incredibly inspiring, at times painful but also truly transformative for us all.

This project has been funded by The Wellcome Collection, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and GOSH Arts.


Read The Guardian review of the show here.

Shout out to Clare Barlow, Being Human curator for critical input throughout the process.

Installation photo Steven Pocock, Courtesy Wellcome Collection