Festival surprises boost people's day

Dr Goblin and participant create washi tape mural and imaginary friends

Hundreds of patients, staff and visitors enjoyed a lively weekend at Southmead Hospital, Bristol in October as it played host to wheelchair dancers, local choirs, knitters and calligraphers for the two day Fresh Arts Festival.

This was the second edition of the Fresh Arts Festival, created by North Bristol NHS Trust in collaboration with arts consultants Willis Newson to celebrate the hospital building, bring staff together and open up the space to the local community.


The festival was full of surprises and unique experiences for patients, staff and visitors who enjoyed happening across unexpected installations in and around the hospital, from a knitted bus stop to a washi tape mural covering an entire wall.

The knitted bus stop was created by artist Ali Brown with staff and patients, along with the world’s first knitted wisdom-dispensing machine which gave out wisdom tickets to visitors.  

Knitted words of wisdom at Southmead Hospital Bristol

Another highlight of the festival was the unusual twist brought to proceedings by the visiting delegation of art students from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. The students spent the two days delivering workshops, creating large-scale artworks and interacting with the hospital community.

One of the students created a huge washi tape mural which completely transformed one of the large walls in the hospital atrium and was a big hit with patients and visitors.

People could engage with the artwork on different levels, from simply watching it being created, to having a go at making a creature for the wall or an ‘imaginary friend’ to wear on their back.

From Shodo (traditional Japanese calligraphy) demonstrations to origami workshops, the students engaged people with activities which were completely new to many people taking part. One Southmead Hospital patient commented:

I feel very calm now and I watched the calligraphy, it’s intriguing, another culture

Jane Willis, Director of arts and health consultants Willis Newson said:

An older patient watching the origami workshop in the morning was reluctant to get involved. Later that day I saw him heading back to the ward, carrying a bag full of origami gifts he had made for the nurses.Giving people this opportunity to step outside of the usual hospital experience, to be creative and to be an active part of the community is something very special indeed.”

This is the second year the festival has taken place, celebrating the benefits of art for health and engaging patients, families, staff and the general public with the hospital space.

Banner at Southmead Hospital Fresh Arts Festival 2015

Banner created for the festival which was displayed in the hospital atrium.