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Children flock to new Northumbria hospital as art installation takes centre stage

Wednesday, 13 May, 2015
Children flock to new Northumbria hospital as art installation takes centre stage

A huge sculpture which will welcome patients and visitors to Northumberland’s new hospital dedicated to emergency care has been installed.

‘A Murmuration of Starlings’, which is five metres high and four metres wide, is suspended from the ceiling in the main entrance of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.

Artists Juliet and Jamie Gutch watched as the mobile, inspired by the striking spectacle of flocks of birds, was put in place. They were joined by pupils from Cramlington Learning Village who contributed to the design.

The work was commissioned by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust as part of its long-standing healing arts programme which uses art as a therapeutic medium to improve the hospital environment for patients, visitors and staff.

When the new Northumbria hospital opens in June, seriously ill or injured patients from across Northumberland and North Tyneside will arrive by emergency blue light ambulance, be referred by their GP or may arrive themselves. Senior decision making on arrival and fast access to diagnostics located close to the ‘emergency department hub’ will ensure speedy test results allowing specialists to start treatment earlier, improving outcomes and recovery.

It is part of Northumbria Healthcare’s innovative new model of emergency care which will help save more lives and improve clinical outcomes for more patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside.

Brenda Longstaff, head of arts and the patient environment at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “As a ground-breaking hospital, we wanted a striking sculpture that would act as a centrepiece to the building and help create a special environment for all.

“The mobile certainly delivers on that, and much, much more. From the moment of entering the hospital it will have an impact, creating a welcome sight for people to admire. The fact that the sculpture will change its form and shape with the movement of air will be very interesting to watch and will certainly create a talking point for visitors.

“It is really important to us that we give our communities the opportunity to contribute to areas which will impact on so many people. We have been delighted to work with the pupils at Cramlington Learning Village and we’d like to thank them for being part of this fantastic project.”

Juliet, an artist who specialises in mobiles, held a series of workshops with an art group made up of Year 7 and 8 pupils at Cramlington Learning Village, to explore the balance and harmony of mobiles.

The children contributed their own drawings and reflections on the life and characteristics of birds which formed the basis of the final sculpture.

Juliet, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, said: “We were absolutely delighted to have been selected to create a large-scale mobile for such a ground-breaking hospital and it has been a very exciting to be part of the project.

“Starlings in flight move together, constantly adapting their shape and reforming. ‘A Murmuration of Starlings’ is like a living sculpture in the sky. Within the flock, each individual starling is responsible for maintaining the whole by working extremely closely with those immediately around them.

“We feel this is an excellent metaphor for how a hospital works and that a mobile, with its different parts moving harmoniously together, is the ideal artform through which to express this.

“It was fantastic to see the looks on the children’s faces when the mobile was installed and we hope they will remember being part of the project for many years to come.”

Nicola English, head of art at Cramlington Learning Village, said: “For our pupils to have watched as a revolutionary new hospital has been built near their homes has been excellent. However for them to be involved in creating a sculpture for the main entrance has been an unforgettable experience and one they will treasure.

“It was only when it was in place in the hospital that its true splendour was realised and brought to life.”

The mobile is one of a series of pieces of art which are being created for the new hospital which include an external sculpture and an embroidery showing different cultural designs from around the world. A photographic competition for images for wards and departments is to be launched later this month.

To find out more about Northumbria Healthcare’s healing arts programme and art in hospitals visit or contact 0191 203 1354. To find out more about Juliet and Jamie Gutch’s work visit