London-based illustrator Jonny Glover has created a new mural at the Children's Mental Health Centre, transforming an NHS waiting area into an uplifting, calm space that reflects the stories and lives of the young people who use the service.
The artwork was commissioned by the NHS staff of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Tower Hamlets, who also fundraised the money for the project. Over lockdown, Glover and the NHS staff reached out to some of the young people who use the service to help them design the space. "We asked them to share what they loved most in life, the local area and what they were missing the most because of lockdown," says Glover. "We were blown away by the response and the number of ideas we got."
Those cherished things included taking a dip at the local swimming pool or visiting the countryside and enjoying nature – even just going to the shops to buy a nice house plant or meeting friends in a nearby park.
"When creating works in healthcare spaces, I think it is important to involve the community in the design," adds Glover. "In this way, it is possible to create spaces that feel more familiar and reassuring."
The ideas were then sketched up into a design that reflected the young people's life stories and lived experiences. The colour palette and spacious arrangement of playful characters were carefully chosen to give the design a calm and spacious, positive feel.
"I wanted to create a space that helped to give young people, who may be anxious at coming to CAMHS, a good first impression of the building – one that is welcoming and warm," Glover adds. "We visit hospitals and healthcare environments when things aren't going well and we want to feel better. NHS staff and the care they give are remarkable but the spaces we meet them in often don't reflect this. It was important to me that the mural helped to address this idea.
"For me, the quality of an environment and your sense of the quality of the care you are receiving are closely linked – it makes sense that spaces in clinical environments should feel a bit less...clinical, for want of a better word."