Vital Arts



Tom Gauld’s cover of ‘The New Yorker’ December 11 2017
Tom Gauld

We are thrilled about our current commission with cartoonist and illustrator Tom Gauld, best known for his cover illustrations for The New Yorker Magazine (see above) and his weekly inclusions in the Guardian. Tom’s work will reside deep within the Cystic Fibrosis Unit where patients are confined to their isolation rooms for several weeks at a time. Tom has developed a work based on Myrioram-type cards that can be rearranged to create variations of an imaginary park. The landscape will take a different form in each room, so patients can explore the work more fully–and discover new elements–every time they return to the Unit.

As part of his commission, Tom is meeting with recurrent patients and gaining insight into the particular circumstance of their condition, and some of the issues they encounter, in order to create a project that is relevant to their reality. Tom’s style reflects his self-professed fondness for deadpan comedy and slightly dark humour which resonates with CF patients who tend to be older teens and young adults.


Image taken from Charles Avery’s book Onomatopoeia – capital city of the (fictional) Island capital city.

The Islanders
Following on from Art Night 2017, artist and educator Sam Ayre will be delivering a series of workshops within our school rooms using Charles Avery’s book ‘The Islanders’ as a spring board for ideas. Over the course of the sessions our students will make connections between art, philosophy, and their own individual lived experiences, creating a ‘new world’ through discussion, painting, story telling, idea sharing, design, millinery and drawing.

LSO Discovery Ward Sessions
We welcome a new singing programme to our older adults at Newham University Hospital. Music leader Caroline Welsh has been working with musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra,  ward staff, and dementia specialists. The musicians have a repertoire of songs developed in consultation with patients and staff. Musical performances and participative songs aim to improve the experience of being in hospital, enhance wellbeing and encourage creative expression and communication.

Alongside our new programme musicians, Venessa King and Mark Withers continue to bring music to our younger patients at The Royal London Hospital.

Vanessa King with violinist Mia from the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal London Hospital Daycare Unit

Our extensive music programme continues to provide high quality, personalised concerts for children of all ages at The Royal London and Newham, with performances and workshops from London Symphony Orchestra, The Royal Academy of Music and National Portrait Gallery.


Detail of Hurvin’s installation of paintings, Royal London Trilogy, commissioned by Vital Arts in 2012. Hurvin Anderson. Image from FT article
Press and Exhibitions 
Vital Arts is honoured to have been included in various press and exhibitions recently, including the Financial Times— How to Spend it ‘Exploring the palliative power of art’ We are the subject of a feature in Hidden Arts, entitled Making Art and Architecture Work for Health.Meanwhile, some of our projects are currently included in three exhibitions: at theWellcome CollectionCan Graphic Design Save Your Life? at the Building CentreMaking Wellbeing: from birth to death, KØS Museum of Art in Public Place, Denmark,What Does Art Do in Hospitals?The latter held an international conference on Arts in Health where Vital Arts Director, Catsou Roberts, gave a paper in Copenhagen in November. She also published a text, entitled Raising the Bar: Advocating New Approaches to Commissioning Art in Healthcare for a book on the subject published by KØS. Both the exhibition and the conference generated a lot of press, including an article in one of Denmark’s foremost cultural papers, Weekendavisen.Catsou was also invited to write a short text for Tate Etc Magazine on Arts in Health which will appear in January, whicn makes reference to Amalia Pica’s commission for the oncology isolation ward at Barts Hosptial.


New Commissions 

We are putting the final touches onto three new projects:

A small unique ‘Surgical Appliances’ room at Barts hospital that has seen ten years of cancer patients under the formidable Victoria ‘Vicky’ Wood, has been transformed by set designer, Cecilia Carey, into a vibrant and lively–yet confidential–space. Details of the older buildings at Barts, designed in the 18th century by James Gibbs, inspired Cecilia who has translated some of these element into a compositions of flat vinyl geometric shapes which adorn the walls. Usually commissioned to undertake design for site-specific performances and events, Cecilia’s quirky theatrical eye has brought humour, and a human touch, to the room.

Image taken from Cecilia Carey’s proposal for the ‘Surgical Appliance’ room at Barts Hospital

Meanwhile, in the Paediatric waiting areas at the Royal London Claire Powell has delivered a playful graphic design strategy to prevent costly last minute cancellations when patients fail to fast prior to procedures. Her formidable, but friendly frogs give a clear message that discourages eating.

Detail of Claire Powell’s Frogs for Children’s Daycare at The Royal London Hospital


In the A&E Mental Health Room at the Royal London Hospital, Mike Miles has designed a ‘Wall of Hope’ in consultation with clinical staff and patient groups. This is a flagship project–the first of its kind in the UK–which will be rolled out by other services. This project won the East London Foundation Trust Chief Executive 2017 Award, and was short-listed for the ELFT People’s Participation Ward 2017.


In Other News and Events
As well as these Awards, we are have been nominated, for a second consecutive year, for the Corporate Art Award in Rome, which was presented by Italy’s Minister for Culture, Dario Franceschini.

Vital Arts was also involved in award giving; Catsou was one of three judges and award presenters for this year’s Clyde & Co Art Awards in early December. She also recently joined the Tate Exchange Content Group, acting as a liaison between Tate Exchange Associates and Tate Gallery.

Vital Arts has renewed an active partnership with Music in Hospital and Care who will bring a World Music programme to our patients across all five hospital sites. Together, both organisations held a special launch event on 14 September in the majestic Great Hall which is accessed via a grand staircase lined with site-specific paintings by William Hogarth.

Image of new Maggie’s centre at Barts Hospital

Vital Arts joins the rest of Barts Health NHS Trust in welcoming the new Maggie’s Centreto Barts. Steven Holl’s architectural gem is a wonderful addition to the historic square, next to Gibb’s 18th Century building. Maggie’s offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends.

Speaking of new…we are expanding our portfolio of limited editions. Watch this space for several exciting new ones we will be publishing in the new year!


After five years of working for Vital Arts we bid farewell to our Arts Manger, Neesha Gobin.During her time at Vital Arts Neesha has worked across all aspects of the organisation, from implementing a marketing and press strategy, to commissioning artwork, project management and delivering our Patient Participation Programme. She will be moving to CW+ as the Patient Environment Manager and we wish her every success in her future ventures!

Although she is irreplaceable, we are hoping to recruit new team member in the new year. For information contact