Southmead Hospital Public Art Programme
Southmead Hospital Public Art Programme
Southmead Hospital Public Art Programme: Laura Ford, Tobias Rehberger, Jaime Hayon, Ally Wallace, Jacqui Poncelet, Peter Randall Page.


The Southmead Hospital Public Art Programme was commissioned by Carillion as part of the development of Bristol’s new £430m super hospital in Southmead. The £1.1 million arts programme builds on research which clearly demonstrates the direct benefits for patients of incorporating visual and performing arts into the hospital environment to create therapeutic environments which improve the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors. 


The public art programme follows on from a public art strategy for the hospital produced by project leaders and curators Willis Newson in 2007. Underpinning the project is a close collaboration between North Bristol NHS Trust and its arts programme Fresh Arts, architects Building Design Partnership (BDP), Carillion and Willis Newson. This close collaboration enabled Willis Newson creatively to integrate the public art with the architecture of the building.

The outcome of the programme was the development of six artists’ commissions across the building and landscape for patients, staff and the wider community. Installation of the work of the six commissioned artists began in September 2013 and was completed in October 2015. The commissioned artists were Tobias Rehberger who created a new work for the buildings three giant atria, Laura Ford, who created 5 new sculptures across the exterior landscape, Jacqueline Poncelet who developed a series of spaces in the medical day gardens, Peter Randall Page who created a new water feature, Emily Golden Twomey, who created works for the children wards, and Jaime Hayon who’s series of 3 sculpture forms occupy the three courtyards that adjoin the large internal atria. 

Exhibitions by local schools and artists’ groups are also shown within the hospital in specially created changing gallery spaces offering a changing programme of works. 

To mark the opening, a three-day Fresh Arts Festival was held in October 2014 celebrating the role that the arts are playing in bringing the building to life and connecting to the communities who use it. Events included a writer in residence working with patients and visitors, staff wellbeing workshops, live music on wards and in waiting rooms, performances by local choirs, local knitting groups coming together to demonstrate the therapeutic nature of knitting while creating a special installation for the hospital entrance, printmaking workshops run by a local studio group and the Emergency Poet, a poetry on prescription service open to all.

A live theatre show was also programmed which enabled participants to share memories and tell stories of working at the old Southmead and Frenchay Hospitals collected during creative writing workshops for staff run by three local artists.

The final day of the Festival was marked by a Speed Derby in the hospital atrium – the culmination of a series of workshops to help staff teams from across both old sites come together to identify with and take ownership of their new working environment. During the workshops, led by artists Assemble and Join, staff designed and created their own mini cars to race on a specially created track built around the building. 

Willis Newson was advised by Theresa Bergne of Field Art Projects on the selection of three of the artists, resulting in the appointment of Laura Ford, Jaime Hayon and Tobias Rehberger. 

SouthmeadHospital Bristol 

Southmead Hospital Bristol is a £430m new hospital for Bristol developed by the NHS Trust and PFI developers Carillion. The hospital is an 800 bed acute hospital built on the existing Southmead site. 

The public arts programme led by Willis Newson was part of the PFI initiative and built on research which clearly demonstrates the direct benefits for patients of incorporating visual and performing arts into the hospital environment. 

Willis Newson 

Willis Newson is a leading Bristol-based independent arts consultancy specialising in creative approaches to improving health and wellbeing.  It develops & delivers public art strategies for new builds and refurbishments,  manages public engagement programmes, offers an affordable design service for healthcare and provides advice and guidance on using art & design to create healthy environments. 

Willis Newson was established in 2001 and has since carried out over 200 projects for more than 31 NHS Trusts, as well as working on projects for private healthcare clients, contractors and architects.