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Dance project helps patients at Alder Hey Children's Hospital

  • Date: 28 November 2013
  • Area: North
Participant at Alder Hey Hospital

Participant at Alder Hey Hospital. Credit: Leila Romaya

From Where You Are is a 29 month creative dance project exploring movement in acute paediatric healthcare. Led by Small Things Dance Collective, Cath Hawkins and Lisa Dowler, the project was developed in association with Edge Hill University and Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool. Cited as a 'ground-breaking' project by Alder Hey Children's Hospital, the company collaborated with the hospital's Arts for Health, Play Service, Pain and Sedation Service and Research Departments. The project has since engaged nine dance artists, reached over 1,500 participants and 1,550 live audiences and resulted in seven new commissions and 574 training sessions.

Supported by Arts Council England's lottery funded Grants for the arts programme, the company also received funding from Edge Hill University, Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Big Lottery Fund and Warrington Borough Council.

From Where You Are grew out of a successful pilot study which took place in 2008-9. New approaches in movement and inclusive dance practice were further developed with long-term disabled children and those with acute childhood illnesses and diseases.  Alongside child-centred approaches to performance and film making, and a range of new programme activity, the project included a study on the Neuromedical, Cardiac and Orthopaedic Wards into the effects of this practice for children with acute pain.

Evidence based research showed that 92 per cent of children and young people experienced reduced pain, anxiety and discomfort and or were less anxious of painful hospital procedures and more relaxed in their experience of being in a challenging hospital environment.

One dance artist involved in the project when discussing a young patient commented, 'After the session the nurse came to discuss his pain medication. His Mum said he didn't seem in pain so they decided not to give him his scheduled medication.'

The project provided professional apprenticeships for dance artists keen to develop their practice in health settings. Other professional development opportunities for artists included a retreat led by internationally renowned dance movement therapists and a symposium for dance and arts and health professionals.

Guest speaker at the symposium Kellie Rixon MBE, and mother of a young man who was given only hours to live after a road traffic accident, attributed the impact of her son's recovery and rehabilitation to working with Small Things dance artists Cath Hawkins and Lisa Dowler as part of this project, citing that their work had succeeded where physiotherapy, medical professionals and traditional medicines had been unable to help.

Desiree Cherrington, Relationship Manager, Dance, Arts Council England commented, 'The From Where You Are project by Small Things Dance Collective is testimony to the valuable and vital contribution that artists make to the health agenda and the instrumental and intrinsic value of the arts. High quality and innovative dance projects such as this have strong potential to inform our understanding of arts and culture in relation to the wider society. Though a discreet and largely under the radar project, due to the nature and sensitivity of the work, its impact is however far reaching and its benefit to children and young people unquestionable.'  

You can view a film about the project here.