The National Portrait Gallery celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of its Hospitals Program with new activities for children

This July, the National Portrait Gallery is proud to launch Champions of the World, a new activity book for children receiving care in London’s children’s hospitals. Taking inspiration from the Gallery’s Collection, Champions of the World introduces young people to the portraits and diverse stories of exceptional, hard-working and talented people who are changing our world for the better. Supporting health, wellbeing and happiness through the creative arts, this free art resource has been created with illustrator, Dunni Mustapha, to celebrate the Gallery’s fifteen-year commitment to learning and engagement with children in hospital.

Funded again by Delancey, the Gallery will this year gift 5,000 copies of Champions of the World to its five London partner hospitals: Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, Newham University Hospital and The Royal London Hospital.

Inspired by artworks in the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, Champions of the World features twelve well-known figures from the worlds of sport and entertainment, including footballer, Marcus Rashford; ballet dancer, Dame Darcy Bussell; singer, Ed Sheeran; Paralympian wheelchair racer, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson; actor and rapper, Riz Ahmed; and Olympic long distance runner, Sir Mo Farah. Created with Dunni Mustapha, vector illustrations bring to life both the personalities and accompanying art activities, which are each linked to the stories of the sitters. Some encourage play – from a specially designed board game that sees you race like Paralympian Ellie Simmonds; to a finger-knitting activity, echoing Olympian Tom Daley’s pool-side creations. Others invite young people to design artistic responses, such as characters with red noses, inspired by comedian Sir Lenny Henry, or illustrate activist placards, like actor Emma Watson.

The Gallery’s Hospitals Program encourages play, making, reading, learning, writing and creativity. This is achieved by artist-led creative workshops on the ward, in activity centers or by the bedside, as well as online and through this activity book, which can be used by young people on their own, with their families or with hospital staff. The Program enables young people to be introduced to the Gallery and develop their creative skills. The activity book enables every child in our partner hospitals to be able to engage with art.

The National Portrait Gallery has a long-standing history of working with London’s children’s hospitals, and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the program pivoted to ensure that children and families were supported remotely. Working in close collaboration with play therapists and specialists, nursing staff and hospital teachers, the Gallery ensured that opportunities remained available to children and young people, trialling digital platforms as a way of reaching isolated patients, moving face-to-face art workshops online and developing free digital resources.

Over the past 15 years, over 20,000 young people (aged 0-18) and their families have participated in creative workshop activities, which include photography, animation, sculpture, textiles, painting, performance and drawings. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, over 68,000 people accessed free activities and resources as part of the Hospitals Programme, funded by Delancey, Get Living, Here East and The Earls Court Development Company.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London said: “The National Portrait Gallery’s long-running Hospitals Program demonstrates the positive impact that art can have on health and wellbeing. We’re excited to launch this brand new activity book and program of artist-led workshops, supported by our funders and facilitated by NHS staff, which will give young people and their families opportunities to engage creatively with our Collection.”

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