Creative practitioners responses: Scotland (ACHWS)

Three photos by Fran Benison
Fran Benison / Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust

Read more about Arts, Culture, Health & Wellbeing Scotland (ACHWS) here.

Fiona O'Sullivan


Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity’s Arts Programme team developed Studio Boxes to reflect the arts which took place daily in Edinburgh’s children’s hospital prior to COVID-19. The contents of each box are designed with a specific art form in mind, e.g. print making, and contain high quality materials and simple child led instructions. For our first Studio Box we partnered with National Galleries Scotland and National Museum Scotland to create ‘Say it on a Sandwich’ - a Paint Studio Box.

Fiona's reflections

As Arts Manager at ECHC, my role is to design a participatory programme of arts activities within Edinburgh’s children’s hospital, CAMHS inpatient unit, and other paediatric healthcare settings. For seven years we built one of the UK’s largest participatory arts programmes in a children’s hospital, delivering a daily rolling programme of activities, a seasonal programme, environmental enhancements and commissioned project work. We employed 15 regular freelance artists to deliver the programme. This came to an abrupt end when lockdown came into force.

We were no longer able to work on the wards, and quickly needed to think of solutions that gave children access to the arts. We also wanted to make sure we could support our freelance artists as much as possible.

We created Studio Boxes to reflect our rolling programme. We asked our artists to design boxes to reflect their practice. The first was ‘Say It On a Sandwich’. The museum gave us access to their advertising archive and the galleries gave us Pop Art resources. Within the Studio Boxes, we gave the children a secret mission to design Pop Art style slogans with positive messages to send to the hospital staff. We reworked the designs with an artist and created stickers which are now on the sandwiches in the hospital shop.

Because we cannot access the wards, we have to rely on the hospital Play Team to give the boxes out and we make sure the activities are self-led and simple to follow.

The impact of COVID-19 has been massive on our programme and artists. We have adapted the way we work but our funding has been cut, which means less work for our artists. The boxes are a good way to reach patients, but they cannot offer the unique experience children receive when working directly with an artist.


Fiona O’Sullivan completed her degree in Music at LIPA. She began her career as a vocalist and community arts practitioner, delivering singing and song writing sessions to young people, using music to build confidence, self-esteem and life skills. Having experienced the positive effect the arts can have on children, Fiona transitioned into arts management. Fiona has worked for Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity for seven years, building an innovative and diverse arts in health programme which gives children in hospital the opportunity to express themselves creatively, and finding engaging ways to help children through their treatment.


David P Scott


THAT’s (Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust) ‘Sharing Photographs’ is an 8 week programme of remote photographic challenges sent out via email, with results shared through various digital media.  Participants reflect visually on their limited environments. This is one of two online programmes, devised by THAT under the ‘Creative at a Distance’ banner as an immediate response to Lockdown.  THAT programme participants are drawn from the Long Term Conditions community, in this case; Stroke, MS, Parkinsons, Brain Injury and others, the majority of whom fall into the shielded category.  Funding was taken directly from THAT’s reserves to ensure immediate start up.

David's reflections

Like most full time freelance artists my practice is a patchwork of different roles all of which have been affected by the COVID19 crisis.

As a photographer and videographer by W/E 20 March all upcoming jobs/contacts had been cancelled or postponed. Likewise, all of my work as an artist/tutor/facilitator was cancelled or postponed.

With nothing in the diary I have concentrated on my personal practice, currently mainly painting and photography. I have also been researching various areas of art history and practice with a view to expanding my knowledge and skillset. In addition I have been carrying out maintenance work on my photo/video equipment and repairing and/or replacing where necessary.

Early in the lockdown I was approached by Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust about setting up a photography related distance learning programme. Sharing Photographs began on 6 April and is an 8 week programme of lockdown compliant photographic challenges sent out via email. Feedback is provided to participants on all images submitted with weekly updates via a newsletter and Facebook. While it has taken time to adapt, I have found the process very rewarding though I do miss working with people in person. The response from participants in Sharing Photographs and the creative writing programme running alongside it has so far has been very positive.


David P Scott is a freelance artist and tutor whose work involves painting, printmaking photography and video alongside various collaborations and experiments.

David graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in 2006 with an honours degree in Fine Art. His work has appeared in exhibitions at various venues including the Cooper Gallery, the Royal Scottish Academy and the Scottish Arts Club and been short-listed for the Palme-Dewar Short Film Competition and Scottish Portrait Awards. In April 2019 he was part of the first boatbuilding artist residency run by the Archipelago Folkschool at Ardtun on the Ross of Mull.

David works as a freelance artist/tutor with Dundee Contemporary Arts, The McManus Art Gallery & Museum and Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust amongst others. He is a member of Creative Dundee’s Amps Network and Visual Arts Scotland, a regular contributor to the Dundee Print Collective and a citizen of the State of Print.

Visit and for more information.

Rebecca Wilcox & Harry Tritton


Looking Through a Window is an online resource developed in response to the restrictions of Covid 19 so that Art in Hospital can continue to provide our art programme to patients and staff across NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

The resource runs in parallel with the other remote strands of work  with patients and postal projects on Instagram and twitter

Funded by NHSGGC, University of Glasgow, Creative Scotland, Glasgow Life & Postcode Community Trust

Websites :

Rebecca's & Harry's reflections

We work as Artist Practitioners with Art in Hospital (AiH) facilitating art sessions with patients in Care for The Elderly and Stroke Rehabilitation, and are part of a team of 12 artists working across NHSGGC. The current social distancing restrictions in place with Covid 19 have impacted our professional practices in this role substantially. Being unable to work in person with patients in the hospitals has meant a significant shift in the way we can fulfil our roles; essentially requiring us to work remotely.

Adapting to remote working (working from home) poses challenges as creative professionals personally and professionally. Personally there are issues around balancing work with parental duties and home-schooling, loss of earnings through postponement of (other) projects and workshops, and adjustments to limitations in terms of physical work space.

Professionally we are impacted as person to person contact is a key aspect of the work we do, encouraging patients to express themselves and experiment through art-making is facilitated through the patient/artist relationship, through conversation, care and a person-centred approach.

Finding ways to maintain these relationships and keep in contact with the people and organisations we deliver our programmes to has underpinned the planning and development of our responses to Covid-19. Connecting with others through online social networks and platforms seemed like an immediate and accessible means for continuing ways of working with others remotely. It was suggested to the AiH team that we could develop a visual arts online resource - a website - that would support the people we work with to continue to make and develop their own art, and that would reflect and sustain the ways in which we deliver the arts programme and sessions.

As well as working together at AiH we have worked collaboratively on projects in other contexts. These collaborative projects have had a socially engaged dimension with awareness raising and increasing access being key drivers behind the project. This has meant that alongside the delivery of the art workshops our practice has involved working across organisations, building networks and opening up dialogues with others who have similar experiences and interests and who share the similar objective of raising awareness. Using online platforms has been a means to create these networks and to try to reach out to the wider audience: disseminating the work from projects through a podcast, online blog and website and social media sites.

Drawing on this previous experience working together, we thought that we could transfer some elements of this practice to our current situation. Our experience has shown us that although the online environment cannot replace in-person art sessions, it can function as a parallel space that offers similarly rich inspiration and guidance, encouraging a focus away from the routine nature of the medical environment, and towards creativity in its many forms.

We wanted to offer a variety of stimuli that would encourage creativity and wellbeing. To this end, we’ve organised the website into sections, one being more skills and activity based “CREATE”, where we’ve gathered demonstration videos and worksheets on drawing and painting methods made by the AiH team, as well as having a variety of photographs that could provide inspiration to begin a piece of artwork. The other main section “LISTEN, WATCH, READ” is thematically organised and provides a looser form of inspiration, hopefully wide in scope, that has the potential to spark journeys in the imagination and memory, for example the section “ISLAND” presents links to archive film, sound pieces, and narrative focused on Scottish Hebridean and Western Isles life and their legacies.

Some of the other themes we’ve included are popular in the regular art sessions, along with material the artists on the team find of interest or thought might offer opportunity for relaxation and reflection.

The artists on the team had a number of ideas for working remotely which included postal projects; with art materials and resources being sent in to our places of work, and postcard and book projects. The development of the new website allowed us to house all these strands of remote working together and open up the arts programme to the wider audience.


Rebecca Wilcox: I have worked for Art in Hospital for eight years, alongside pursuing my own practice which encompasses writing, audio, video and performance. I’m interested in expanded publishing and its relationship to specific moments in time as well as the voice. I have recently worked on an artist book project with Lotte Gertz for Art in Hospital, which has involved selecting artworks, writing and designing two books representing the practices of two patients we worked with closely. I also recently worked with Harry Tritton delivering audio and visual art workshops at WASLER arts, working towards a podcast series. Other recent projects include commissions for Tectonics Festival, Radiophrenia, and for LUX Artists' Moving Image Festival with Amelia Bywater, and writing projects with MAP and Tate.

Harry Tritton: I have worked with Art In Hospital for four years. I have also worked with Women’s Aid South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire (WASLER) for five years where I established the arts programme WASLER ARTS,  co-ordinating the art workshops, projects and public exhibitions and events there. Part of my practice involves working collaboratively with others; with the women who participate in the art workshops at WASLER in the creation of artworks, or with other artists and creative practitioners to plan, develop and deliver projects and workshops. Recent projects such as the WASLER ARTS MAKE WAVES podcast launched for the 16 Days of Action 2019 was developed in collaboration with Rebecca Wilcox alongside the delivery of audio and visual art workshops.  My creative practice incorporates drawing, collage, textiles, ceramics, sound. I am interested in Art Therapy as well as Feminist and Socially Engaged Arts Practices and the positive potential of art to affect change on a personal and individual level as well as on the social and macro level.

Karen Anderson


Indepen-dance is a Glasgow-based Inclusive Dance Development Company, founded with the mission to enable participation in high-quality arts provision and improve well being, quality of life and provide opportunities for disabled and non-disabled dancers in both professional and non-professional dance sectors. Indepen-dance provides a core programme of inclusive dance classes on a weekly basis’s throughout the year for disabled children, young people and adults. We also provide quarterly training events in inclusive dance practice facilitated by leaders in the field from across the UK and Europe, the company has 3 performance groups including community adult and youth performance companies and a small professional inclusive touring company which has toured work extensively across the UK, Europe and the wider world. To continue to sustain our organisation we generate income by providing dance workshops to other third sector organisations, ASN and Mainstream Schools and nurseries.

We have built an organisation which for many participants provides lifelong learning with opportunities for volunteering and employment. We also accept student placements from a variety of colleges, universities and institutions.

During this period of COVID-19 we have sought ways to continue a service for our participants at the same time support our freelance artists with continued work. We have designed and delivered a programme of online inclusive dance classes for disabled children, young people and adults as well as their families. The programme includes seated yoga followed by a cuppa and a catch up and a movement and sensory session for our more severely disabled participants. All of the online classes are designed to get people moving in their own home and environment and share in a creative experience. We have received funding from The Well Being fund to support the running costs for these sessions. More information on our full programme can be found on our website and our social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram.  

Karen's reflections

From the 25 March we responded to effects and restrictions placed on our organisation to offer a connection with our members to keep dancing with the aim to support our members well being and to attempt to alleviate social isolation. Many of the disabled children, young people and adults are already socially isolated so it wasn't just a case of providing a prerecorded dance class on Youtube we knew how important it was to connect with the people who know us well. We moved a selection of our classes online promptly, which meant we hadn't fully appreciated the pitfalls of sharing information publicly so after a "zoom bombing" incident on our first online session we reported this to the authorities and put the correct measures in place to ensure our members could join in safely but it did cause stress, anxiety and had the potential to damage our good reputation. Nevertheless we moved on and have been successfully delivering a programme of 8 weekly movement and dance classes to our members and their families and carers for 8 weeks now.  We've also reached out to our members families, calling them individually to offer support and to make sure they know what we have to offer, some of the parents were just happy to talk to someone who had an understanding of how challenging it can be looking after a child or adult with learning disabilities at this time. 

As well as the weekly online classes and  well being calls, we have a couple of WhatsApp groups going one for the parents of our disabled youth group and another for our creative team as well as a WhatsApp group for our Forloughed staff, we also hold weekly well being catch ups for our staff group, we had our first Saturday night Indepen-dance Arms open night for our staff which was great fun. 

We have also used prerecorded dance sessions and uploaded these to our Youtube Channel to allow our members to watch a short instructional fun dance activity at their leisure. We have run one live dance event called #ProudMary to celebrate the work of our NHS staff and all key workers. This event gathered together more than 150 to join in a big live dance. We are hosting another live event this Friday called Friday Fiesta to get as many people as we can to join in our dance. We have also launched a fundraising campaign called #shareasmile 

All in all we are trying to do the best we can with the current resources we have available. I was inspired today by a letter that arrived from one of our youth companies grand parents; it reads:

I was with my grandson when he attended his first dance class with Indepen-dance. Since then I have seen such a transformation in his confidence and ability to express himself so creatively and it is the one activity , above all else, that he looks forward to. My grandson now has friends and people he enjoys spending time with and people look forward to seeing him. It has been wonderful seeing him develop over the time he has been dancing and I would like to say  big "thank you" to all who are involved - your achievements have been truly remarkable and long may your company continue. 

When you need some inspiration to sit at you kitchen table for another day in lockdown to write another funding application it’s letter’s and feedback like this that keeps me going.


I am the Artistic Director and Founder of Indepen-dance, I established the organisation with the aim to provide access to a high quality dance activity for disabled people of all ages. The organisation is 24 years old now and over the years has grow and developed with the support of many creative individuals.

People dancing, socially distant
Image Credit: Indepen-dance


Go back to the main page where you can read creative practitioners responses from the other three nations of the UK