Communications Manager Marie Stirling visited one of our Start Hospices partners, Jerwood Gallery, for their Family Day.
To learn more about our Start Hospices project, click here.

In April Jerwood Gallery opened its doors to children and their families from Chestnut Tree House, a local hospice caring for 300 children and young adults with progressive life-shortening conditions.

The gallery, which boasts stunning views of the Hastings beach, is normally closed on a Monday. This Monday however, they welcomed nine families and staff from Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice for a special Family Day.

Children & the Arts have worked with Jerwood Gallery since their launch in 2012, first in our Start programme and now as one of our Start Hospices partners. This is their second year in the Start Hospices programme, following the gallery's pilot year last year.

The gallery arranged a number of different activities for the families to enjoy, all based around the theme of wild. On our arrival we joined a musical session run by Ed Boxall. Ed encouraged us all to join in with his songs using the various musical instruments on offer, including tambourines and maracas, while Ed performed on his guitar.

Image of hospice workshop at Jerwood Gallery

The room also contained toys and several large cardboard boxes for the children to interact with. One of the children decided to make use of the boxes to build an impressively long tunnel with them!

In a separate part of the gallery, families enthusiastically contributed to a huge wildlife themed collage. Children experimented with different materials, including brightly coloured tissue paper and tinfoil to create flowers and other wildlife on the large canvas.

The main attraction, however, was the workshop with Wild Life Drawing. The gallery had arranged for two ‘wolves’ to visit for the day. For all those alarmed – don’t worry, these were incredibly well trained British Lupine Dogs who, accompanied by their handlers, quickly won over the children (and the adults). Three smaller dogs were also present, so that if any child found the larger dogs intimidating then they could still take part. For those not interacting directly with the animals, Wild Life Drawing had provided partly drawn outlines of the animals for the children to colour in. Several children enthusiastically got to work creating brightly coloured wolves, one little boy even created a rainbow coloured wolf! These could then be taken home as a happy memento from the day.

We weren’t the only onlookers that day, a crew from ITV also visited to report on the Family Day, and you can view their report below. (1)

Mindful that a specific place dedicated for peace and quiet is vital for these families, Jerwood Gallery also provided a relaxed space where children could retreat to if the day became too overwhelming. It was wonderful that the programme could take advantage of the fact that Jerwood Gallery is closed on Mondays, and so allow the children the chance to take ownership of the building, while also enjoying a day without crowds. A member of the hospice staff noted what an opportunity this was for their families, “the whole family can come along and get involved in some art, and the gallery's closed so they have a massive space to themselves so it’s amazing.’’

The families all seem to really enjoy the day and there was a really positive atmosphere in the gallery. One family member commented, “Absolutely brilliant day we can't thank you enough. Venue was perfect with amazing helpful staff and helpers. Activities were brilliant and suited everyone. We will be back for a visit!”.

Looking forward, Jerwood Gallery is planning to repeat the success of today with another Family Day and Siblings Day later in the year with the families from Chestnut Tree House.

All images ©

1) used with the kind permission of ITV