Garnet Ward

Highgate Mental Health Centre

Hospital Rooms has collaborated with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust on a project for their Garnet Ward in Highgate Mental Health Centre. We have commissioned a series of dementia friendly, artistic environments for the  14 bed unit for older people (65+) with dementia and other challenges. We have combined the expertise of arts and health professionals with dementia care residents, carers and staff in the design and implementation of this project.

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Sutapa Biswas

Women's Lounge, Garnet Ward, Highgate Mental Health Centre

‘When I woke up this morning I did not even want to open my eyes or draw the curtains. Taking part in this workshop has brightened my day no end. You’ve bucked me right up!’

-Patient, Garnet Ward


Tim A Shaw

Relative's Room, Garnet Ward, Highgate Mental Health Centre

‘Now people will see that I am capable of doing something really good!’

-Patient, Garnet Ward


Michael O'Reilly

Dining Room, Garnet Ward, Highgate Mental Health Centre

‘Care units are not generally noted for their visual appeal. But Garnet Ward, a dementia care unit in north London, UK, run by the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, is different. On the walls of one room, stylised paintings of exotic plants from around the world conjure up scenes of travel and exploration. Elsewhere, a landscape mural full of intrigue and wonder glows like stained glass. The wall of one little nook is a swirling wash of abstract blues, pinks, and greens that could be one of J M W Turner’s skies at sunrise.’

-Philip Ball, The Lancet, 2018


Yukako Shibata

Sitting Area, Garnet Ward, Highgate Mental Health Centre

‘This will go down in the history of the hospital!’

-Patient, Garnet Ward


Aimee Parrott

Quiet Room, Garnet Ward, Highgate Mental Health Centre


'Projects like this are crucial in showing that people with dementia are creative and imaginative, and art equips them with the tools to explore this.'

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party visited the Garnet Ward in January 2018


British Journal of Psychiatry

Sue Dunkley is a celebrated pop artist who now has dementia. Her family donated a painting from her archive 'The House of Bernada Alba' (1989) to be installed at the Garnet Ward. It was also selected to feature on the cover of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

A series of recent reports have resoundingly highlight the benefits of visual and participatory arts for older people in mental health settings. In particular, the arts have been shown to:

  • Improve alertness, happiness, positive emotional state and independence

  • Improve social interaction, verbal and non verbal communication and improve face name recognition

  • Decrease fear, anxiety and agitation

  • Aid bonding between service users and caregivers

By enabling an intergenerational co-production process between world class artists and the unit community, we sought to empower residents to meaningfully contribute to the project. Each artist capitalised on the older residents’ own skills, knowledge and experiences to guide their work, while also referring to existing research in the area of dementia environments and the King’s Fund EHE Environmental Assessment Tool. This process ensures that all designs and artworks will be entirely fit for purpose (hygiene, safety, security, durability) for this particular mental healthcare setting.

In addition, the family of celebrated artist Sue Dunkley has donated a piece to Hospital Rooms for display in the Garnet Ward. Dunkley has dementia and has recently moved to a local care home. She recently had a solo exhibition at Alison Jacques Gallery, which presented a series of significant drawings and paintings from 60’s to the 80’s.

We also programmed a series of 6 tailored workshops that complement and illuminate the art that is installed and enable creative activity. These workshops are designed to be suitable for older people who have dementia or other challenges and we accommodate different levels of ability. These workshops can also be attended by carers.

By bringing about creative collaboration with the wider community and facilitating a social environment with rich interactions, this project has the potential to effect a radical change agenda in the way care and welfare are viewed and delivered. 

The project is funded by Arts Council England, Garfield Weston Foundation and through the generosity of Hospital Rooms’ friends and supporters. We are also grateful to Colart who has donated high quality artist materials for the project through their brand Liquitex.

1. The validity of the arts as an effective and legitimate contributor to healthcare in older people, delivering benefits across a wide variety of health priorities, has been corroborated in four major evidence reviews in recent years that summarise 60 international peer-reviewed research studies. These included Age and Opportunity, 2006; Cantora-Binkley et al., 2010; Baring Foundation, 2011; Mental Health Foundation 2011. 

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Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust: Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (C&I) provides high quality, safe and innovative care to our patients in the community, in their homes or in hospital. They provide services for adults of working age, adults with learning difficulties, and older people in the London area. They currently deliver the majority of care to residents in the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington.  However, they also provide substance misuse services in Westminster, and a substance misuse and psychological therapies service to people living in Kingston.

The Trust is also a member of University College London Partners (UCLP), one of the world’s leading academic health science partnerships. In addition they have specialist programmes which provide help and treatment for:

  • Veterans living in London

  • Young people caught in the cycle of gang culture

  • Older people suffering from dementia and other age related mental health conditions

Garfield Weston Foundation: The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded grant-making trust established in 1958.  Since it began the Foundation has donated over £960 million to charities across the UK.  In the last financial year, the Foundation donated over £60 million.  From small community organisations to large national institutions, the Foundation supports a broad range of charities and activities that make a positive impact in the communities in which they work.  Over 1,500 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation’s grants.

Arts Council England: champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. They support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, they invested £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.