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Press release posted 21 June 2024

Patients and fundraisers came together this week to relaunch The Christie hospital’s newly refurbished art and relaxation rooms, a unique and tranquil space where patients can relax and express themselves creatively.

The art facility, made possible by funding from The Christie Charity, is the only one of its kind in a UK hospital and has been nationally recognised for its work in supporting patients through the emotional and psychological stresses of their cancer treatment.

For many cancer patients, coping with the emotional aftermath of their diagnosis and treatment can be as challenging, if not more so, than dealing with physical symptoms like nausea and fatigue. The art room addresses challenges such as anxiety and depression head-on and offers patients a sanctuary to escape, engage in creative activities, and connect with others who share similar experiences.

A photo of a large group of people at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the art room at The Christie.

The new-look art and relaxation rooms now boast stunning views and direct access to the beautiful Christie garden. This serene environment provides a perfect backdrop for patients who may be feeling at their most vulnerable while undergoing treatment or recovering, offering them a peaceful retreat where they can focus on their emotional wellbeing.

Pat Mountford is the artist in residence at The Christie and the driving force behind The Christie’s successful art programme for patients, family members and staff. Hundreds of patients use the art service every year and Pat has been running several drop-in sessions a week for the last 20 years.

“Patients don’t need any prior artistic skills to benefit from this experience here at The Christie art room,” explains Pat. “It’s not about creating a masterpiece; it’s about the therapeutic process. They may never have picked up a paintbrush or used any other art materials before, but the art room is somewhere they can escape to and be with others who understand what they're going through. It does something medicine can’t do - it helps them to feel normal again.”

Studies have shown that art therapy significantly improves emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and pain among cancer patients. It helps individuals process their emotions, provides a distraction from physical discomfort, and boosts overall wellbeing. For many, it’s a way to communicate and explore difficult thoughts and feelings, offering a sense of control and positivity during a challenging time.

A photo of the corner of the art room at The Christie with an open window to The Christie garden.

Pat adds: “Creating art encourages patients to express their emotions and helps take their mind off pain or discomfort. Whether it’s drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, or craftwork - it’s all a powerful tool for controlling anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Cancer can be physically devastating, but it is emotionally draining too. And it’s these ‘silent’ side-effects that are most often overlooked. This is why the art room service at The Christie is so important.”

Regular drop-in sessions, held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, are open to patients and their carers. A staff art group also runs as part of The Christie's commitment to staff support. These sessions are informal, fun, and relaxing, with a wide range of activities led by professional artists.

Nabila Sabir was working in the histopathology lab at The Christie when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She became a patient herself and started using the art room to help her deal with the treatment. She says: “Pat is fantastic! I don’t know what I’d have done without her. I’d been so depressed but as soon as I started painting in the art room and meeting fellow patients who completely understood what I was going through, my mood improved. After a week going there, my son noticed the change in me and said, ‘Mum, you look happy!’ Since then, I have been a regular in the art room and even exhibited my work as part of Didsbury Arts Festival.”

The Christie plans to further enhance the art room facilities introducing additional classes to allow even more patients to experience the sense of community and support that the art room brings.

The cost of the art and relaxation rooms refurbishment was £432,000 and was part funded by proceeds from the Primrose Ball, hosted and organised by Girls Aloud in 2022 in memory of their bandmate Sarah Harding who was treated at The Christie.

To support the work of The Christie Charity, please go to Donate today or ring 0161 446 3988.

The Christie Charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS is able to fund. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education, and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.

Last updated: June 2024