‘That’s what we’re here for’ – a new exhibition by Emily Thomas capturing the daily life of our hospital volunteers

At CW+, we work with a range of art forms, including digital, visual, and performing arts with innovative design, to transform the hospital experience and environment for patients, their families and the staff who care for them.

As part of our CW+ Drawn in Residence II programme at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, kindly supported by the Tavolozza Foundation, illustrator and reportage artist Emily Thomas has created a series of artworks that capture the life of volunteers at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. This exhibition of drawings was recently installed on the ground floor.

A recent graduate of University of the West of England (UWE), Emily first spent time in the hospital with other artists from UWE, documenting the hospital community and day-to-day activities. She was immediately drawn to the volunteers, and was commissioned by CW+ to undertake a residency with their team.

During her residency, Emily shadowed the volunteers, immersing herself within their daily and integral activities. By drawing on location, Emily was able to fully engage herself with the team, ask important questions, gain different perspectives and include quotes from conversations that added unique angles to her final work.

Emily commented: “When I was able to come on site for my very first visit, I was captivated by the volunteers team, who I noticed were so consistently hardworking in the background of the hospital everywhere I went.

I was drawn towards this incredible team of individuals and the lengths they were going to, in ensuring the hospital ran smoothly. From picking up inpatient prescriptions, to delivering meals on the ward, to simply handing out a morning newspaper, they were going the extra mile to keep everyone smiling.

I have treasured the time I’ve spent with individual volunteers, whether it’s been running around the hospital on a responder shift, to sitting with patients filling out a questionnaire. They are kind, caring and generous, and you see so much of that in only a short amount of time. The stories that brought them to this role here are different for everyone, and a really amazing insight into what makes the volunteers team who they are.

I’ve found being an Artist in Residence at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital absolutely transformative to my early career as a freelance reportage artist. This type of residency is what I love, and I can’t wait to do similar projects like this in the future.”

Find out more about the CW+ Arts in Health programme here.