Project information

ELaTion-Enhancing Lives Through Dance

We work with infants, children and young people on the acute cardiac and neuromedical units of Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool. We develop bespoke one-to-one creative movement and relaxation sessions for children with limited movement experiencing long term hospital stays.

January 2018 - February 2020

Charity information: Small Things Dance Collective

Small Things Dance Collective logo
  • Need


    Children on these hospital wards often have complex disabilities and life threatening heart conditions. They experience extended stays in hospital undergoing medical treatment which can be painful and frightening.
    They have no access to mainstream arts activities due to their conditions and are often isolated from their friends and extended family.
    They can experience stress, boredom, anxiety and pain and are marginalised and unable to make choices and behave and play like most children.


    Our project introduces fun ways to explore movement and self-expression. It enables children and young people to choose and have control as out artists tailor the sessions to their interests and desires.
    Movement is essential to recovery following heart surgery and acquired brain injuries, yet children who are in pain are often frightened. We have evidenced that our approach reduces pain and anxiety and encourages children to have fun, express themselves and explore their potential.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To boost self-confidence, creativity and leadership skills


    » One-to-one bespoke child-led bedside dance sessions on the neuromedical and cardiac hospital wards.

    What success will look like

    Questionnaires and feedback with parents, carers and patients.
    Creative documentation through video and photography.

    Aim 2

    Aiding children's recovery from injury, illness and surgery through mobilisation and creativity.


    » One-to-one and small group fun and creative dance sessions-focussing on reducing tension in the body and exploring movement potential.

    What success will look like

    Feedback from medical staff and parents.
    Also gathering feedback from patients about their experience and their pain perception before and after the sessions.

    Aim 3

    Increasing participation through digital technology.


    » We will promote the new Small Dances App which has basic movement and relaxation techniques for parents and carers to support their children.

    What success will look like

    We will measure how many healthcare staff, parents and carers are using the App and if this increases their confidence in exploring approaches to dance, movement and relaxation.

  • Impact


    We have developed this work at Alder Hey since 2006 and have generated evidence that this work improves patient experience of hospital. It supports children in times of trauma and aids in their recovery.
    It also offers respite to families experiencing difficulty as they see their child happy and expressing themselves.
    It also supports the medical staff who are increasingly under pressure, by creating a relaxed atmosphere on the wards and engaging children in light-hearted and fun activity.


    We have a long term relationship with Alder Hey and are supported by the Arts Co-ordinator and Chair of Alder Hey Arts for Health , Dr Jane Ratcliffe. We also have long term support from nurses, healthcare staff and the Pain and Sedation Service.
    Risks that could affect the project are generating feedback from patients who may be non-verbal or extremely tired. However we are experienced in multiple methods of documenting reduced pain-including body based assessment, photography and film.


    We will produce biannual reports to donors and regular updates through social media our website and Alder Hey's media.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £44,700

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      Amount Heading Description
      £12,500 50 Days dance workshop Lead Artist leading ward based sessions
      £2,500 12 Days mentoring Lead artist mentoring new emerging artists over two years
      £21,000 120 Days dance workshops Emerging artist workshops across the hospital wards over two years
      £3,200 24 Days Administration over 2 years
      £2,500 10 Days evaluation Evaluation and regular reporting/updates
      £1,000 Insurance Public liability and employers insurance (2 years)
      £2,000 Documentation Film and photography
  • Background


    Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool.
    It is one of the largest children's hospital in Europe treating over 200,000 children each year. It serves the wider North West and is also an international centre of excellence.


    We will work on the acute wards of Neuromedical and Cardiac.
    Neuromedical is a 30 bed neuro rehabilitation unit with patients with complex neurological conditions and receiving treatment following acquired brain injury.
    Cardiac treats children for complex heart conditions including surgery and transplant.
    Both are long term wards where children experience anxiety, pain and distress.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We have a long standing and highly developed relationship with an NHS Trust and our work is seen as a model of best practice nationally and internationally. We have published peer reviewed research (Dowler, L 2013 and 2016) describing the benefits of our work and generating evidence. In 2014 we won an NHS England Award for Excellence in Participation -Children and Young People.
    Our experience places us at the forefront of arts and health practice.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Lisa Dowler-Artistic Director

    Lisa develops and directs the Small Things programmes as well as being the lead artist and practice developer. She has over 20 years experience.

    Vicky Charnock

    Vicky is the key contact and co-ordinator at the hospital. She has worked with Small Things for the last decade, supporting their work at Alder Hey.

"The time has come to shout about how beneficial...dancing is to heart health! Patients are often fearful about becoming mobile again following heart surgery and can have anxieties about their operation scarring and the removal of chest drains. With Small Tings patients forget about their surgery."

Christine Murray (Advanced Nurse Practitioner)