A week on Ward 72: new exhibition at Western General

Posted on 30/07/2014 by


Edinburgh SketcherLOCAL arts and disability organisation, Artlink, is pleased to present an exhibition of drawings by Mark Kirkham – ‘The Edinburgh Sketcher’- documenting his observations as an artist-in-residence at the Royal Victoria Building at the Western General on Ward 72. The exhibition also shows Mark’s perspective – as a parent – of time spent in Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Mark is an Edinburgh-based illustrator who produces an almost daily sketch blog of life in and around Scotland’s beautiful capital; an online sketchbook of scribbles and observations of daily life.

Impressed with his work,  Artlink invited Mark in to become an artist in residence in the care of the elderly wards, documenting situations and stories from patients and staff on the ward. These observational drawings begin to explore how we communicate different healthcare experiences and contribute to a growing body of work which explores the positive relationship between the arts and healthcare in supporting recovery.

Mark said: “I would like to thank all the staff and patients for making me feel so welcome during my week on Ward 72. I drifted in and out, sketched from the corners of the room and tried to stay out of the way of the busy staff’. In the patients rooms it was a different experience, I was in their personal space and was welcomed in and given time and an insight into their lives. Through our chats and my drawing we connected and shared our individual stories and discussed what brings people into hospital.”

Over many years Artlink has worked with patients and staff to encourage their involvement in cultural and arts activity throughout NHS Lothian. We realise that this work not only creates positive involvement, we also know that it supports better communication and contributes positively to recovery. We are delighted with the response to Mark’s drawings so far.

Kirsten Smith, senior charge nurse, said: “It was great having Mark on the wards it was a positive experience for staff and patients. The patients were happy to talk about something else other than their illness and other routine matters for a while. Mark through his sketches has captured the person not the patient, you really see a person that is valued and respected and their story.”

A patient from North Berwick added: “I really enjoyed meeting Mark he came across as a very intelligent and interesting young man who obviously loves to draw. I liked his drawings and the amount of detail he has put, he’s captured North Berwick beautifully although he’s aged me by one year as i’m 90 not 91 but I am in my 91st year so I will let him off. I’ve showed it to some friends and they really like it too. I ended up being in hospital for three months and it was lovely to chat to Mark about other things and for someone from outside to come in to the ward.”

“I’m pretty sure we both benefited, I know how long days can be when in hospital and to have a friendly visit, which some of these patients aren’t lucky enough to have daily, it can be a great lift emotionally – which hopefully leads to a lift physically too,” said Mark.


The other part of the exhibition features Mark’s observations at the Sick Kids Hospital.

In 2011, Mark’s wife gave birth to twins, James and Zoe. James has Haemophilia A and consequently the family have had several visits to Edinburgh’s Sick Children’s Hospital. Whilst there, Mark continued to draw and most of the sketches shown here were made during the time James was in hospital. For Mark, drawing was a welcome distraction from all the things he was powerless to help with, and they have become a visual diary of a most terrifying, depressing and uplifting and amazing time in their lives, something that is being replayed many times over in a hospital ward right now.

We all have different ways in which we document our experiences. Some of us – like Mark – will draw, others write, and many of us will take pictures and now more often than not we will share these on Facebook or Twitter. In essence the arts are a tool of communication, both in terms of what we can make sense of and what we can’t. The arts can give us a new perspective on our experiences and provide new opportunities for understanding. Over many years Artlink have worked with patients and staff to encourage their involvement in cultural and arts activity throughout NHS Lothian. We realise that this work not only creates positive involvement, we also know that it supports better communication and contributes positively to recovery.

‘The twins were born on 9th March 2011 at just past 10pm at the Simpsons Memorial ward at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary. James arrived first weighing 4lb 15.5oz with his sister Zoe (5lb 5oz) following close behind”, said Mark. “We discovered James had Haemophilia A early, thankfully, when a routine heel prick on the maternity ward failed to stop bleeding. A genetic disorder which impairs the body’s ability to control blood clotting, Haemophilia A can cause even minor injuries to result in a severe bleed, either externally or internally. Such a bleed can last much longer and frequently require medication to stop.”

The Edinburgh Sketcher exhibition can be viewed from 1 August –November 2014 at

The Western General Gallery

Link Corridor between Alexander Donald building and Anne Ferguson Building

Western General Hospital, Crewe Road South.

You can see more examples of Mark’s work at http://www.edinburghsketcher.com


Arts and disability organisation Artlink celebrate their thirtieth anniversary this year. For more information about Artlink visit http://www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk