Working with local communities to support the development of Cambridge Children's Hospital

Two people holding up a large blue Cambridge Children's Hospital banner. They are standing on a street in the sunshine waiting for the carnival parade to start

Cambridge Children's Hospital had an eye-catching presence at Luton Carnival

Cambridge Children's Hospital had an eye-catching presence at Luton Carnival

As we continue to develop our plans for the first specialist children's hospital for the East of England, it's important we listen to children, young people, parents and carers from all over the region to better understand their physical and mental healthcare experiences. This is key to the success of Cambridge Children's Hospital.

How are we doing this?

We aim to work closely with local people who know their local areas best and are trusted within their communities. Our ambitious regional engagement plan has a a three-pronged approach:

  • Join large-scale events to share information about our vision and plans and have conversations with people of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences
  • Run targeted bespoke workshops within local communities about specific healthcare issues that affect them
  • Work with third sector organisations to connect with groups who may find our project less accessible, due to their cultural background, their spoken language, or their family commitments

First stop: Luton.

During Spring 2023, we ran a series of engagement activities in Luton, finishing with an amazing day at Luton International Carnival. Luton is a vibrant town with many cultures, faiths and languages. It's also an area that faces significant inequalities when it comes to healthcare.

A building with colourful facade

Cambridge Children's Hospital architect design

Cambridge Children's Hospital architect design

Our team in Luton

A black woman wearing a sparkly top

Jo

Jo Hudson-Lett is a creative consultant working in Bedfordshire and knows Luton, and its communities, like the back of her hand. She worked with us from start to finish. Using her local knowledge, Jo talked to us about how to make our presence at carnival accessible, impactful and welcoming. A mum of two, Jo understands and believes in the children's hospital vision, having cared for her son, whose physical health problems led to mental health challenges.

A white woman wearing a purple headscarf and glasses

Klaudia

Originally from Poland, Klaudia Kulakiewicz has lived in Luton for 18 years, moving to the town at the age of six. As a freelance artist, Klaudia has worked on most local festivals and events. She joined us at Luton Sixth Form College to gain inspiration for the Cambridge Children's Hospital carnival costumes. Using the students' ideas, she worked on the costumes, from concept to completion.

A teenage girl with long brown hair and a black coat

Hadia

Eighteen-year-old Hadia is a member of Cambridge Children's Press Pack. As our Luton young ambassador, she advised us on how we could best engage with local communities and young people in a way that would feel relevant and interesting. She came up with the idea of a workshop at Luton Sixth Form college and helped us with the questions and themes. We were delighted when she put herself forward to be our Carnival Queen!

"The best way to engage with local people is to work with a local person. It’ll make things so much easier. When people realise your organisation is working with someone they know, they're going to think 'That must be a good thing! I heard nothing but praise and people wanting to know more about the Cambridge Children's Hospital project."

Jo Hudson-Lett, Creative Consultant, Luton

A colourful drawing of a girl dressed as a sunflower, with musical notes, birds and lavender

The concept design for the Cambridge Children's Hospital carnival costume was inspired by our conversations with local students about mental health

The concept design for the Cambridge Children's Hospital carnival costume was inspired by our conversations with local students about mental health

Inspiration through conversation

Our aim with Luton Carnival was far broader than carnival itself. We wanted our costumes to reflect the ideas of local teenagers about what good mental health might look like. We ran a workshop and a drop-in session at Luton Sixth Form College asking students about perceptions of mental health in different communities and cultures. The young people were amazing!

A group of teenagers around a table, talking and drawing

Students at Luton Sixth Form College joined our workshop about mental health

Students at Luton Sixth Form College joined our workshop about mental health

A girl holding up a picture of a red circle

A student drew a circle representing the 'cycle' of good and bad mental health. This became the inspiration for the huge hoop worn by the Carnival Queen.

A student drew a circle representing the 'cycle' of good and bad mental health. This became the inspiration for the huge hoop worn by the Carnival Queen.

A lady holds up a picture of a sunshine and cloud that she has drawn

Jo and Klaudia helped facilitate the mental health workshop, listening out for ideas for the carnival costume.

Jo and Klaudia helped facilitate the mental health workshop, listening out for ideas for the carnival costume.

A female teacher laughing with a student

Pat Latimer, who teaches Health and Social Care, joined the workshop, but also took part in carnival with us

Pat Latimer, who teaches Health and Social Care, joined the workshop, but also took part in carnival with us

A girl in a headscarf doing colouring

The students really understood the vision of Cambridge Children's Hospital, to treat mental and physical health together.

The students really understood the vision of Cambridge Children's Hospital, to treat mental and physical health together.

A hand decorated with henna in an intricate design

The students had lots of ideas about perceptions of mental health across different generations in their local communities

The students had lots of ideas about perceptions of mental health across different generations in their local communities

A group of adults and teenagers smiling for the camera. Some are wearing carnival headresses.

We are delighted the students joined our workshop and hope to work with them again in future

We are delighted the students joined our workshop and hope to work with them again in future

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A group of teenagers around a table, talking and drawing

Students at Luton Sixth Form College joined our workshop about mental health

Students at Luton Sixth Form College joined our workshop about mental health

A girl holding up a picture of a red circle

A student drew a circle representing the 'cycle' of good and bad mental health. This became the inspiration for the huge hoop worn by the Carnival Queen.

A student drew a circle representing the 'cycle' of good and bad mental health. This became the inspiration for the huge hoop worn by the Carnival Queen.

A lady holds up a picture of a sunshine and cloud that she has drawn

Jo and Klaudia helped facilitate the mental health workshop, listening out for ideas for the carnival costume.

Jo and Klaudia helped facilitate the mental health workshop, listening out for ideas for the carnival costume.

A female teacher laughing with a student

Pat Latimer, who teaches Health and Social Care, joined the workshop, but also took part in carnival with us

Pat Latimer, who teaches Health and Social Care, joined the workshop, but also took part in carnival with us

A girl in a headscarf doing colouring

The students really understood the vision of Cambridge Children's Hospital, to treat mental and physical health together.

The students really understood the vision of Cambridge Children's Hospital, to treat mental and physical health together.

A hand decorated with henna in an intricate design

The students had lots of ideas about perceptions of mental health across different generations in their local communities

The students had lots of ideas about perceptions of mental health across different generations in their local communities

A group of adults and teenagers smiling for the camera. Some are wearing carnival headresses.

We are delighted the students joined our workshop and hope to work with them again in future

We are delighted the students joined our workshop and hope to work with them again in future

A message from Hadia, our young ambassador in Luton

Hi, I’m Hadia! I'm 18.

The Cambridge Children’s Hospital project is important to me as I believe that every young person should have access to the best facilities, that provide holistic care around both mental and physical health.

The new hospital will be vital for Bedfordshire, as this diverse county is underrepresented by regional projects around mental health.

There are many diverse communities in Bedfordshire, all of which have varying views around mental health and its effects. As someone from the South Asian community, it is clear to me that due to the stigma around mental health and the lack of education around this topic, many people are scared and reluctant to open up and seek help on their mental health, especially from their families. I believe that the same applies to many other communities.

The design and ideas behind the carnival costumes started in workshops at Luton Sixth Form College, where many ideas and discussions around the importance of mental health happened. I heard excellent points on how mental health is viewed in different age groups, what shapes and colours represent mental health, and what materials would be best suited for the costumes.

We were able to discuss the stigma around mental health and bring forwards ideas that could help change this. I think Cambridge Children’s Hospital will allow diverse minority groups in this region to be engaged on the importance of mental and physical health. I believe the new hospital will really make a difference.

Being Carnival Queen was equally exciting as it was nerve wracking. It was something completely out of my comfort zone.

I guess that’s why I wanted to volunteer for it, as it allowed me to gain new and fun experiences. Looking back, I am glad I chose to take that step, as the parade and wearing the costume was extremely fun and enjoyable.

We walked around Luton Town Centre in our costumes, dancing and vibing, which was really memorable. In my opinion, one of the best part of Luton Carnival was being asked to appear in many pictures with children and parents who were viewing the parade. I could see how happy and amazed they were looking at our costumes, and how many of them understood our message around the importance looking after your mental health.

A girl wearing an elaborate costume with lots of  petals and flowers, plus a dove on her head

This is a really important job in the carnival parade. The Queen, or King, is at the back of the troupe, usually wearing a huge, but thankfully, light costume.

This is a really important job in the carnival parade. The Queen, or King, is at the back of the troupe, usually wearing a huge, but thankfully, light costume.

The Carnival queen wearing a massive hoop that looks like a giant sunflower. She is dancing in front of the crowds

The Carnival Queen works the crowds, dancing and twirling, posing for photos and waving to families!

The Carnival Queen works the crowds, dancing and twirling, posing for photos and waving to families!

My reflections on Luton Carnival, by Freya, age 17

A girl wearing a blue top and orange jacket looking at the camera. She has shoulder length brown hair

Freya, 17, from Cambridge Children's Press Pack, was excited to join us at Carnival, taking part in the parade and helping at our stand

Freya, 17, from Cambridge Children's Press Pack, was excited to join us at Carnival, taking part in the parade and helping at our stand

Luton International Carnival is the town’s biggest family event. It was also the first large-scale public event Cambridge Children’s Hospital had ever attended outside Cambridgeshire. To make it happen, we worked with local creatives and the amazing team at the UK Centre for Carnival Arts.

People milling about outside a marquee with a pink banner wrapped around in

Our art activity was very popular

Our art activity was very popular

Hundreds of people attended our marquee and art activity. Adults learnt about the new regional hospital, while children focused on the joy of colourful crafts.

The atmosphere of the parade was incredible. The large, colourful, eye-catching costumes brought warmth and optimism to the crowd.

This was an extremely important event for us, as Cambridge Children’s Hospital will be the first specialist children’s hospital for the East of England, connecting with  local hospitals and healthcare services. It’s important people around the region know who we are and the difference we will make.

To make sure we could reach even more of the community, the project team also took part in the parade, wearing costumes inspired by sunflowers, a universal symbol of hope and peace.

Two teenagrs wearing carnival costumes. One is a sunflower with grass and lavender crown on her head. The other has a dove headdress

Freya and Hadia in their carnival costumes

Freya and Hadia in their carnival costumes

Meeting the young children and families of Luton was amazing, seeing first hand how the next generation would benefit from the hospital plans. Having been a young person who's used health services, this gave me hope that every child will have access to proper joined up medical treatment for their mental and physical health, and a peaceful childhood.

A team of people from Cambridge Children's Hospital posing for the camera beside a white marquee with a blue and pink banner wrapped around it.

Freya and Hadia with some of the Cambridge Children's Hospital team and creative consultant, Jo

Freya and Hadia with some of the Cambridge Children's Hospital team and creative consultant, Jo

Where do we go from here?

Engaging with people in Luton and Bedfordshire doesn't stop with Carnival. Through our conversations with local people, we know that it's important we keep them updated on how the new hospital is progressing and what it means for families. We will be back!

Our aim is to get out and about across the East of England over the next three years. If you have an event that you'd like to tell us about, why not get in touch cambridgechildrens@cpft.nhs.uk

We look forward to meeting you soon!

A boy in an orange t shirt with his back to the camera. His t shirt says A Whole New Way, which is the tag line of Cambridge Children's Hospital

A little boy wearing a Cambridge Children's Hospital t-shirt!

A little boy wearing a Cambridge Children's Hospital t-shirt!

A photo gallery of Luton Carnival 2023

A girl in glasses and a white top holding onto a metal frame that will become the backpack to hold her carnival costume

Hadia had a special backpack made so she could carry her huge costume

Hadia had a special backpack made so she could carry her huge costume

A girl in a long flowing purple dress wearing a huge yellow hoop that will eventually form the basis of a giant sunflower

Hadia had a number of fittings to make sure her costume was just right!

Hadia had a number of fittings to make sure her costume was just right!

A lady smiling at the camera, wearing a large piece of grey foam shaped like a sunflower

Klaudia came up with the idea of a sunflower tabard that could be worn by others in the parade

Klaudia came up with the idea of a sunflower tabard that could be worn by others in the parade

Pieces of grey foam cut out to look like musical notes and leaves

There were an awful lot of petals, leaves and musical notes to make for our costumes!

There were an awful lot of petals, leaves and musical notes to make for our costumes!

A group of people smiling. One person is on a laptop. A lady is wearing a carnival headdress

The fantastic team at UK Centre for Carnival Arts worked with us from the very start of our Luton journey. Thank you Clary, Janet and Claudette!

The fantastic team at UK Centre for Carnival Arts worked with us from the very start of our Luton journey. Thank you Clary, Janet and Claudette!

a girl gluing fake seeds onto a giant sunflower

Hadia gluing seeds onto a sunflower

Hadia gluing seeds onto a sunflower

People sticking yellow petals together with fabric and foam

Local families helped make our costumes

Local families helped make our costumes

Blue sticks with glitter on representing lavender

We made dozens of sticks of glittery lavender

We made dozens of sticks of glittery lavender

Two women behind a tables covered in dozens of yellow fabric petals that they have made for carnival

Emma and her daughter Chloe made a LOT of petals!

Emma and her daughter Chloe made a LOT of petals!

A group of people in carnival costumes. Two people have visual impairment and one young person is in a wheelchair. They are all smiling for the camera

We are grateful to our local families from the Visually Impaired People's Social club - our VIPs!

We are grateful to our local families from the Visually Impaired People's Social club - our VIPs!

A young girl in a sunflower costume, holding her arms out wide and laughing

Ines, 12, was a carnival superstar!

Ines, 12, was a carnival superstar!

Five young people wearing sunflower carnival costumes. The costumes are very big

Our troupe wore eye-catching sunflower costumes

Our troupe wore eye-catching sunflower costumes

Two teenagers wearing carnival costumes are interviewed by a lady with a camera for the TV

Freya and Hadia were interviewed by ITV Anglia

Freya and Hadia were interviewed by ITV Anglia

People dancing in the carnival parade

We danced for hours!

We danced for hours!

A girl dressed as a sunflower and a lady with a straw hat and sunglasses smiling

Our lead nurse Vicky Amiss-Smith (r) with her daughter, Evie, who joined us in the parade

Our lead nurse Vicky Amiss-Smith (r) with her daughter, Evie, who joined us in the parade

People taking part in carnival parade dressed as sunflowers

Thousands of people gathered to watch the parade

Thousands of people gathered to watch the parade

Lots of children working at a table doing arts and crafts

Our art activity attracted dozens of children and families!

Our art activity attracted dozens of children and families!

Three women smiling at the camera

Sarah, Rosie and Jess from the Cambridge Children's Hospital communications team

Sarah, Rosie and Jess from the Cambridge Children's Hospital communications team

A man in a stripy hat and a woman in sunglasses stand in a marquee with bunting and a decorated table

Architects Rhys and Negar talked to people about the hospital designs and shared information about the project. They also showed off our model of Cambridge Children's Hospital

Architects Rhys and Negar talked to people about the hospital designs and shared information about the project. They also showed off our model of Cambridge Children's Hospital

Two little girls colouring on paper plates and smiling at the camera. they are both wearing colourful dresses

These little girls really enjoyed making beautiful creations in our arts marquee

These little girls really enjoyed making beautiful creations in our arts marquee

A town square with marquees and a town hall in the background. The Sky is very blue

Our marquees in St George's Square had brightly coloured wraparound banners that said 'Welcome' in 12 different languages.

Our marquees in St George's Square had brightly coloured wraparound banners that said 'Welcome' in 12 different languages.

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A girl in glasses and a white top holding onto a metal frame that will become the backpack to hold her carnival costume

Hadia had a special backpack made so she could carry her huge costume

Hadia had a special backpack made so she could carry her huge costume