The Play Tower at Sheffield Children’s Hospital is already taking shape.
The dramatic white cylinder has colourful shapes - bright orange circles and neon green traingles- cut out, as it stands floor to ceiling in the brand new outpatient’s entrance of the city hospital.
It’s a sight to behold - and that was always the intention, according to senior interior designer Mary Reid, who designed the hospital’s new £40m wing, including the Play Tower.
“The Play Tower was absolutely part of our original concept,” said Mary.
“The thinking behind it was that it would be one of the first things you see when you enter the hospital. We intentionally wanted it to be something that you wouldn’t expect to see, something shiny and brightly coloured and even a bit joyful.”
The Play Tower ‘hovers’ 2.5 metres above the floor and contains two play rooms which can be accessed from the wards. It is covered in windows ranging in size and shape, from circles measuring just 40cm to 1.4 metre triangles.
“We very deliberately had windows of all sizes and all heights,” said Mary, of London-based architects Avanti, who were chosen for the job through an architectural competition.
“It was very important to us that all children, even those at crawling age, would be able to reach the windows and be able to see out.
“We wanted the Play Tower to be a visual way of linking up the experiences of coming into the hospital as an outpatient and as an inpatient.
“Now when children come into outpatients they’ll be able to see other children having fun in the Play Tower. Hopefully you’ll get children waving at one another from there and also from the bridges in the corridors across the atrium.”
The dream of the Play Tower is being made a reality thanks to the hospital charity’s ‘£for£’ campaign this Christmas, in which businesses, organisations and individuals across the city are racing to raise the £200,000 the charity needs to complete work on the tower, which is due to open next April.
The tower, part of the hospital’s new wing - which includes a new outpatients department, wards and private rooms - will provide a beautiful space for play specialists to spend time with children between treatments, distracting them from their illnesses, and allowing them some time to relax.
And now, generous Sheffield businessman and longtime supporter of the Children’s Hospital Charity, Graham Royle, has laid down a challenge for the city, pledging £100,000 to match people’s donations to finish the tower – and donations have been flooding in since the campaign launched three weeks ago.
On December 16, The Children’s Hospital Charity will host its National Elf Service Day, to help raise the last of the £200,000 needed to finish work on the play tower.
Fundraising manager Rebecca Staden said: “As part of the £for£ campaign, we’re asking schools, businesses, community groups and individuals to either host an event to raise some money, or make a donation to the cause on or before December 16, our National Elf Service Day.
“Everything you send, no matter how big or small, will be match-funded by Graham until we hit our total.
“Extensive research has shown that using play to distract children from their conditions can be incredibly beneficial to their health, and even reduce the need for other clinicians during some procedures, saving staff time and costs.
“By donating to our campaign, you’ll be helping us to make the experience of coming to hospital less intimidating for children.”
Mary added: “A children’s hospital is always a particularly wonderful thing to be involved in and the Sheffield client team have been just fantastic. They are tremendously committed to the whole project and it’s clear that the project itself has been very important to the local area.
“It was wonderful going up to Sheffield and seeing the strength of feeling people have about their area and their hospital. We hope we’ve responded to that. The fact that Sheffield Children’s Hospital is close to everyone’s hearts comes over very strongly.
“The Play Tower has been one of the most delightful elements to work on out of the whole hospital. If you looked at our initial visuals compared to how the Outpatients Department looks now, the idea hasn’t really changed from beginning to end – which is very satisfying!”
Visit The Children’s Hospital Charity to find out how you can donate, or join in with National Elf Service on December 16.
Pupils put in a stellar effort for cause
Pupils at Penistone Grammar school will see their fundraising efforts lit up today, after raising over £1,000 for the £for£ campaign and sponsoring one of the snowflakes which will illuminate Sheffield Children’s Hospital this Christmas.
The snowflake is one of over a hundred, all sponsored by supporters of the hospital, due to be switched on today, funded through a year of charitable activity.
Adam Gillett, Penistone Grammar School’s director of inclusions, said: “Sheffield Children’s Hospital has had a massive impact on a number of our students and their families. We liked the idea of supporting the new build of the hospital because it was something our students could physically see growing. It was something that we really wanted to share with them.
“We took a number of pupils on a tour around the new build of the hospital this time last year and whilst we were there we saw the snowflake lights being put up. It really inspired us to get involved. Since then we’ve done all sorts like non-uniform days, cake sales - even pouring baked beans over teachers heads!”
Grace Maguire, a year 11 pupil who helped to organise the school’s fundraising, said: “I think the fact that we were raising money to help Sheffield Children’s Hospital meant that everyone really wanted to take part. I had an operation on my spine there and I’ve been in quite a few times for treatment. I’ve got quite a lot of friends who have had to go there too so it means a lot to many of us.”