Sheffield Gender Identity Clinic’s ‘art on the bridge’ project takes flight

Here Helen Goodson, Peer Support Worker for the Porterbrook Gender Identity Clinic, speaks about the journey of transforming the entrance of the clinic to make it more welcoming and inspire hope in service users.

The bridge that leads up to the Porterbrook Gender Identity Clinic has always been described as intimidating and bleak - which we hope are the complete opposite words to describe how the team welcomes service users inside. We wanted to change this.

So we set off on a project to reinvigorate and transform the entrance with beautiful art to make it a welcoming and inspiring approach to our clinic.

The one thing we wanted to make sure with this piece of work was including service users in designing their own art, making their own art and seeing it as a final product. So, plans started with a focus group where ideas could be shared. The overwhelming desire was to include the cherry blossom tree at Michael Carlisle Centre as the beginning of the art.

Talking with Soo Boswell, our Arts in Health Co-ordinator who facilitated the making of this project, she had this to say about the initial steps:

“So, the project started before the pandemic in 2019. Helen and the staff felt that the entrance to the GIC was not very welcoming and asked for some support in changing this. We had a few meetings with staff and service users and came up with the idea of a large collaborative artwork featuring birds. It was felt that birds represented freedom and the sense of a journey. They would also be easy to replicate, and everyone could have a go at decorating one, so it felt very inclusive."

The pandemic caused a lot of disruption to the initial stages of this project, so the team at the gender clinic had to wait a while before picking up where they had left off.

Much of the actual service user engagement side had been completed, all that remained was to put all the pieces together. The decorated service user birds were photographed and digitally added onto a background, with seven boards being created in total, the first board featuring the cherry blossom tree on it. 

Once all of the printing was done, it was time to get the estates team involved with the art work being erected on Thursday 18 May 2023. 

We hope you get many years of enjoyment out of seeing your work permanently displayed on the bridge and entrance to the clinic, just being in the knowledge that you have helped to make the clinic that bit more welcoming for everyone who comes to the clinic.

We can’t thank you enough.