Jess Mackie Music Garden in Edinburgh Children's Hospital Provides an Oasis for Reflective, Educational, and Creative Endeavors

Patients, visitors, and staff at Edinburgh Children's Hospital will now be able to benefit from a new multi-sensory musical garden created in the loving memory of an East Lothian teenager who loved music. The sensory space has been fully funded by the Jess Mackie Memorial Fund (JMMF) set up by the Mackie family to support therapeutic music projects within the hospital in memory of their daughter Jess who passed away in 2018 aged 14. The garden pays tribute to Jess’ love of music and encourages children and young people to have fun making melodies together in a relaxing, non-clinical setting away from the wards.

The Jess Mackie Music Garden is a vibrant, interactive outdoor space that ensures children don’t miss out on the joy of creative play and music-making while in hospital. The garden will provide an oasis for reflective, educational, and creative endeavors, such as reading, writing, art, and music-making.

Featuring six Percussion Play outdoor musical instruments nestled within ornamental grasses and along wide wheelchair-friendly walkways are a Congas trio in bespoke colors, Tembos, wall mounted Rainbow Chimes, a Harmony Bell Flower in C-Major, a Grand Marimba, and Babel Drum. This nurturing and healing environment also boasts a tee-pee, bird's nest swing, plenty of seating areas, shade, and shelter. It is designed to inspire, educate and entertain patients, families, and staff.

Music, plants, trees, and flowers all boost positivity, reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, ease muscle tension, and promote relaxation, and children who are in hospital, away from their friends and wider family, need all of that!

A hospital or medical facility is all about healing — on the inside. But what about the outside? A healing garden such as Jess’ in a hospital or hospice creates a place to play, to walk. A place to think, pray or gather oneself, take a few deep breaths, and return to the ward rejuvenated.

Parents, Michael and Jackie sum this up: “Jess was a caring and compassionate girl who always sought to help others. At only 14, she had a sense of how powerful music could be in helping people when they were in need.

“Many children and young people in hospital feel vulnerable because they lack control over what's happening to them. Music can have an enormous and positive impact, helping ignite a spark and give back a sense of control.

“It also gives children and young people a means of expressing themselves, making friends, and building confidence. Jess knew this and would have loved to know she was a part of making this happen.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the wonderful music garden which is such a fitting tribute to our beautiful daughter. We hope lots of children, young people, families, and hospital staff will enjoy it for many years to come.”

The healing garden will offer a place to rest, refresh, relax, and rejuvenate for patients on the road to recovery as well as being a great space for the patient’s family and visitors, and for employees who work in a stressful environment. When Covid restrictions allow, the music garden will also be used as an outdoor performance space, where ECHC’s visiting musicians – also funded by JMMF – and artists will perform and do music-making activities with children and young people all year round.

Rachel Baxter, Director of Fundraising at Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “Music-making is a large part of the ECHC Arts Programme as it has such a positive impact on children and young people’s wellbeing. It’s fantastic to now have this brand new space in which we can do even more music, performance, and arts activities and ensure children don’t miss out on the magic of music while in hospital.

“The Mackie family are incredible and we are enormously grateful to them and their family, friends, and supporters for funding the wonderful Jess Mackie Music Garden and all music-making activities within the hospital. Thanks to their support, we can bring Jess’ passion for music and singing to so many more children and young people.”

The Positive Impact of Healing Gardens on Patients and Families

In recent years we have seen a significant upswing of interest for our outdoor musical instruments to be located in therapeutic and healing gardens. Gardens that are specifically designed to address a variety of applications within healthcare, rehabilitative, and other therapeutic settings.

These healing green spaces create environments for play, social support, and quiet reflection that lead to a sense of control and normalcy for patients and families under stress. They help bring the outdoors to children who are having to spend a lot of time inside and build community among patients, family, and staff.