A Cleft in Time

by Simon Hall

Cleft lip and/or palate is common. Around 1 in 650 children born in the UK are affected, and they can face many challenges growing up, from eating and speaking, to problems at school and psychological consequences of the condition.

Cleft care is unusual. It requires a multi-disciplinary team to support someone for at least two decades from birth. Such young people may have multiple treatment pathways, which often include several surgical procedures, orthodontic treatment and psychological input throughout childhood and adolescence.

During MOUTHY, doctor and artist Simon Hall ran participatory pop-up workshop experiences supported by CLAPA (Cleft Lip & Palate Association) that allowed people to engage with the narratives of those affected by the condition. Participants learnt from professionals working within cleft care and used dental materials to cast their own hard palate for a collaborative final art sculpture displayed in the Dental Institute at King’s College London. 


Simon Hall is a doctor and visual artist whose work explores art and medicine collaboration. His artistic practice is intrinsically linked to his clinical interests in medical education and surgery, with a portfolio of experience considering public engagement with science, teaching of art/science practice, and the use of arts in healthcare.

He is currently artist in residence at the South West Cleft Service undertaking an Above and Beyond funded art project exploring the narratives of young people with cleft lip and/or palate and the use of art to support their psychological wellbeing.

Twitter: @DrSimonHall
Website: www.simon-hall.co.uk

Cleft Services  – In England, all children born with a cleft lip and/or palate are referred to a multi-disciplinary team within a specialist centre. Cleft centres often cover a wide geographic area and encompass large networks of specialised professionals working together.

The philosophy of cleft lip and/or palate care is underpinned by a team approach providing a tailored care plan to meet the individual needs of the child alongside holistic support for their family. Such specialised care takes place from birth until adulthood with the aim of providing optimal physical function, psychological adjustment and aesthetics.


Dr Lotte Williams is a Clinical Psychologist with a range of experience in mental health services including National and Specialist CAMHS, Looked After Children’s services and Learning Disability teams. Her predominant focus has been within paediatrics and health including neuro-oncology, life limiting conditions, cleft lip and palate and visible difference. She is currently part of the South Thames Cleft Service and provides a specialist service for individuals and families experiencing difficulties in relation to cleft.

King’s College London dental students Anisha Gupta, Sunmeet Kandhari, Arjun Varma and Krishantini Mahendran have been key collaborators in delivering workshops to school groups.

With thanks to Henry Schein for their generous in-kind support for this event

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