Through the different healthcare-based projects the Team has been involved in, it was evident that the arts aid people’s self-expression and communication. Using the arts strengthens relationships between people. The use of the arts creates calming, enriching and contemplative activities in all healthcare settings.
We were privileged to work with people being cared for at the end of their lives and delivered three projects over seven years. The work began in September 2009 with ’Goscote Monumental Arts Project ‘, at the then still to be built Walsall Hospice, now known as St Giles Hospice. Here artists took as the theme for their work ’Celebrating Life’ with day hospice patients, staff and volunteers. Their job was to create new pieces of public art work for inside and within the grounds of the new Palliative Care Centre.
The team’s work was making sure communication was on track between artists, commissioners, patients, staff, architects and building contractors. Through many meetings, with many agendas, we were able to keep hold of the vision that the sculptures, stained glass and photography our artists were making were being created for people coming to their last days and for the people helping to care for and support them. The art works were to be an integral part of the creation of the new facility. The Centre opened in April 2011 and it is a testament to our work that the art works woven into the fabric of the building enhance the caring atmosphere of the hospice. For example, patients have chosen to be married under the ‘Tree of Life’ art work, the central sculpture created by lead artist Tim Ward, a piece that has a powerful resonance with people.
In 2013 the team worked on a creative writing project at St Giles Hospice. ‘Unique People Unique Identities’ was delivered in Whittington near Lichfield and the sister day hospice in nearby Sutton Coldfield. Workshops over a six-month period focused on engaging everyone within the hospice community in creative activity; patients, staff, volunteers, carers and managers. The workshops were about unlocking memories and sparking meaningful conversations. The artists (led by poet, playwright and author David Calcutt) created an atmosphere where it was good to talk, share, discuss, remember, reflect and savour life. Alongside patients, staff and volunteers we created a book filled with words and pictures created during the process. The project had an effect on people who work in and are cared for by the Hospice. One patient told us ‘Whilst we were working together in the sessions, I forgot I had cancer’. A member of Staff said ‘There has been care and support for each other – a deeper understanding and a strength of shared emotions’. The book ‘Being Here’ will continue to share meaningful stories and memories and connect with a wider audience.
Since September 2014 the team worked with the Supportive Care Team at St Giles Whittington developing the Children and Young People’s Bereavement Service ‘Phoenix at St Giles’. A group of bereaved young people who volunteered to take part in a film project with artists from Catcher Media were able to discuss the emotional impact of bereavement and the different feelings they experienced from “angry with everyone”, to “the shock”, “the mash of confusion”, “the toughest time” and “mixed emotions you can’t describe”. Through creative workshops they talked about their worries and concerns, the importance of being with other young people who have had similar experiences and their thoughts about the future, how to be happy and laugh once again. The young people described how “you think you’re never going to smile again but it does come back”, how “you’ll always miss the person but there will be happiness again” and how “you can be really happy – then someone dies and everything falls apart – but you realise happiness does grow back”. Using the words and stories shared, a script for a film was developed which the group agreed to star in. The film is moving, insightful, honest and powerfully portrays how bereavement can impact on young people’s lives and what support is available to them. The project led to further work with the ‘Phoenix’ group and helped extend our work in and with schools.
The Phoenix film link http://www.stgileshospice.com/info_patients/PhoenixatStGiles-supportforyoungpeople.html